Friday, March 14, 2008
UPRISING SPREADS ACROSS TIBET; LARGEST MONASTERIES SEALED
s protests in the Tibetan capital Lhasa spread to other parts of the country, their exiled countrymen and women have had their non-violent march for truth forcibly halted by the security apparatus of "the world's largest democracy."
Along with their national flags and portraits of Dalai Lama, the Tibetans were carrying large images of of the father of Indian nationhood, the Mahatma of non-violent freedom struggle Mohandas K. Gandhi. The unfortunate sight of the powerful Gandhian tradition of Satyagraha being put down by the free nation that he founded (put down at the behest of an external totalitarian state, no less), has come to pass. Gandhi-ji must be looking down upon his people from the abode of the saints, amazed at their forgetfulness of their own history.
On Monday, it was a shame on Nepal and a shame on Greece for submitting to open Chinese interference in their internal affairs. Now, it's also a shame on India.
In Tibet itself, the current Lhasa uprising led by Buddhist monks has spread to central and eastern regions of the country. The three largest and most historically significant monasteries have been surrounded and sealed by Chinese occupation forces. Two monks from Drepung monastery, on the outskirts of Lhasa, are in critical condition after apparently attempting to take their own lives in protest of Chinese rule.
The two monks were identified as Kalsang and Damchoe, both originally from Kirti monastery in Sichuan province and now resident at Drepung monastery. Sources said the men had stabbed themselves in the chest, hands, and wrists. Both refused to be moved to hospital but were taken instead to the monastery clinic, the sources said.Monks at Sera monastery, also close to Lhasa, have gone on mass hunger strike inside the institution -- now completely isolated behind a heavy cordon of People's Armed Police forces, as is Drepung and Ganden monasteries. Ganden is about 35 miles east of the capital.
"There are many other monks who hurt themselves in desperation, and protests are going on inside the monastery as of March 12 and 13," one source said. Another source described the two monks' condition as critical and said they were not expected to survive.
The monks are demanding the withdrawal of paramilitary forces from their institutions and the release of an unknown number of monks previously detained. They want an end to the re-education programmes they are forced to endure, including the obligation to produce verbal and written denunciations of their spiritual leader Dalai Lama. Similar protests are reported at Reting monastery, north of Lhasa, and several other monasteries in eastern Tibet. Chinese security apparatus in Lhasa are tightening a dragnet to sweep up "ungrateful elements" in a manner reminiscent of their Burmese counterparts.
Lhasa neighborhood committees have mobilized to inspect every household in predominantly Tibetan areas of the city, searching for unregistered monks or nuns sheltering illicitly in private homes, sources told RFA’s Tibetan service.An account by a foreign tourist witness, name withheld to protect the innocent, has appeared on csmonitor. The writer got word of the clash on the road to Sera, and with some other tourists went looking for taxis to take them. The angry drivers were all too busy shouting at the police.
"Lhasa is not a free place like Beijing," said one local. "It is a police state. Spies are following you everywhere, on the street, on the phone, on the Internet. They can take you away and nobody knows when you'll come back. Sometimes people come back after 10 years. They can't even talk or think anymore."Teargas, electric prods and gunfire have been used to quell the protests, but reports are extremely difficult to confirm due to the tight control of information and movement. No one knows for sure what is going on behind those monastery walls. Phone contact was made with Sera yesterday.
A man who answered the phone at the Sera monastery said monks have been confined inside its walls, shut off from outside contact, and are relying on dwindling food supplies.Of course, it's much easier to get false information from Chinese officials.
The monastery was "surrounded by many people," said the man, who refused to identify himself or say whether he was a monk.
Another Lhasa resident, who also refused to be identified, said the Drepung monastery was encircled by "three layers" of army personnel while the Sera monastery had been surrounded by more than 2,000 police.
The resident said more than 10 trucks filled with soldiers, nearly a dozen police cars and also ambulances were seen heading to the area.
A spokesman for the Tibet Autonomous Region [spit - ed.], who gave his name only as Fu, denied there had been any arrests, or that monasteries had been surrounded, or that protests had spread to rural Tibet.Although the Chinese government has claimed that these events are not religious or ethnic issues, an official of the Bureau of Religious Affairs (in the region of eastern Tibet where protest has also broken out) seemed more informed.
He said the monasteries were open to tourists.
"For the past few days, we have been on high alert for protests and other formal gatherings by monks as this has been a widespread occurrence," said the official, who refused to give his name.A "widespread occurrence." He better watch his back. The Foreign Ministry won't approve of that sort of candidness. A ministry spokesman yesterday said the situation was now "stable" and blamed the Dalai Lama for instigating the trouble -- as usual, offering no evidence for the charge. "In recent days, a few monks in Lhasa city have made some disturbances," Qin Gang quipped understatedly, promising that further protests "will not take place."
We'll see. It's remarkable that for an up-and-coming, aspiring "global power" keen to display its "peaceful rise" to the world, getting information or pictures from inside its "liberated" colony is much more difficult than it was from the firmly closed global pariah Burma, just 6 months ago.
In fact we know more about the manner of Chinese repression in Lhasa in the past than we are able to know about its methods today. Here is what it looked like in the late 1980's, when current Chinese president Hu Jintao was Communist Party Secretary of Tibet (translation: Supreme Ruler of the Tibetan Colony). He declared martial law and ordered a violent crackdown against expressions of Tibetan national identity.
China is quietly pleased with India's suppressive actions on their behalf, gloating that Indian officials assure them that "India will never support the Dalai group." By "Dalai group" he actually refers to those Tibetans who love and venerate their legitimate head of state and spiritual leader. If China's current difficulties are coming from the "Dalai group," then these difficulties originate from the deeply held beliefs of virtually every single Tibetan, both inside and outside their occupied country. That's the Dalai group.
The one hundred or so Tibetan exiles, now in an Indian jail for following Gandhi's teachings to stand upon truth, have refused to sign a "no protest" pledge demanded by the authorities. They were sentenced to 14 days of judicial custody at a government run "guest house." All the marchers remain committed to their goal, and have launched a hunger strike. The Mahatma is crying now.