Agam's Gecko
Monday, April 07, 2008
Chinese security forces
Chinese security forces patrol the streets of Lijiang, in Yunnan province, April 4, 2008.
Photo: AFP / Frederic J. Brown

hina's "Strike Hard" campaign intensifies across the Tibetan Plateau in the wake of the latest two known incidents of troops firing into masses of demonstrators.

The campaign itself is nothing new; it has operated under that name for many years, and was intensified over the past couple of years under the hardline leadership of the Communist Party Secretary of Tibet "Autonomous" Region, Zhang Qingli.

But in the circumstances of the current Tibetan people's uprising, "Strike Hard" has come to mean much more than just "political work" and mandatory re-education of the monkhood. The lingering mistrust of ethnic Tibetan party cadres by the central government has led to the targeting of these CCP workers for loyalty tests, demands for written denunciations, and their own re-education sessions.

"Strike Hard" is more than evident in the masses of PLA troops now occupying dozens of towns, hundreds of checkpoints, and probably attempting to control well over 100 important monasteries across Tibet. The exile government reported Friday that foreign students in Tibetan Studies at Lhasa's Tibet University have been restricted to campus, with their mobile phones, computers or other communications devices disabled. Further cases of peaceful demonstrations, and the continuing loop of forced indoctrination, followed by resistance and arrests are also reported from last week, including another account of the Tongkor shooting on April 3.

[Your humble correspondent is getting caught up today, being unable to do much yesterday due to a full day travelling.]

TCHRD reported on the anguished suicides of two monks in Ngaba region of Amdo. Lobsang Jinpa was a 32 year-old monk at Ngaba Kirti monastery, which originated a procession of monks and laypeople in mid-March that ended in a massacre by Chinese forces. In his suicide message he took full responsibility for everything which the Chinese had falsely accused his brothers, closing with, "I do not want to live under the Chinese oppression even for a minute, leave aside living for a day."

An elderly monk at an affiliated monastery in the area, 75 year-old Legtsok committed suicide a few days later. He had told his brothers that he "can't bear the oppression anymore". According to a yet unconfirmed report, a monk of Ngaba Namtso monastery was beaten to death on April 3 by Chinese security forces. Buddhist nuns continue to be active in holding public prayer sessions for those who have been losing their lives.

The Tibetan government has the names and details of the eight people known to have been shot dead in the Tongkor incident on April 3. This may not comprise a full accounting of the dead; witnesses have told RFA that 15 people were killed. The monk's death by public beating is also reported here. People in Nyagchu County have been writing slogans such as "Tibet is an independent country" on Chinese currency, and throwing the notes around -- an interesting new subversive technique.

The Chinese government recently asserted that around 1000 Tibetans now in detention will be tried in courts before May 1, when Tibet (TAR) is supposed to re-open to foreign tourists. Information collected by TCHRD shows that more than 2,300 Tibetans have been detained by the authorities to date. The rights and democracy advocacy group has further accounts of the Tongkor shooting, and says that in addition to those killed outright, dozens more were injured including three monks who are in a critical condition. There are also some missing persons following the incident.

Readers will surely be interested to read a fascinating story about the history of Tongkor monastery from the excellent, scholarly (please don't let that descriptor put you off) blog, Tibeto-logic. Well-written, and smart commenters too.

More details are emerging from the incident on Saturday (April 5) in the Kardze "autonomous perfecture" in Kham region (Ch: Sichuan). I was sent an account late that night, and only saw it in comments here Sunday morning (as I was preparing to go to the airport for a flight). I hastily put the accounts up on the front page, and headed out the door. I wasn't here to receive the request (a few hours later) that the reporters' names should be removed, until returning late last night. I apologize to the messenger for not being able to act more quickly, and pray that no damage was done.

The Times Online published an account of the incident today, giving the Chinese name of the monastery instead of Nyatso, but these are clearly the same events. An annual propitiation ceremony for cleansing society of evil elements had drawn a large crowd outside the monastery. Security forces became nervous at the number of worshippers, said to number at least 1000 (including monks, residents, students, nomads and civil servants). A witness in the district told Radio Free Asia that after Chinese forces opened fire on the crowd, 15 people were wounded, including five who were "gravely wounded" and taken into Chinese custody.
"The monks called the head of Daofu county and warned that if those detained weren’t released, all the monks would continue protesting even if it meant they would be killed. So the county chief released those who were injured and detained. There were about 15 Tibetans who were injured and five are in serious condition," the witness said.

"Please tell the world what we are doing here and that the Chinese are waging a violent crackdown," the witness said. The call was lost, and the line was dead when a reporter tried to ring back.
The religious ceremony had been planned by the monks of this monastery (RFA gives the name as "Mintso") despite a warning that Chinese forces have been ordered to "shoot on sight" anyone seen protesting. The procession moved peacefully until blocked by several hundred paramilitary police, who later allowed the monks to pass through but blocked ordinary Tibetans from going further. A religious event was turned into a protest, by police intervention.
"At that point, the Tibetans who were simply reciting prayers and marching peacefully were agitated and started raising slogans. They shouted 'Long live the Dalai Lama' and slogans [against the] deprivation of freedom for Tibetans inside Tibet. So the… police started firing at the Tibetan crowd and injured about five Tibetans seriously," the source said.

The monks demanded that the injured Tibetans be returned to them, and the police handed them back, the source in India said. "They were taken to the local hospital but the hospital denied them treatment."
Another Tibetan exile who spoke to witnesses before the phone lines went dead, said the seriously wounded were being taken in a monastery vehicle to find treatment in another area. Godspeed.

One of my favourite Far East correspondents, Michael Sheridan writes in the Sunday Times that the evidence collected so far on the current crisis indicates that China can subdue the Tibetans (clearly, by its overwhelming force), but it cannot win the "spiritual war". With unrest also growing in the far western Turkic-speaking Uyghur region, the PRC may soon face its most serious challenge since 1989.
China has committed the key 52nd and 55th divisions of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), dressed soldiers up as paramilitary police and employed Marxist psychological warfare tactics to break the Tibetan resistance.

Most of the security forces are Han Chinese from the farmlands of eastern China, untrained for hard work at high altitudes on the Tibetan plateau.

Thousands of regular troops backed by armoured vehicles have deployed to support the police, patrolling roads in a vast area stretching from the Himalayan border with India to the provinces of southwestern China. “No military machine on earth is designed to do that permanently,” commented a foreign military attaché.
My idle daydream of serious policy differences within the Central Commitee, behind closed doors, may be just that. According to Sheridan's sources, Zhou Yongkang, the security chief, and Li Changchun, the Party’s chief propagandist, have convinced the rest of the leaders' clique that the Strike Hard strategy can win Tibet, as well as world opinion.

What are they smoking over there, deep in the bowels of Zhongnanhai? If true, this is self-deception of a ridiculous magnitude. Is there something yet unseen that could explain this? Conspiracy theorists (I'm not one) will enjoy this speculation from south of the plateau.

The Times story also has the first independent confirmation of the circumstances of the Uyghurs' protests last month. It seems that it was led by women -- many with babies (and many of whom have been detained along with their mothers). The majority of the 700 - 1000 people arrested in Khotan are women.

About 10 years ago, the most elevated tulku (reincarnated lineage holder) to have escaped from China since Dalai Lama (and just a couple of years before the Karmapa's flight to freedom), made his way into exile. His name is Arjia Rinpoche, and he was the abbot of Kumbum Monastery near Dalai Lama's birthplace in Amdo (now in Chinese Qinghai province). He gives Jill Drew of the Washington Post a sense of what these re-education drives are like, when monks are required to issue denunciations in front of each other. "We have a saying: 'Close one eye, open one eye,' " Arjia said. "It was very difficult to denounce His Holiness before the other monks. If you can avoid saying his name, that's considered being a hero."

Another exiled monk from Tashi Lhunpo monastery in Shigatse (seat of the Chinese-kidnapped Panchen Lama), also gave his experience. He fled in 2006, after 14 years in the monastery.
"I felt all the time that this was a lie," he said. "On the one hand, they were telling us we are given full freedom of religion, but on the other hand, we are not allowed to honor our root teacher or even keep his picture. I could no longer bear all those disturbances and threatening by the government. Even a minor political mistake could lead to imprisonment."
If there is anything which may be said to be the root cause of instability and tension in Tibet, I think we have a clue here.

Meanwhile, after yesterday's disturbances in London over the totalitarian torch run, finally the IOC chairman finds something to say.
"The International Olympic Committee has expressed its serious concern and called for a rapid, peaceful resolution of Tibet," Rogge said in a speech at the beginning of three-day meeting of National Olympic Committee heads here.

"Violence for whatever reason is not compatible with the values of the torch relay or the Olympic Games."


"We watched what happened in London and we will be watching the leg in Paris today very carefully and what happens in San Francisco (on Wednesday) before we draw any conclusions," [IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies] said.
Hear that folks? Be sure they get the message in Paris (happening now) and San Francisco. The United Nations itself has now concluded that the torch relay is a political event, not a sporting one, and is exploited by "unscrupulous governments" -- according to diplomats. The UN has withdrawn its staff from participation in the North Korean leg of the propaganda run. UNICEF had earlier decided to participate in Pyongyang.
"However, we are no longer convinced that Unicef’s participation in the run will support the aim of raising awareness of the situation of children in the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of, or North, Korea] and elsewhere," [Christopher de Bono, a spokesman for the organisation] said.

"Unicef has decided, in concert with other UN family entities, to withdraw from the Pyongyang relay."
What were they thinking?
"There ought to be an inquest into this," said a diplomat who follows North Korean affairs.

"In China’s case the IOC made the argument that the Games would help reform, although that’s looking threadbare. But North Korea? What were they thinking?"
Pyongyang gets the torch on April 28.

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