Agam's Gecko
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Labrang monks
Monks of Labrang monastery, Amdo, express themselves to foreign media in an unapproved display of freedom hunger. The banner reads, "We do not have freedom of speech".
Photo: Reinhard Krause / Reuters

little more information has come out of the Labrang monks' spontaneous protest yesterday in front of some selected foreign media who were taking part in a government-managed "fact" finding tour. This from Reuters.
"The Dalai Lama has to come back to Tibet. We are not asking for Tibetan independence, we are just asking for human rights. We have no human rights now," one monk told the reporters in Chinese.

Many of the monks had covered their heads in robes. One monk, with his robe over his head, kept pushing his right hand over his left fist and saying "China - Tibet", implying that China was suffocating Tibet.

They said eight monks were still being held by authorities, but did not specify if they were from Labrang or elsewhere, and that plainclothes agents of China's paramilitary armed police force were stationed throughout Xiahe.

Some of the monks threw prayer shawls over the shoulders of photographers.
Of course the party cadres had a different spin on what's been taking place in Tibet. Here comes an example of the Party's "Democratic Management Committees" in action. These committees, appointed by the Communist Party, govern the administration of all monasteries. Buddhist scholarship is not a requirement for these committees, just their allegiance to the supremacy of the Party in all things.
"What you journalists just saw was a very small minority of people who disrupt our harmonious and peaceful life and religious activities, said Gongqihujinba, vice-director of the Labrang monastery's management committee.

"We will take care of them under national law. What they did was not consistent with national security laws, or rules on religion," said Gongqihujinba, who is also a member of an advisory body to Gansu's provincial parliament.

Guomangcang, dean of religious affairs at a provincial Buddhism academy attached to Labrang, suggested that the monks may have been put up to the protest.

"Maybe the young ones were not acting of their own accord, maybe someone influenced them," Guomangcang said.
The vice-director sounds like he's threatening them (TAR Governor Champa Phuntsok said the dissatisfied Tibetans would be dealt with "without mercy." The real power holder, TAR Party Secretary, is even more hardline.), while the dean is clearly a conspiracy theorist. How could their demeanor (see the video below) have been directed by someone else? That was genuine anguish. And notice the Sinified Tibetan names, who could make out their actual names from those?

The Tibetan government news bulletins this week have details of many continuing non-violent protests by monks, nuns and laypeople across many parts of Amdo and Kham. A partial name-list of those seriously wounded when Chinese forces opened fire at Nyatso monastery (Tawu county, Kardze "TAP", Sichuan), and an account of a subsequent attack at Tongkor monastery (after the slaughter there on April 3) in which religious objects were smashed on April 5, are also given. A few more names and personal details of victims killed in the Tongkor incident and in Lhasa last month have been received, and in Sershul county (in the same prefecture), there was an armed force assault at Voenpo monastery, and the same vicious circle again: thorough searches of monks' quarters, confiscation of "unpatriotic" items, and beatings for those who possessed them.

TCHRD has the names of seven monks who were arrested from Labrang (see the monk's comment in Reuters above) on April 1. One of them, a 30 year old named Thabkhey, was released after a few days of detention, in a mentally unstable condition and with beating marks all over his body.
It is highly probable that the other monks are still in detention and the authorities have released Thabkhey in order to shun responsibility for his current condition. It is regular practise by prison authorities in Chinese administered prisons in Tibet to release Tibetan detainees and prisoners in near death or unstable conditions.
The Free Tibet Campaign in London has received more details of the April 5 incident at Nyatso monastery (their spelling is different). Many were wounded in this incident and five seriously wounded cases were arrested, later released after a large crowd vowed to sacrifice their lives if they weren't, and then refused treatment at the county hospital.
Monks from Nyintso monastery arranged funds for the wounded to be taken to a hospital elsewhere. The wounded were halted by the authorities, however, at Thartsedo on the evening of 6 April. It is still unclear whether any of the wounded have received medical attention, or whether any of them have died.
TCHRD received reports that the majority of monks in central Lhasa's Ramoche Temple have been arrested and taken away.
On 7 April 2008, around 70 monks from Ramoche Temple were detained by the People's Armed Police (PAP) and Public Security Bureau (PSB) officials during the midnight raid carried out in the monks' residences. The detained monks were taken away to an unknown location, according to reliable sources. At present only a few monks are left in the Ramoche Temple, which previously housed around a hundred monks, with scores detained and taken away in the midnight raid.
TCHRD has confirmed that one monk committed suicide in Ramoche after the massive crackdown there on March 22.
On similar showing of official support, on 8 April 2008, Zhu Wei Qun, Vice Minister of the United Work Front Department (UWFD) of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee accompanied by Lobsang Gyaltsen, the head of the "TAR" United Work Front Department paid a visit to PAP and PSB personnel stationed at Gaden Monastery to boost their morale and appreciate their good work. According to reliable sources, all three major monasteries around Lhasa were virtually sealed off with a heavy presence of PAP and PSB personnel.
Oh no, it's the United Work Front boys. These are the people's cultural revolutionaries par excellence. A picture of Mr. Zhu is on the page.

And still more detailed reports from Tibet.net keep coming of mass arrests all over the eastern region of the country, as well as accounts of courageous resistance activities continuing in many areas. In one small township in Kanlho "TAP" Amdo (Ch: Gansu) more than 110 lay people and monks are in detention -- 40 of them were taken just this past Monday. A Chinese flag was brought down in Tawu county Kardze, and Tibetans in the area are painting freedom slogans on advertising billboards. More "re-education" is called for there. Another big raid for "unpatriotic objects" was held at Tsok-tsang monastery in Ngaba, with arrests, and two more such raids in Machu county, Kanlho prefecture resulted in a total of 50 monks taken away (a dozen were released after paying money). Authorities are running out of prison space in Lhasa. Patriotic "re-education" is running rampant across eastern Tibet now.
Since the beginning of April, Tibetans in Rongkhar-shar town, Ngaba County, have been forced to attend "patriotic re-education" classes. During the classes, among other activities, each Tibetan is forced to loudly repeat the following statements while being recorded on video:
1) I denounce the "Dalai's clique."
2) I will not keep any portraits of the Dalai Lama.
3) I have no desire to become a part of the "Dalai's clique."
4) I will not engage in any "splittist" activities.
5) The attempt to separate Nationalities of China will not succeed.
6) I owe loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party.
7) I will always follow the Chinese Communist Party.
8) I acknowledge the gratitude of the Chinese Communist Party.
I'll just bet that number 8 may actually be, "I acknowledge my gratitude to the Chinese Communist Party."

SF Tibet protests
A Tibetan wears handcuffs as he calls for his people's freedom in San Francisco, April 9, 2008
Photo: AP / Jeff Chiu
At this point I wish to have a beef with the pop media. Well, if arch-Sino-nationalists can complain about a few mis-captioned pictures in obscure French and German newspapers, enough to start a website about it, then I can point out inaccuracies too, eh? At least a half-dozen times in the past few days, I read the following phrase in wire service reports and mainstream news outlets. "The unrest in Tibet is the most serious and sustained in nearly two decades." Which would mean the current crisis is less sustained than the uprising in 1989, and that's nonsense. This is far more widespread and sustained, exactly one full month today and extending to the farthest reaches of historical Tibet. This can be said to be the most serious uprising since 1959 (when Chinese military leaders then told the government their estimate of 87,000 Tibetan deaths in their crushing of the rebellion). This is the biggest event in Tibet for nearly half a century.

There, I feel better now.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu was in San Francisco the other day, telling people not to go to Beijing. But another South African, Archbishop of Durban Wilfrid Cardinal Napier said Wednesday that the Chinese accusations against Dalai Lama of instigating unrest in Tibet was a diversion to keep attention off their own human rights violations.
"We, who know and respect His Holiness the Dalai Lama know where the truth lies, and no amount of lying will change the truth that [he] is a reflection of God's presence among his people, especially the poor and downtrodden," he said.
The Kashag (Tibetan cabinet) appeals to international legal bodies and governments to help save the lives of those thousands of Tibetans now in detention, and ensure proper legal trials. The Party Secretary of "TAR" stated that they would "be tried and sentenced with strictest measures by the end of April."
According to information available, Mr Zhang Qingli at a meeting attended by district level and above communist party cadres, including government officials, declared that the authority is to adopt four quick procedures which include quick order, quick arrest and quick trial. With these orders in place it is very obvious that the authorities in Tibet intend to exercise quick summary trial without proper legal procedures and carry out executions. In fact out of over 100 monks from Ramoche, 70 monks have already been arrested on 7 April.
The Kashag also calls for timely provision of food and other needs to the monasteries which have been sealed up, and supplies are not permitted to enter.

The representatives of the exile government, who have been involved in the six rounds of fruitless discussions with China since 2002, continue to ask for dialogue. The group has offered to travel to Beijing at any time the Chinese might find convenient.
"We want to reopen the talks to resolve the Tibetan issue through the process of dialogue and whenever it is convenient for the Chinese authorities our special envoys could travel to Beijing," said spokesman Thubten Samphel.
A pair of telecoms corporations are being good global citizens, in making a worldwide offer of free calls into Tibet. Excellent.
Manifone... and ING Telecom... have today announced, that in a joint action they would offer non-profit organizations free phone calls to Tibet. The offer is intended to show solidarity to the people in Tibet and help the work of humanitarian organizations that support them. Since the exile-government of Tibet resides in Dharamsala, India, free calls to that city are included in the offer as well. All non-profit organizations dealing specifically with Tibet are invited to get in touch with Manifone via the contact page of the website Manifone.
Currently Manifone offers direct numbers in 9 countries: Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States.

Last week the Chinese government confidently announced that in addition to conducting trials and sentencing of those awful Tibetan protesters (now holding about two and a half thousand of them) before May 1, Tibet would once again re-open for foreign tourists on that date. ICT says, it isn't likely.
As protests surround the arrival of the Olympics flame in San Francisco, the Chinese authorities have postponed the re-opening of the Tibetan Autonomous Region for tourism. This is likely to be due to concerns over bringing the torch through Tibet and in an attempt to keep the extent of the crackdown hidden from the outside world. It had previously been announced by Chinese officials that the TAR would open again for tourism on May 1, but according to reliable reports it seems that re-opening may now not be until after the Olympics.
And while you're there (at ICT I mean, not in Tibet) take a gander at this page. It's just a wire service story on the men in baby-blue, which I talked about yesterday and before. But the two big pictures are cool. One shows a sea of Tibetan colours around the Eiffel Tower (ok, we've seen a hundred of them, but this one's nice). The other shows many members of the French Parliament holding a large banner Monday, reading (translation) "Respect Human Rights in China". They're all wearing their tri-colour sashes.

As I'm always saying, "Be careful out there." A computer security outfit has warned of malicious code inserted into at least two pro-Tibet organisations' websites. I go to both of these sites every day, and haven't had any problems. In fact I couldn't find any "iframe" at all in their source code. But just a reminder -- don't click on any link you're not confident with. If in doubt, restrain your mouse.
Malware has been detected on two pro-Tibet independence websites, in what could be a politically motivated attack, according to security supplier ScanSafe.

The security vendor detected the malware on FreeTibet.org and SaveTibet.org websites.
IOC president Jacques Rogge said in Beijing today that the protests made him sad, and that it wasn't turning out to be the party he wished for. He said sports leaders should reassure athletes, and tell them "that we will rebound from this current crisis." Well, the first step in solving a crisis is recognising it. He did sound a little annoyed with the Chinese though, too.
Rogge noted at a press conference that Chinese officials had promised when bidding to host the 2008 Olympics that being awarded the Games would "advance the social agenda of China, including human rights."

"This is what I would call a moral engagement rather than a juridical one," he said. "We definitely ask China to respect this moral engagement."
China answered bluntly this afternoon.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters that Rogge's view of a "crisis" might have been exaggerated, and made it clear China would not engage in a discussion on its human rights performance.

"I believe IOC officials support the Beijing Olympics and adherence to the Olympic charter of not bringing in any irrelevant political factors," she said.
Dalai Lama is now enroute to Seattle, where he'll take part in a long-planned 5 day conference on "Seeds of Compassion". He made a stopover in Narita where he gave a press conference just a couple of hours ago. As he always has done (for many years actually), he joked about the Chinese government's demonisation of himself.
The Dalai Lama, meeting reporters on a brief stopover in Japan on his way to the United States, jokingly put his fingers over his head in the shape of a devil.

"I really feel sad the government there almost demonises me. But it's OK," the Dalai Lama said of China. "I'm just a human being -- hopefully not a demon."

"Some people create (the) impression we are anti-Chinese. So I make an appeal to Chinese brothers and sisters all over the world, particularly in mainland China -- firstly we are not anti-Chinese."
He still says that China deserves the Olympics. China couldn't possibly find a better friend than this.

Here's an idea: If they're so determined to take their torch all through Tibet at any cost (and there will be a cost if it's forced through under the current circumstances), why not invite His Holiness to bring the torch himself? He's in good shape, though not a long distance runner -- he could escort the torch runners in a golf cart or something. Then every Tibetan would turn out happy to greet this torch, and China could have a public relations bonanza! In sharp contrast with the disasters that have followed their media circuses so far.

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