Agam's Gecko
Monday, May 12, 2008
Labrang Monastery
Labrang Monastery, Sangchu County Amdo, on April 4, 2008.
Photo: AP / Ng Han Guan

ast Wednesday an estimated 5,000 officers of the "Public Security Bureau" and the "People's Armed Police" surrounded the vast Labrang Monastery in Sangchu County, Kanlho "TAP", Amdo (Ch: Gansu province), conducting a raid which netted around 140 monks. The following day, May 8, a large number of unarrested monks protested and called for their release. The authorities released all but 18, but the monks continued demanding all be released. On Friday a further 11 were set free, but the monks continued protesting despite additional armed forces sent into the monastery. The authorities adamantly refused to set free the last seven, and dared the monks to take a "counter measure". The monks are said to be committed to securing the last seven releases.

It will be recalled that a CCP-managed media tour went all wrong for the minders on April 9, when a couple of dozen Labrang monks expressed themselves to the cameras and reporters in the monastery courtyard. The journalists were assured that the monks were merely misguided, and would not be punished. Since then, of course, they have been punished a number of times. A raid took in around 200 monks in mid-April, leading to protest, followed by releases, more night-time raids and more arrests. On that occasion, a number of them had to be admitted to hospital for injuries suffered in detention.

TCHRD also reports that two of the Labrang monks who defiantly expressed themselves to foreign journalists "are known to be have been disappeared" within days of the incident (at one time, using "disappeared" as a verb only applied to particular Latin American banana republic dictatorships). Local residents and their family members believe Thabkhey and Tsundue were secretly apprehended by police for having embarrassed the PRC in front of the world, while the local authorities have said they know not where they are. Extra-judicial execution is a real fear in this situation.

In Nagchu township, northeast of Lhasa in the "TAR," authorities have removed eleven Buddhist shrines (stupas housing sacred relics) which stood behind the prayer hall of Nagchu Shabten Monastery, claiming they needed the space to build a park. Local officials told the monks that their stupas were not "appealing" to the tourists who visited the monastery. The stupas were relocated to a crematorium elsewhere in the area, and took eight days using heavy equipment. These stupas had been partly damaged during the Cultural Revolution, but had since been repaired. Apparently they aren't faring so well under the Second Cultural Revolution, which has much bigger machines. The people of the region are not happy about this. (China has pulled this stunt before).

The Tibetan citizen journalist reports that the folk and music artists arrested in Qinghai at the end of March (reported here on April 17 & 18 via RFA) are faced with heavy fines. Popular comedian Golog Dape was released with the condition of payment of 10,000 yuan, but singer Dolma Kyi remains in prison as her family cannot afford the fine. She normally cares for three young children and an elderly mother, and had been accused of singing songs in praise of Dalai Lama.
"The sun or the moon is not here, and our hope are gone. Is this the karmic fate for us Tibetans?"
The "sun" and the "moon" are frequently used to refer to Dalai Lama and Panchen Rinpoche.

Our citizen journalist (whose dispatches I receive by other means, but which may be read in full translation at China Digital Times) says that religious ceremonies have resumed at Drepung and Sera monasteries, but with a vastly reduced number of monks. "Work teams" at Polha Monastery in Sangchu County have demanded that the monks worship "Dorje Shugden" -- a deity which is believed harmful by most Tibetan Buddhists (and is therefore promoted by the CCP). All the monks refused.

At a Bonpo monastery (Bon is Tibet's pre-Buddhist religion) in Dawu County, Kham (Ch: Sichuan), work teams have been carrying out "patriotic" re-education and on May 3 forcibly held a ceremonial raising of the red flag. The flag was taken down that evening. Two monasteries in Nyachukha County, Kardze "TAP" Kham (Ch: Sichuan) refused to hang the red flag or to criticise His Holiness, resulting in one high lama and a Rinpoche being arrested and taken to the county lock-up.

Following up on the daring defiance of nuns in Drango County at the beginning of this month (reported here May 7) which saw freedom banners stretching for nearly two kilometres and the nuns walking out of their "re-education," citizen journalist reports that a number of the nuns were taken into custody. On May 7 a nun and a villager went to county headquarters expressing freedom slogans; both were arrested.

A People's Armed Police raid on Ratoe Monastery, in Nyethang Township, Chushul County (just west of Lhasa) was conducted on April 16 with "huge numbers" of soldiers (PAP comes under the army, not a municipal-type police force). Portraits of Dalai Lama, books and other materials as well as telephones were confiscated. Fifty monks were also confiscated and taken to the county prison, though some were released leaving 32 in detention. Those in detention were severely beaten, while those remaining at the monastery are subjected to "re-education."

The monks of Ratoe had held a peaceful procession on March 14 to the township centre, but were intercepted by PAP forces. But local people came out to support their monks, and none were arrested at that time, although tight restrictions were imposed on the monastery. The monks had since then continually refused orders to denounce Dalai Lama, leading to the latest raid on the institution.

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy relates that the April 16 raid was launched when "hundreds of Chinese security forces consisting of Public Security Bureau (PSB) and People's Armed Police (PAP) surrounded the Ratoe Monastery around 4.30 AM in the morning." The Chinese forces were looking for weapons, but didn't find any.

TCHRD says most of the detained monks are in their early '20's, although one older monk, 45 year-old Namkar, is a former political prisoner who served time for participating in the uprising of 1989. Another detainee is 38 year-old Thupchok (both their photos are on the linked page), who the CTA describes as the "head of the monastery" but TCHRD says is a prominent member of the "Democratic Management Committee's work team". The "DMC's" are the Communist Party's oversight and control mechanisms inside the monasteries, and with such a position this now-detained monk would have been responsible for implementing "patriotic" re-education activities. Visitation rights are denied to the 32 detained monks.

Tibetan sit-in
Tibetan students make a peaceful sit-in at the Northwest University for Nationalities, in Lanzhou, Gansu province (outside the Tibetan plateau) on March 16, 2008. At least two of the students have been punished by being disqualified from sitting for exams.

[Update: The banner reads, "We equally undergo the feelings of the Tibetan people." See comments under this post from Dan for an explanation.]
Photo: Tibetan Solidarity Committee
The Tibetan citizen journalist reports that Tibetan students at the Institute of Tibetan Studies, under the Northwest University for Nationalities in Lanzhou, who participated in peaceful sit-in demonstrations on March 16, are being denied the right to sit for their exams. Gartu Tsering from Kanlho and Drolma from Ngaba were questioned on their participation, which they admitted. Their names were then removed from the test list.

A famous monk / writer, Sangpo, from Machu County, Amdo (Ch: Gansu province) was arrested in Lanzhou on April 18. He had established a private school, and was editor-in-chief of Tibetan periodicals published by primary and middle schools in Machu County. He was accused of inciting to demonstrate and of transmitting photos or videos to people on the outside.

Tibetan C-J also reports on re-education efforts inside Chinese universities, led by the official "Tibetologists" who lecture on the official CCP version of Tibetan "history" and the evil deeds of the "Dalai clique." This comes from sources in Xi'an, where Tibetan monks who may be studying or on trips must wear civilian clothes lest they be "pointed at by many people" and even denounced as "Tibetan separatists."

These accounts of current incidents inside Tibet have few channels through which to escape to the outside world. The Tibetan citizen journalist still working from Beijing is one. Phone calls to Radio Free Asia, either directly from within Tibet or via trusted third parties, are another. A Tibetan caller from India, citing his own sources in Tibet, gave further information on the killing of the young monk Choetop in Darlag County, Golog Amdo (Ch: Qinghai province) on April 28, which ended in the deadly retaliation against the arresting / shooting officer.
"On May 4, we learned that Wangdrol, Choedrub’s mother, was also shot and had two bullet wounds. Both parents, a sister, three brothers, and an incarnate Rinpoche from the same family were detained."

"Only two younger members of the family are left behind. Choedrub’s father was shackled and brought to see the body of his son. Chinese officials have declared that all the family’s property will now be seized by the government."
(Choetop's mother's wounds ["severely injured"] and his family's arrests are also confirmed by the Tibetan citizen journalist.)

A Tibetan who formerly worked for the Chinese government and is now living in Europe cited his own sources to relate that for two consecutive nights prior to May 1, trains arriving in Lhasa were loaded with "armoured carriers and tanks". In the Tingri area (where Everest is located) so many troops had been deployed (PLA or PAP is unknown) that there was "one soldier for every 50 meters".

After the announcement of rapid trials for detained Tibetans, twenty-one Chinese lawyers declared their readiness to provide their legal services to them. The government didn't take well to this idea at all, and decided to add these lawyers to their suppression list.
Zhou Yongkang, the standing member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and the party secretary of the Central Political and Law Commission, sent a special memo concerning this issue; the law firms where these lawyers are working were forbidden by the bureaus/departments of judicature to accept the entrust by the Tibetans, and the annual inspection and registration of their law firms would also be postponed.
Individual lawyers of these firms, as well as those signatories who are yet to have any annual inspection, will also have their registrations postponed.
The President of the Beijing Bar Association claimed that they would use their wisdom to smash the "rice bowl" for those lawyers who signed their names on the statement.
Smash their rice bowls, what a lovely sentiment from the authorities of a country "under rule of law," as they always like to say. The lawyers had expressed concern for the detainees' well-being, and called upon the government to "obey the constitution, following the legal procedures in dealing with the arrested Tibetans..... no torture throughout interrogation and respect the independence of legal system". The Tibetan exile authorities were very grateful to these courageous members of China's legal system, who I'm sure were not caught by surprise with the sudden curtailment of basic legal protections.

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