Friday, May 23, 2008
TIBETAN AUTONOMY THEN AND NOW
oday, on the 57th anniversary of the signing of the "17-Point Agreement" between China and Tibet (thanks to a kind reader for the reminder - what would I do without you?), let us see how the standard of "autonomy" practiced in Tibet today will compare with the high level of autonomy which China pledged on May 23, 1951. (Skim over that - recalling that it was signed at virtual gunpoint, and with falsified Tibetan state seals - then come back here for the 2008 status of "autonomy.")
A young Tibetan who was arrested following the March unrest in Lhasa has given oral testimony of the experience, with particular information edited out by TCHRD in order protect identities.
"On (*) March, around one hundred soldiers entered my house, broke down five doors, checked everything and threw it all on the floor and hit everyone present there. It was like a robbery or burglary. There were a lot of firearms and they were very rough with us. I was arrested...He was left with other prisoners, in a cell in Gondzhe prison in Lhasa. For four days no one questioned him. The prisoners were given no water, clothing or blankets, just half a steamed bun per day living on a cold concrete floor. Some of the others were in pretty bad shape after the Chinese arrest procedures.
They treated us very harshly. Talking to each other, they said, "This is our chance", and they beat us. At first I thought that they were going to kill me, they hit my head a lot, and skull can be broken easily.
For instance, one boy who was shot four times, one from here to there [the bullet entered from the left side of his back and exited from the left side of his chest, near his heart], one from here to here [from inner left elbow to inner left wrist], and one here [a horizontal wound on his upper right arm]. Some people had their ribs broken. One man was punched in his [right] eye, and it was all swollen and black and blue, very bad. People had their teeth broken, these are just examples.He confirms earlier reports that these prisoners were held in a warehouse at the train station, as well as in Toelung Dechen county (west of Lhasa) and in this Gondzhe prison (the authorities were not using the biggest Lhasa prison, Drapchi, and showed visitors [journalists?] how empty it was).
He saw some terrible things in that prison. A man was beaten to death because he had a new jacket. He met a girl who survived her arrest, while her brother did not.
A brother and sister from (*), the brother was younger, were sleeping in the same room and all of a sudden soldiers came and threw them out of the window from a high floor to the ground, the brother was killed on the spot. Yes, right outside the building. The sister didn't die, but she can't lie down, she has to remain in a sitting position all the time. They took the body away and told her that she is forbidden to tell anyone.The prisoners, including teenagers, are tortured in various ways until they admit to things they never did. There must be several thousand such prisoners in Gondzhe.
At Gondzhe there are nine buildings, and each building has eleven rooms and in each room there are twenty or thirty people. And one day, a Chinese man was asked some questions, someone called and asked how many people had been arrested and he said less than ten thousand, and that doesn't include Drepung, Sera, Ramoche, Jokhang. After they let us out they arrested the monks.The witness recounts many things which happened to others, but he also tells a little of the abuse he suffered himself. Now that he's been released, it doesn't feel all that much different on the outside. "Before this was the best place, but now it's like a prison, it's not like Lhasa."
Protests have been continuing at Kardze County headquarters in Kham (Ch: Sichuan). On May 17, seven women carried out a peaceful demonstration at these offices, and were arrested by PAP officers. In the morning of May 18, six monks from Kardze Monastery shouted slogans at the offices, and were arrested by PAP officers. On May 19, two laypeople from Tharmey village in the county made a peaceful demonstration at the headquarters, and were similarly arrested. As they were taken away, all these people were beaten by the PAP officers, whose comrades are now undertaking rescue and recovery in a different part of Sichuan province.
In Tawu (or Dawu) County, Kardze Prefecture, there has been work stoppage by Tibetan drivers in solidarity with those who have been suppressed recently. For around two weeks, the drivers have stopped running their taxis and goods transport vehicles in protest. Local authorities offered a road tax concession for those who would go back to work, but the drivers have maintained the transport stoppage.
A very highly regarded religious leader in Kardze County, Kham (Ch: Sichuan) was arrested by security forces on May 18, in the dark hours of the morning. Tulku Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche was taken from his residence without any stated reason. The Tulku was much loved for his religious knowledge, and his care for the welfare of Tibetans in Kardze County.
The arrest of Tulku Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche serves as a dark reminder of China's campaign against the prominent religious figures inside Tibet who have been viewed by the Chinese authorities as a direct challenge to their authority. In the past, many of prominent Tibetan religious figures such as Khenpo Jigme, the founder of famed Sertha Buddhist Institute, Tulku Tenzin Delek, the founder of Kham Nalanda Monastery, who championed the welfare of Tibetan people and Bangri Rinpoche, the founder of Gyatso orphanage school in Lhasa were arrested under false and fabricated charges.Rinpoche is from the Tehor Kardze Monastery, and was the spiritual preceptor for Pang-ri and Ya-tseg Nunneries in the county. CTA adds:
Trulku Phurbu Tsering has been taking the prime responsibility for the smooth functioning of Pangri-Na and Ya-tsek or Yarti nunneries. He has established a home for destitute and aged people and two medical stores as well for the welfare of local people. He is a monk revered by all the local people. The local people have great concern for his arbitrary arrest.The arrests of more than 50 nuns of Pangri-Na Nunnery on May 14 were cited here on Monday. Radio Free Asia has more information on that incident (but using a different name for the institution). After the mass arrests at Kardze County headquarters, security forces have been surrounding the nunnery.
Security forces are surrounding the Buruna nunnery in Kardze [in Chinese, Ganzi], Sichuan province and have detained 52 of its nuns, the sources said. Security police raided the nunnery, and the 21 nuns left behind were kept inside the nunnery all day.The "authorities" had tried to force the nuns to criticize not only the Dalai Lama, but their own Rinpoche as well. A Tibetan source told RFA that the Rinpoche was arrested after he himself had resisted Chinese "patriotic" re-education. One of the unarrested nuns said that "no one is being allowed in Kardze town. All shops were ordered closed. The town is full of security forces."
"They were restrained with tied hands and detained for the whole day. Then their hands were untied and they were released after being held for one day, but still they are not allowed to leave the nunnery," one source said.
"The nunnery is surrounded. Many security officials have entered the nunnery and placed it under virtual siege."
Buruna nunnery—destroyed in the 1959 uprising, but rebuilt in 1983 and expanded in 2000—is located on a hilltop near Kardze. Belonging to the Gelugpa sect, it usually has 89 nuns. Its leader is Tulku Phurbu Tsering, commonly called Buruna Rinpoche.
Three nuns from Tehor Nyagay Nunnery in Kardze County set out on May 20 at around 1 am for a 20 km. walk to the county headquarters, in order to reach it before dawn. They were able to avoid the heavy security restrictions on movement by moving at night.
According to the source, the three nuns started their protest at around 9:00 AM (Beijing Standard Time) near Kardze County headquarters when people begin to gather for their daily lives in the county. The three nuns shouted slogans calling for "Freedom in Tibet", "Dalai Lama should return to Tibet", and "Immediate release of the political prisoners imprisoned by the Chinese authorities". The three nuns were immediately detained by the County Security forces and taken away to unknown location.These small-scale displays of fearlessness are becoming common in Kardze. On the same day as the nuns' overnight march, two monks in their early 20's from Tehor Tsitsang Monastery in Kardze County, Loyang and Tenzin Ngodup, mounted a peaceful demonstration at county headquarters, chanting freedom slogans -- with one addition to those previously heard.
..."Dalai Lama return to Tibet", "Long Live the Dalai Lama", and "Immediate release of all political prisoners including Trulku Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche".Someday soon (hopefully) the Chinese authorities will understand that their tactics only serve to increase resentment rather than solve any problems. The two young monks' home monastery, Tsitsang, was established by the highly revered Venerable Hor Choeje Ngawang Phuntsok, who also established twelve other monastic institutions in the Kardze region. The two were immediately arrested by PSB officers and bundled off to the county PSB detention centre for interrogation.
The popular Tibetan media personality, Jamyang Kyi, whose arrest at the end of March has been discussed here a few times lately, has been released while awaiting trial after relatives paid 5,000 yuan to the authorities. It's not known when the writer, television producer and performer will stand trial, or what the charges will be. She has been a producer at Qinghai TV for 20 years, and had performed and lectured around the world. She was also a blogger, and had never been detained in the past.
A remarkable thing about Tibetans, owing certainly to the teachings of their spiritual leader, is that in spite of all this abuse they receive they still retain compassion in their hearts toward the Chinese. On May 15, a Tibetan monk living in India received a crackly phone call late at night. It was from Kirti Monastery in Ngaba Prefecture (Ch: Sichuan). This place has seen some mindlessly destructive raids by security forces, mass arrests, and it even became a temporary morgue for 15 Tibetans shot down by those forces while people were demonstrating non-violently.
But the caller's intent was to tell of the religious services held at Kirti for the souls of those thousands lost in the Sichuan earthquake.
As monks of a Buddhist Monastery, we unwaveringly follow the nonviolent path shown by Buddha and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We practice the Buddhist teachings of loving compassion to all sentient beings. We are all one human family. Therefore the monks of Kirti monastery offer their prayers to the Chinese victims of this disaster.ICT had the photos of what was done to Kirti Monastery early last month, certainly qualifying as a recurring nightmare of the horrible Cultural Revolution period. Since March, the monks there have been barred from conducting any of their customary religious duties, until special permission was granted for these memorial services for earthquake victims. ICT has more on the Kirti Monastery statement, including the full translation from Tibetan, and an impressive list of participating monasteries across the Tibetan region (many of which have been similarly abused over the past two months).
We want our Chinese brothers and sisters to know that we Tibetans are not against them as the Government has tried to claim through the state run television after the March 14 unrest in Lhasa. This has been creating a rift and hostility between Tibetans and Chinese. The monks from Kirti monastery confidently represent the Tibetans by clarifying that the Tibetans are against the unjust policies of the People's Republic of China and not against the Chinese people themselves.
We wish to express to the Chinese people that we have never harbored any anger towards them. Our only wish is to find a solution to the Tibet issue. Tibetans and Chinese have a deep history of cultural relationships, and it's a fact that Tibetans and Chinese have to live side by side. Therefore, we urge the Chinese people to join us to try to find a solution that will allow us to remain friends rather than enemies.
Tibetan protesters recently arrested have been held at detention facilities in the earthquake zone, and deaths of both prisoners and guards have been reported in at least one of these, in Wenchuan (a photo of the prison is at the above link).
Initial disaster response statements from the authorities stressed that disaster relief work would be carried out in combination with "anti-separatism" work. Authorities in Kardze issued an announcement ordering security forces "not to slacken any aspect of the tasks," and warning them to "strictly guard against the separatist forces taking advantage of the situation to cause sabotage, strictly prevent people from spreading rumors and stirring up trouble. If any such incident happens, one must adopt the toughest means to deal with the issue quickly."
They clearly still don't know the Tibetans very well, after all these years.