Agam's Gecko
Friday, August 08, 2008
Tibetan horse festival
Summer festivals featuring horsemanship competitions are annual events on the Tibetan plateau. They have nothing to do with ideological loyalty to the Communist Party.
Photo: AFP / Frederic Brown

s seen in the earlier-posted video, it's the summer horse festival season in Tibet. And what would any Tibetan festival be without Chinese Communist Party interference? Chinese authorities last month ordered all township and village officials to prepare a festive spectacle in Nangchen County, Jyekundo Prefecture (Ch: Qinghai), in honour of the Beijing Olympics.

The plan was announced about two months ago, and compulsory participation in the official program was required from each family in the county. Besides the customary competitions, songs and dances were to be prepared. All song lyrics were fully scrutinized before the rehearsal date of July 24 to ensure there were no "bereavement" or "separation" sentiments expressed, and no hidden praise for spiritual teachers. This unyielding enforcement caused great displeasure among the forced festival participants.

A few days before the five day festival was to begin, that displeasure was openly expressed.
On 26 July 2008, just three days before the actual commencement of the Summer festival, four Tibetans from Nangchen County – Asang Bersatsang, 21 years old, Ngoesoe Konkyaptsang, 35 years old, Jamsang and Gadho (age unknown) shouted slogans in the presence of a large number of local government officials and people at the site of the planned summer festival in Drokshog Township where people were setting up tents and making preparation for the festival.

The four voiced their disapproval of the summer festival to greet the Olympic Games by saying, "this is not the year to celebrate as Tibetans have suffered untold repression under the Chinese regime, rather it is time to mourn and offer prayers (for those died and imprisoned in recent protests across Tibet)," "we want freedom" and "the Dalai Lama should return to Tibet". After their protest, while distributing pamphlets, the four requested Tibetans at the festival site to return to their respective villages.

According to the source, Tibetans who have gathered for the festival preparation at Drokshog Township packed up their tents and gears in solidarity with the protesters leaving only the government tents at the festival ground. The Chinese authorities' planned summer festival at Drokshog Township in Nangchen County, to greet the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games, was not able to go off because of mass pull out by people following protest by four Tibetans.
Later that evening, the four Tibetans were arrested by Public Security Bureau officers and are held in detention at the Nangchen County PSB Detention Centre. Following this, the residents of Drokshog township wrote a letter to the county authorities calling for their immediate release, and stating that the people will continue to stand with the captive Tibetans until their release.

Some of the residents had believed selected performance groups would be taken to Beijing to perform at the Olympics. But when the authorities examined those song lyrics and found that most of the songs were in praise of Dalai Lama and Gyalwa Karmapa, all the songs were banned, with the result that the Tibetans packed up and left the Chinese authorities alone on the field. This report says that the protest letter from the residents to the authorities stated that if the captive Tibetans were not released, they would "carry out strong protests until no one is left in the township."

It is reported that in other Tibetan areas, the government is compelling people to hold these festivals -- but not with their traditional spirit of Tibetan cultural pride. They are intending to "show" the Tibetans "celebrating" for the Beijing Olympic party. In a new report compiled by the International Campaign for Tibet, Chinese media (News bulletin on Xizang TV, July 22, 2008) reportedly announced that Tibetan performers will be on hand for the opening ceremony. The singers have been warned by a senior official in the Tibetan "Autonomous" Region to be in good ideological form.
"All performers who are going to Beijing must have the strongest consideration for political responsibility and must show the best ideological form in order for the performance to be lively and attractive... The performance must be symbolic of the great unity of ethnic groups in the TAR and to represent the remarkable achievement of Tibetan people under the excellent Communist Party's leaders and their policies."
I can think of a whole lot of adjectives to describe the Communist Party's leaders, but "excellent" isn't one of them.

The government is reportedly engaged in the creation of fake video footage which shows peacefully resisting People's Liberation Army soldiers facing off against violent soldiers dressed up as Buddhist monks. This cinematic fantasy is reportedly being shot in the very far west of the Tibetan "Autonomous" Region, in Ruthok. A similar film project was also reported in May, from the Kardze region.

More protests have been reported from Kardze. Ngawang Tashi, 18, was arrested sometime in June for peacefully protesting at the county headquarters. Jampa Tashi, 24, was severely beaten when he shouted freedom slogans on June 14, then arrested. Lobsang Tsewang, 30, held a peaceful protest at the county office on June 19, during which he was seriously beaten and arrested. Nyima Tashi, 18, was arrested on June 21 for shouting slogans at the most popular protest spot in Kardze.

Sherab Gyaltsen, 36, and Nyilu, 35, were both beaten and arrested after peacefully protesting at the Kardze County office on June 22. Kunsang Tsering, a 22 year old monk, made a peaceful protest at the Kardze PSB office on July 15. He was shot during his arrest -- it is not known whether he survived. Yonten Tso, a 19 year old nun in Kardze County, protested at the county government office on July 17. She was severely beaten before her arrest. Dhungkar, from Tseshul village, Serthar County, Kardze was arrested on July 15 under suspicion of protesting in March.

Arbitrary sentences were handed out to some of those arrested for protesting in Phenpo Lundrup County (Lhasa Municipality) in March. A girl from Gaden Choekhor township, Tenzin Lhamo, was sentenced by the Lhasa City People's Middle Court to 10 years imprisonment for participating in non-violent protest. Samdup, a man from the same locale, was sentenced to 13 years for the same reason. Three others were sentenced to 12, 17 and 20 years, of whom only Kalden's name is known. Two other people, Lobsang Dawa and his brother Tendar (a monk from Ratoe Monastery) remain missing after their arrests in Lhasa.

Most of the estimated 53 nuns who were arrested in Phenpo Lundrup County for demonstrating have now been released, but were penalized between 2,000 - 5,000 yuan each. After their release, they were banned from rejoining Shar Bhumpa Nunnery and sent back to their respective home areas. Around five of the nuns remain in captivity, and have been transferred to a prison in Lhasa. Nun Lobsang Choezin has been moved to hospital after suffering severe injuries resulting from her torture in custody.

A man who protested in Lhasa and has since escaped into exile (as far as I know, the only such person) has given his account of the crackdown at a support meeting in New Delhi. Kunsang Sonam was a thanka (religious paintings) and second hand clothes seller in the Tibetan capital, originally from Kham.
"There were gun shots and mass chaos while the streets were filled with smoke. I saw people around me fall down and my friend Nyima, was shot in the chest. A nun died in front of my eyes as did six others during the course of the demonstrations. The Army tanks were quick to come and clear up those who were either wounded or dead to dispose of any physical evidence."
He managed to escape Lhasa on March 26 in a vehicle bound for the Nepal border, crossing the Himalayan pass on foot (as thousands of Tibetans have done, sometimes drawing gunfire from border patrols), and made his way to Dharamsala. He has been in contact with home.
"The Chinese raided our houses and confiscated our belongings. I had some 30-40,000 Chinese Yuan from my small business which the officials took away. My family in my native village later told me they had confiscated our ancestral property after they learned I had escaped into India," he further added.
I thought the Chinese Communist Party now respected property rights. No? Well, my mistake. That's what the patriots told me. Happy Olympics.

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