Agam's Gecko
Friday, February 06, 2009
Pema Tsepak
Pema Tsepak, beaten to death by China's security forces at the age of twenty-four.
Photo: Tsawa Community

s the Tibetans even now continue their symbolic protests, almost one year since the wave spread like grassfire, China's deciders also continue their only answer of brutal violence and senseless provocations.

'This newly invented occasion must be celebrated fervently (as in, you celebrate the loss of your country, and look happy about it), and that stodgy old occasion must be ignored completely (if you know what's good for you).'

As for expressing unapproved thoughts, well that's still absolutely right out of bounds -- a crime for which one may expect to be summarily beaten to a pulp on the spot by officials of China's "Public Security Bureau." And there will be more of that served up behind closed doors.

Continuing directly from the last-minute addition to the previous post, on the killing of Pema Tsepak...

Pema was one of several men detained on January 20 in Dzogang County, Chamdo Prefecture (eastern T-"A"-R), after marching for about 45 minutes toward the local police headquarters. The group was conducting a peaceful protest, with freedom chants, carrying an "Independence for Tibet" banner and distributing leaflets. They were attacked and beaten by Chinese authorities before reaching their destination. Three days later, Pema was dead.

Residents of the mens' hometown of Punda have now informed their community in exile of the incident, saying that Chinese authorities are trying to cover up the killing by ruling it a suicide.
"Chinese officials said he jumped off a building, but we believe he was beaten to death and then thrown off the building," the man said...
Initially taken to the county hospital, Pema's injuries were so serious that he was moved to a hospital in Chamdo. One witness said that Pema was originally brought into the Dzogang county hospital in handcuffs, even though he was already suffering very serious internal injuries (too serious for the county hospital to deal with).

When members of the detainees' families tried to visit them in Dzogang, they were told the prisoners had already been moved to Chamdo and only one representative of these families was permitted to travel there. When Pema's elder brother, Lobsang Jampa arrived, he was told Pema had jumped from the top of a building and died.

While Lobsang Jampa was travelling to Chamdo, a convoy of 18 government and military vehicles passed him in the opposite direction, heading into Punda town for the intimidation phase of their crisis management program.
"They searched the homes of the [detainees] and took away photos of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. When officials reached Pema Tsepak's home, they informed his family members of his death. They said that Pema Tsepak had attacked a police officer with a knife and then jumped from the window of the building and died," Jamyang said.
I get it. The boys are first beaten up on the road, and Pema is so badly messed up with serious internal damage that he's taken to hospital in handcuffs. His condition is too grave -- he needs to get to Chamdo fast, presumably for emergency surgery. Then, upon arrival at the prefecture capital, he slips the cuffs, finds a handy knife, attacks a policeman and then commits suicide. And this is the best story China's finest could come up with!

A 19 year old girl named Dechen Wangmo had also been arrested for possessing Pema Tsepak's cellphone. In a separate incident on January 22 three other Tibetans, Thinley Gyatso, 44, Tashi Norbu, 29, and Lobsang Lhamo, 27, staged a protest in the same area and were immediately detained. Of these last four, all but Tashi Norbu, who remains in Dzogang county jail, have been released. Two others who were arrested with Pema, Bhu Dhargyal and Thinley Ngodup, remain in prison in Chamdo where they have been subjected to further beatings.

In nearby Tsawa, Pashoe County, Chamdo, two young monks protested at the county administrative office on January 29, according to reports to the Voice of Tibet radio service. Tenzin Choephel, 16, and Lobsang Gyaltsen, 20, were arrested after they had chanted such things as "Independence for Tibet" and "Wake Up Tibetan Brothers and Sisters." The abbot of the Tsawa Pashoe Mera Monastery, Anam, was also reportedly arrested. It is not known where the monks are being held.

In a separate report (which may relate to the same incident) a monk in Pashoe is in critical condition following severe beating after a protest on the same date, January 29.
According to sources, around midday on 29 January, a Tibetan monk of Nera Monastery in Pasho shouted slogans of the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet and he was seen carrying a picture of His Holiness in his hands. He was arrested and severely beaten by the PSB officials and he is believed to be in critical condition.

Another monk was also known to be badly thrashed in the incident.
A campaign in Derge County (western Kham) was reportedly launched at the Derge Gonchen Monastery on January 7, for the purpose of pressuring Tibetans to celebrate Losar (Tibetan New Year) on February 25. Residents are said to be strongly resisting this pressure, as are Tibetans in many other areas -- preferring to use the occasion for solemn remembrance of the hundreds killed and thousands imprisoned since last March.

Sources report that Chinese police opened fire on a group of monks in Derge, at around 9 p.m. on January 27. A number of monks were arrested, identified as Venerable Tsering Wangchuk, Chu Gha, Tashi Dorjee, Sonam Norbu, Choejor Palden and Dongthok Tashi. This incident was also reported by local people to the Voice of Tibet.

Reports received by Radio Free Asia indicate that monks had staged a protest near the Derge Gonchen Monastery, calling for Tibetan independence. A large number of armed police (PAP) were in the area, and witnesses reported gunfire. Contacted by RFA, an officer of the local Public Security Bureau displayed the quintessential Chinese bureaucratic responsibility-taking:
"If the head of the county government says this happened, then it happened," he said. "If he says it didn't happen, then it didn't."
Protests were also reported from Serthar County, Kardze, on January 27 - 28. Posters calling for Tibetan independence were affixed to government buildings, while Chinese flags were pulled down at the towns of Khekor and Nyitoe on the same days.

There may have been a serious provocation which led to the current tension at Derge (I mean more provocative than ordering people to celebrate on cue).
According to Voice of Tibet radio service, monks of Gonchen monastery and Chinese authorities clashed after Chinese government staff provoked the monks by partying in monastery campus with women cadres even wearing monk’s robes and dancing in front of the monks on January 27, second day of the Chinese New Year. The incident occurred at Chunakmar (spelled as pronounced), a monastery facility for performance of ritual dances like "Cham" (mask dance).
A number of monks were arrested after this "Chinese New Year" celebration / provocation. Local sources report that a 93 year old monk named Lama Gala then led around 200 monks to protest at the district office, demanding release of those arrested and threatening to take their own lives otherwise. On January 31 the detainees were released, with around 30 of them being badly injured due to beatings and torture.

At this point, let us recall the context of what is currently taking place across the Tibetan plateau. The Chinese government is attempting to dictate which cultural events Tibetans must celebrate, and which cultural events they are prohibited from celebrating. A strong public movement is forming for the purpose of keeping any observations of Losar out of the public square, in favour of quiet memorials to the souls which have been lost to official PRC violence.

On the other hand, in a period of mourning, religious rituals may be needed more than ever. Therefore, according to Chinese Communist Party custom, Tibetans should be forced to partake in the traditional New Year celebration while being prevented from engaging their own religious refuge.

It seems to me not a coincidence that the Chinese provocation in Derge was performed in the very place normally used for the Cham rituals. Calculated, or reckless?

If reader may feel that this writer is overstating the case, a Tibetan in Labrang (Amdo) has helpfully sent a very risky email to compatriots in exile, including photos of the installation of new surveillance equipment, and indications of the threat level for those wishing to observe an important religious event. Authorities are threatening the lives of those who try to attend the annual Monlam Chenmo (the Great Prayer gathering) at Labrang Monastery, which is to take place February 13 - 16.
"At the moment in Amdo every local government saying to the local people. If you will go to Labrang monastery on the 13th 14th 15th and 16th then we don't take care about for your life."
The risk-taking emailer even took the trouble to send this message in imperfect English, clearly hoping it would reach the widest possible audience. No translation necessary. The Cham dance rituals, so vulgarly insulted last week in Derge, are a key part of Monlam Chenmo. Our daring informant (who faces very serious punishment if he or she is ever traced) finishes the email this way:
"Please help my nation and send this news to all of the world."
Merely to hold an attitude of honouring Tibet's dead and missing at Losar carries risk. The Times of London reports that the latest wave of arrests in Lhasa include those suspected of supporting the Losar celebration boycott.
Witnesses told The Times that uniformed and plainclothes police and members of the paramilitary People's Armed Police were involved in the sweep, which began on Monday. They raided tea houses, which are popular with young Tibetans, and picked up people of all ages in the street.

Many of those detained were accused of "spreading rumours", sources in the Tibetan capital said.
People are spreading word of the boycott campaign by cellphone text message, internet, and postering. A sample text message:
"To mourn those Tibetans who died in 2008, those many heroes who gave their lives, to show sympathy for all Tibetans, we should have no New Year and join hands to show our solidarity."
A sample poster message:
"One thousand people have been arrested, 1,000 people have disappeared. We others, Tibetans who are living safely, if you have a good heart please do these two things. Do not sing, dance or play and do not set off fireworks. These two actions only. Let us remember the dead and pray for the living."
The government appears jittery over the coming events and anniversaries, issuing orders for people to sign guarantees of docility, and issuing warnings of severe punishment for disobedience. Of course this situation is not exactly conducive to a festive atmosphere, and once again the Chinese authorities demonstrate their keen social awareness.
"Lhasa hasn’t been this tense since the arrests in March and April last year," one source said. "The atmosphere in the streets is almost as frightening."
Lobsang Kirti
Lobsang Kirti, arrested for leaflets.
Photo: Central Tibetan Administration

Thousands of Lhasans were "rounded up" in the first ten days of the latest incarnation of "Strike Hard" (launched on January 18) with 81 people detained, according to state-run media. Offences included the sin of having "reactionary music" on one's cellphone. "Reactionary music" is generally understood to be any song which has even a cryptic reference to the Dalai Lama.

In that previous post last week, I mentioned the case of Lobsang Kirti, a 27 year old monk at Ngaba Kirti Monastery who was arrested at a local copy shop on January 15. He is being held for distributing "suspicious leaflets."

We now have a photo of the photocopying "criminal" Buddhist monk, who has also written articles for newspapers and journals, and who sits on the editorial board of the official publication of Kirti Monastery, "Gangtse Metok".

Namkha Sonam
Namkha Sonam, arrested for chanting slogans.
Photo: Central Tibetan Administration

Another 27 year old in Sershul County, Kardze chanted "Free Tibet" and "Long Live His Holiness the Dalai Lama" on January 7. Strange as it may seem, Namkha Sonam was immediately beaten severely by Chinese officials, and arrested. Namkha's family appealed for his release with the district authorities, but again, strange as it may seem, their pleas were rejected. I hope Namkha is somehow able to stay away from window and roof while under the care of the occupation authorities.

On the "Strike Hard" punishment side, another monk from Kardze Monastery was sentenced early last month for a protest at county headquarters on June 9, 2008. Ngawang Lhundup, 22, was sentenced to four years imprisonment, but the fate of his companion (arrested over the same incident) Kel Nyima (age unknown), remains unknown.

Lobsang Choegyen
Lobsang Choegyen, five year sentence.

In a separate case, Pema Lhamo, a nun at Kardze Gaden Choeling Nunnery who was arrested along with six other nuns and a layperson on May 14, 2008 for a peaceful protest, was sentenced to three years imprisonment. The fates of her companions are also unknown.

Three more monks from Kardze Monastery have been sentenced for a peaceful demonstration on May 13, 2008. Lobsang Tenpa, 17, has been sent down for four years, Lobsang Choegyen, 18, has been put away for five years, and Palden Tsultrim was sentenced to four years in prison.

They had distributed leaflets during their protest, and are now serving their time at Monyak (near Chengdu) where approximately 19 other Tibetans from Kardze are being held.

Choetso Dolma
Choetso Dolma, jailed.

Choetso Dolma, another nun from Gaden Choeling Nunnery in Kardze, had also protested on May 14, 2008 (there were a lot of demonstrations that day).

She has been sentenced to one and a half years in prison, and is also being held in the vicinity of Chengdu, Sichuan.

Choephel Urjamtsang
Choephel, beaten half blind.

For thirty-three year old Choephel Urjamtsang of Ngaba County, his four year prison term may be the least of his problems. [Note: the Voice of Tibet radio service had previously identified him as Lobsang Choephel, perhaps incorrectly as a monk, as recounted in last week's post]

Accused of leading a protest on March 15, 16 & 17, 2008, and of "looting and ransacking" as well as burning the Chinese flag, he was originally sentenced to ten years in prison. This was later reduced to four years for a clean record (or maybe he didn't actually "ransack" and "loot" after all?).

After the mass protest of hundreds of Tibetans in Meruma Township, Choephel's home was raided by PSB officers.
He was beaten black and blue with rifle butts resulting in a serious injuries to his left eye, head and [limbs]. However, he managed to [run] and flee towards a hill adjacent to his unit where he went into hiding for few days before returning home. However, on 4 April the PSB officials in a surprise raid arbitrarily detained him from his home. For four months Choephel's family members were not able to trace his whereabouts despite frantic searches and phone calls to local offices. Later at the end of August 2008, family members learnt about his detention at Barkham County PSB Detention Centre.
His father was also subjected to rigorous interrogation after Choephel's detention. Finally, on January 19, his family was permitted to see him. They were allowed to communicate only in the Chinese language. Choephel is now blind in his left eye, resulting from the assault by PSB officers on March 17, 2008.

Yarteng nuns
Nuns Poewang (L), Yangzom and Lhamo (R).
Three nuns from the Yarteng Nunnery in Kardze County were sentenced on January 15 for their peaceful protest in the county on June 18, 2008. Poewang, 28, Yangzom, 31, and Lhamo, 29, were all put away for the next two and a half years. They are held at an unknown prison in Chengdu, with at least 40 other Tibetan nuns.

Lunglung Sonam of Kardze County was sentenced to three years in prison for joining a peaceful protest on May 17, 2008. Ngawang Phuntsok, 32, of Kardze County, had been arrested on June 18, 2008 after a solo protest, and found to be in possession of photos of the Dalai Lama. Ngawang was sentenced January 20 to three years in prison, and is also being held in Chengdu.

Yangkyi, a 28 year old nun from Drakkar Nunnery in Kardze, had protested with her fellow nuns on May 12, 2008. She was among ten Drakkar nuns arrested that day (two others had been arrested the previous day for protesting against "patriotism re-education"). Yangkyi has been sentenced to one year and nine months in prison.

It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that in nearly every single one of these cases, there is not even an allegation of violent behaviour. The mere expression of one's conscience is enough to land you in prison for a period of years.

In other words, these Buddhist nuns, monks and laypeople have been dropped into the sadism of China's prison system for nothing more than thoughtcrime. Yet Beijing continues to call such protesters "rioters" and "looters" -- thinking that perhaps they're fooling somebody (on the basis that there really was a superbly-documented riot in Lhasa, on one evening last year).

It's not quite the sort of game one expects from a self-proclaimed world-class civilisation.

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