Wednesday, February 18, 2009
UNBOWED, TIBETAN RESISTANCE GROWS AGAIN; CHINA ISSUES MORE DEATH THREATS
s the anniversaries near and resentments rise on the Tibetan plateau, the authorities are edgy. How can they make these Tibetan people celebrate their New Serfdom? The CCP's efforts to this end have produced the largest protest in many months, while smaller expressions of resistance continue to crop up in places previously thought to be subdued.
Following the reported explosions near a government building last month at Choekhor Township, Jomda County, Chamdo (T-"A"-R), the military presence was boosted and heavy restrictions placed on Tibetans' movements. A source in contact with the area told Phayul News that the Den Choekhor Monastery has become a target for the authorities, in their inability to find evidence to link anyone with the explosions.
"The authorities, who accused monks of Den Choekhor monastery of the explosion of January 5, forcefully took several monks to the local government office for interrogation, and asked the monks to sign a document that, among others, renounced His Holiness the Dalai Lama. No one, however, signed the document."The explosions had earlier been linked to the government's policy of forcing Tibetans to celebrate the brand new CCP holiday, "Serfs' Emancipation Day". Local authorities had planned to take an unwilling Tibetan dance group to celebrate the loss of their country in its capital, Lhasa. But on January 10, around 300 people (including monks of Den Choekhor) took part in a protest at the local government office in an attempt to stop the farce. The cultural troupe was finally forced to travel on January 15, but some members had fled the previous night. Two monks were seriously beaten, according to the source.
A senior monk of Den Choekhor, Gen Jamshey, was detained on January 16. Fearing public reprisals, the authorities lied and told the people he had gone to attend a meeting at the Jomda County seat. He was then taken away to Derge County (in neighbouring Kardze Prefecture), transfered to another vehicle and taken to an unknown destination.
Authorities raided Den Choekhor Monastery on January 24 and arrested seven more monks; Nima Tsering, Lhundup, Nyichey, Tsering Palden, Ngawang Tashi, Tado and Tashi Dawa are being held in the Jomda detention centre. However the abbot of the monastery, Tenzin Gyaltsen, has gone missing. This is how people are taught that they are "emancipated" -- with Chinese characteristics.
Protests seem to be on the increase again as several milestone anniversaries approach (not to mention the new CCP-mandated "Emancipation Day" on March 28). A number of earlier incidents in Chamdo have been described previously here (including the beating death of peaceful protester Pema Tsepak), as well as demonstrations in Ngaba, Sershul, Serthar, Lhasa and Derge (which reportedly drew gunfire upon Derge Gonchen monks). The latest new outbreak of resistance is reported last Sunday in Lithang County, western Kardze Prefecture.
"At around 12 noon (Beijing Standard Time) yesterday, Lobsang Lhundup, a monk of Nekhor Monastery staged a peaceful solo protest demonstration at the main market square of Lithang town for about 15-20 minutes before being forcibly detained by the Public Security Bureau (PSB) and People's Armed Police (PAP). Lobsang chanted slogans 'Long Live the Dalai Lama,' Independence for Tibet,' 'Swift return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet' and ' No Losar (Tibetan New Year) celebration this year,'" according to the source.Lobsang Lhundup is 38 years old, and according to eyewitnesses he appeared somewhat handicapped as he limped with the aid of a walking stick, until the authorities subdued him with force and took him away.
Sonam Tenpa, 29 years old, a younger brother of Lobsang Lhundup along with fourteen other Tibetans staged a peaceful protest march at Lithang main market square this morning at around 11:40 AM (Beijing Standard Time) which lasted for around 2 hours, according to source. Sonam Tenpa who led the peaceful protest was known to be carrying a huge portrait of the Dalai Lama adorned with a traditional Tibetan scarf. The peaceful Tibetan protesters took to the street of Lithang main market chanting slogans, 'Long Live the Dalai Lama,' Independence for Tibet,' 'Swift return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet' and ' No Losar (Tibetan New Year) celebration this year,' sources described.Demonstrating for two hours is an amazing feat, given that the security forces customarily pounce on them instantaneously with truncheons flying. All fifteen are from nomadic families based in Lithang town:
According to eyewitnesses accounts from the site of the demonstration, "all the Tibetan protesters were brutally beaten, manhandled and forcibly loaded into military trucks by the Chinese Public Security Bureau (PSB) and People's Armed Police (PAP) forces that many were badly bruised and injured with blood dripping from their nose, head and arms."
Sonam Tenpa, 29 years old, Jampa Thokmey, 30, Gelek Kunga, 26, Lobsang Tenzin 23, Lobsang Phendey, 37, Jampa Yonten, 30, Sanggey, 29, Jampa Tsering, 28, Lobsang Wangchuk, 30, Lobsang Tashi, 21, Gendun Choephel, 30, Dargye, 37, Gedhun, 29, Jampa, 40 and Amdo Gyaltsen, 41.Two other groups of Tibetans, including some close to Ronggyal Adrak (imprisoned for speaking his mind at a Lithang horse-racing festival in August 2007), were also detained for protesting in Lithang on Monday. It should be remembered that Lithang is also the home of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a highly respected monk now serving a life sentence for defending Tibetan culture and the natural environment from degradation by China's policies. He was convicted of "terrorism."
Subsequent reports from the area indicate that Sonam Tenpa and Lobsang Tenzin sustained particularly severe injuries from the beatings inflicted by Chinese security forces while carrying out the arrests. The total number arrested for protesting in Lithang since Lobsang Lhundup's solo demonstration on Sunday now stands at 21.
According to sources, "following a peaceful protest by fifteen Tibetans in the streets of Lithang main market, they were later joined by few Tibetan onlookers in the street. The Lithang County Public Security Bureau (PSB) and People's Armed Police (PAP) detained five more Tibetans along with 15 other known Tibetans who staged a peaceful protest demonstration in Lithang on 16 February 2009 and were brutally beaten, manhandled at the site of the demonstration before being forcibly loaded into military trucks. They are, Damdul (only one name) the head of Dekyi Village, Lithang County, two other Tibetans whose identities could not be ascertained at the moment, and two Tibetan nomad ladies of Sako Village in Lithang County, Yanglo and Dolma." The latter two were known to have been released last evening.Family members who went to see the detainees at a Public Security Bureau detention centre found that one of the original group of 15, Gelek Kunga, is missing. Naturally his family fears for his wellbeing, since a disappearance can often mean the worst.
Shops and restaurants in Lithang remain closed, and traffic between the town and Bathang (6-7 hours travel) was disrupted by a massive deployment of troops to the area.
Nine monks from Samye Monastery, in Lhoka Prefecture, T-"A"-R have been sentenced for a brief protest last March 15 at government offices in Dranang County, in which hundreds of local people participated. In the crackdown which immediately followed -- during which the monastery was under complete lockdown (no monks in or out) and Chinese "work teams" engaged in their famous "patriotism re-education" and interrogation sessions -- a visiting scholar from Dorjee Drak Monastery committed suicide. On March 19, Namdrol Khakyab killed himself after extremely intense interrogation, leaving a note which accused the Chinese regime of "unbearable suppression".
Of the nine monks sentenced in this case, four were visiting scholars from other institutes. Gyaltsen of Tsona County was sentenced to 15 years in prison; Nyima Tashi of Gongkar County, 13 years; Phuntsok of Nyingtri Pref., 13 years; Tenzin Dawa of Tsome County, two years; Rigden of Dranang County, two years; Tanzin Bhuchung of Langthang Monastery, 15 years; Tenzin Zoepa of Jowo Monastery, 13 years; Gelek of Sang Ngag Choekor Monastery, two years; Ngawang Tenzin of Khathok Monastery, two years. Although these monks were sentenced in May-June of last year, no one knows where they are being held nor their physical condition.
In a startling example of understatement, Chinese officials told a small, tightly controlled group of reporters on a government-organised "tour" that more unrest in Tibet this year "cannot be ruled out." Tourists and journalists are banned from travelling in most Tibetan areas, but exceptions are made for propaganda purposes.
Of course, the officials also took advantage of their captive audience to blame everything on the Dalai Lama. It's a shame none of the journalists asked their minders about the spy story, in which a Chinese agent infiltrated India and attempted to fabricate evidence to prove that very thing (His Holiness' "terrorist nature"). I'll bet none of the journalists even knew about that recent episode.
"After I die," the 53-year-old grizzled herder says, "my sons and grandsons will remember. They will hate the government."In the Tongren area, location of the Rongwo (Rong Gonchen) Monastery -- an institution which was subject to many raids and arrests last year, and whose elderly abbot was very seriously injured by the insecurity forces -- Johnson watched the People's Armed Police doing their pre-dawn jogging through Tongren's streets.
"There are so many of them," said a monk at another monastery in the Tongren area. "You don't see them because they are in their barracks. But if something happened, they'd be here in a second."The people of this area are not isolated from what happens in the outside world, as another monk tells him that China is breaking its own laws by arresting Tibetans who express religious faith in their spiritual leader.
"We have to attend patriotic education sessions once a week where they vilify the Dalai Lama," one monk said. "They've got cameras everywhere watching us."
"People protest in Hong Kong and they don't get shot," he said, adding monks think the police now use facial recognition software to identify any one who protests in the streets.Another person interrupted his circumambulation of a shrine to tell the foreigner that it would take days for him to explain the extent of the hardships placed upon the Tibetans. The nomad said that nine people in his village had been arrested recently for encouraging people to support the Losar boycott (the New Year falls on February 25), and the remainder of his community is simmering.
The police who came, he said, warned designated village leader that if they allowed any protest movement to emerge, "we will arrest you and kill you and no one will know.' Everyone was afraid."Tim Johnson has some photos of his recent trip here. He may have been travelling with Simon Elegant of Time Magazine, who has a very similar report from Tongren here.
Readers may also be interested in a very fine profile of the Tibetan patriot, poet and citizen journalist Woeser, published last week in Times of London. Her biggest worry? "Whether they will let me wear my contact lenses in prison."