Agam's Gecko
Monday, March 23, 2009
Ragya Monastery
Ragya Monastery is seen from the mountainside above. The monastery is on the near bank of the Machu River, the neighbouring town of Gyulgho is on the far bank. At right, the holy mountain of Amnye Chungngön is partly seen. Photo taken June 2007.
Photo: "On the Road" website

idespread protests are once again gaining momentum in many parts of the Tibetan plateau as the Chinese colonizing power prepares to celebrate its "happy former serfs", and to oblige the Tibetans to join in celebrating the loss of their country on "Serfs Emancipation Day" this Saturday. A massive public protest at a major monastery in Amdo followed the apparent suicide of a young monk who believed he was destined for arrest.

Ragya Monastery, said to be the second largest monastery in all Qinghai Province and the most important Gelugpa monastery in the Golog region (located in Machen County, Golog T-"A"-P) has been locked down and sealed by security forces since March 10, after political leaflets were circulated and a huge Tibetan national flag was hoisted over the main prayer hall in place of the red flag of Chinese communism. On March 21, security forces claim to have found a Tibetan national flag and political leaflets in the room of 28 year old monk Tashi Sangpo, who was among the monks who had earlier raised the banned Tibetan flag. The young monk escaped arrest by throwing himself into the Machu River, one of Tibet's largest rivers which flows past the monastery, in an apparent suicide.

The following day, thousands of local people came out into the streets in protest, blaming the police for Tashi's death while they carried Tibetan flags and banners, and raised freedom slogans for Tibetan independence and long life for the Dalai Lama. The huge demonstration was carried out in front of the local police station and government offices, and the angry protesters also managed to retake the large Tibetan flag which had been previously confiscated by security forces. A cellphone video of the protest can be viewed in the sidebar at right, or here.

Security forces arrested 95 people, nearly all of them monks and including the monastery prefect (Tib: Gekoe), Palden Gyatso. Voice of Tibet radio reported that seven military troop trucks have arrived in Ragya, with more having been called in from Xining. The situation continues to be extremely tense.
Tibetan sources in the region told The Times that hundreds of people, including local herdsmen as well as lamas, staged a sit-in outside the police station. They shouted slogans demanding Tibetan independence and many wept, saying police had forced the missing monk to take his own life in the nearby fast-flowing river.

One source said: "Now the whole town in filled with armed police. They are patrolling the streets and there is no way to find out what is going on now. It is cut off."
Tashi Sangpo
Tashi Sangpo is shown in this undated, anonymously provided photo, standing before the Amnye Chungngön.
Chinese state-controlled media claimed that several hundred people attacked the police station and assaulted police and government staff, slightly injuring some of them. A Tibetan exile who has received information from Ragya told Associated Press that around 500 monks (which is about the total current population of the monastery) had protested outside the local administration offices, and the group swelled to around 2,000 as many more people from the town joined them.

Ragya Monastery was founded by the monk Arou Geshe Gyentsen Ozer in 1769, after he was sent to this locale by the 7th Dalai Lama. The curriculum of the Tantric College at Sera Monastery was used to establish the Guypa Dratsang (Tantric College) at Ragya, one among the five Buddhist Studies colleges located at this monastery. The Shingsa Pandita, a reincarnated lineage believed to emanate from the mother of Tsongkhapa, traditionally heads Ragya Monastery, and this lineage has become one of the most influential in the entire Amdo region. There were over 1,000 monks in residence in 1958, but the monastery was demolished in the Cultural Revolution hysteria and only began to be reconstructed in 1980. See the Tibet Heritage Fund link above, for more.

A farming boycott is gaining momentum in Kardze Prefecture. Chinese authorities arrested 27 year old monk Jampa Dhondup of the Tse-Tsang Monastery on March 19, alleging his involvement in the boycott. The civil disobedience movement is intended to oppose the oppressive Chinese policies against Tibetans, according to posters which have proliferated in the streets of Kardze towns. Counter threats have been issued, including land confiscation:
In retaliation against the movement, an official announcement was made that "anyone who defies farming will face arrest and their land will be officially confiscated."
Several members of Jampa Dhondup's family were involved in peaceful protests last year, including his elder brother Tashi Namgyal, who has been on the run since a peaceful protest in Serthar County on March 17, 2008 resulted in a warrant for his arrest. An elder sister, Lhagha, was arrested after a peaceful protest in Kardze County on May 14, 2008 with her fellow nuns from Pangri-Na Nunnery. She was later released, but must report to the Public Security Bureau every week. At least 28 incidents of peaceful protest have been reported from Kardze so far this month, resulting in more than 60 arrests.

Three other people were arrested in connection with the boycott on Saturday. Dhunka Dorjee, 40, Tsering Wangrak, 40, and Pachen, 30, all from Lhoe-pa Township in Kardze County, were taken in by PSB forces for having allegedly participated in the boycott. Another unidentified Tibetan fled toward the mountains and escaped when PSB forces came to arrest him. Many of the young people in Kardze region have already been detained for protesting last year, leaving few capable hands to do farm work in any case. The exile Tibetan Government has appealed to the boycotters to resume their farming.

Earlier this month, more small protests were reported in Kardze, Lithang and Nyarong Counties. Three teenaged girls protested with leaflets and freedom slogans on March 11 (previously cited here), and were arrested by around 50 security police. On March 12, two boys identified as Sonam and Dawa Tsering mounted similar protests in Kardze town. In Nyarong County, three men in their twenties, identified as Sonam Gonpo, Thok Thok and Pema Yeshe, were arrested after publicly setting fire to a pile of documents belonging to local authorities.

Following the solo protest of nun Pema Yangdzom in Kardze on March 3 (previously reported here), three more people staged a similar protest the same afternoon. Rinchen Phuntsok, 15, Tsering Dakpa, 16, and a monk named Choenyi Gyatso, 18, were all arrested. In Nyima town in Nagchu County, Tibetan freedom slogans were written in bold blue letters across the wall of a government building. PSB officials suspected monks of Drong Ngu and Tana monasteries, subsequently rounding up the monks from these institutions to compare their handwriting. A manhunt is being conducted to find more suspects.

Similarly, on the night of March 10, a large number of written slogans affirming Tibet's independence and calling for the return of the Dalai Lama were distributed and posted on walls around Sumdo Monastery in Dzoge County, Ngaba T-"A"-P. On March 12, a group of Tibetans in Nyarong County raised freedom slogans, distributed leaflets, pasted protest letters at the front of the government office, and raised the Tibetan national flag at a school. Three men were reportedly arrested, along with the inevitable severe beatings — with the PSB officers breaking one man's leg, according to a local source. The three were later paraded through the local market by police, who issued a cash prize offer for information leading to the other protesters.

On March 6 at around 10 am, nun Lobsang Khandro, 21, of the Gema Dra-wok Nunnery in Kardze County, staged a solo protest march from the Takchu Bridge to Kardze government headquarters. The nunnery is around 16 kilometres distant from the county seat. She carried pamphlets and other political literature on Tibet, and some prayer flags. As she marched, Lobsang shouted such slogans as "No Freedom in Tibet", "Tibetan People Rise Up, Rise Up", "Long Live the Dalai Lama" and "Chinese Authorities Release all Political Prisoners". Chinese security forces rushed five police vans to the scene, dishing out a severe beating to Lobsang before taking her away for detention. When her friends and relatives inquired about her with the local police, they were given the following threat and warning:
"If she has involved in this kind of activity, there is no other way but to die. She has committed a serious offense and crime. There is nothing left for all of you to inquire about her well-being. Moreover, all of you must not contact the outside world on this matter."
Rebkong monks
Monks in Rebkong, Amdo, February 24, 2009.
Photo: Reinhard Krause / Reuters
On March 14, four young Tibetans shouted freedom slogans in Kardze County. Namsel Dorjee, 28, Karma Norbu, 17, Rinchen Wangsel, 16, and Sangye Tsering, 17, were immediately arrested and are currently locked up in the new detention centre near the Kardze People's Hospital. Relatives who attempted to offer them food and clothing were denied access by PSB authorities, according to local sources. Jamyang, the father of Karma Norbu, was arrested last year for participating in peaceful protests. He remains in prison and is known to be in poor health. Two other sons of Jamyang are currently serving three year prison sentences for protesting Chinese policies.

Ngangrong Tashi Choephel Monastery in Chentsa County, Malho T-"A"-P (Ch: Qinghai province) marked March 10 with a Sangsol incense-burning ceremony. Six young monks were reported to be detained by Public Security Bureau police. On the same day, youths from two nearby villages performed Sangsol in recognition of the fiftieth National Uprising Day. A number of them are known to have been arrested, but further information is not yet available.

Most of the Lutsang Monastery monks who were arrested earlier this month and taken away for "severe" patriotism re-education have been released. The monks had held a candlelight procession and vigil at Mangra County headquarters on February 25, the first day of Losar, the Tibetan New Year. Of the 109 monks taken away for re-grooving, only six — Jamyang Sherab, Jamyang Ngodup, Jamyang Khenrab, Lungtok, Lobsang Thabkhey and Kunsang — are still being held, according to reports received by Voice of Tibet radio. The six are senior monks involved in monastic education, and are not part of the monastery's administration. Chinese authorities have ordered all monks who originate from outside Mangra County to leave the monastery and return to their home areas, and these reportedly comprise nearly half of the Lutsang monks. Most of the monks suffered severe beatings as part of the "re-education" process, with one reported to have been deafened in one ear as a result of their instructors' patriotic fervor.

Jigme Gyatso, the 40 year old monk from Labrang Monastery who assisted Dhondup Wangchen from October 2007 until March 2008 in filming the documentary film Leaving Fear Behind, has been re-arrested from his home in Sangchu County, Kanlho T-"A"-P (Ch: Gansu province). He had been arrested on March 23 last year, and was released under close watch on October 15. Dhondup Wangchen has remained in Chinese custody since his arrest on March 26, 2008.
Sources told TCHRD that around 4 am in the morning, around 10 March 2009, the Sangchu County PSB personnel entered Jigme Gyatso's room and arrested him without giving any explanation. Since then there has been no information about his whereabouts.
Another Tibetan named Golok Kunga Tsangyang was also arrested with Jigme. Both men are described as writers of "politically sensitive" material. Jigme Gyatso, also known as "Golog Jigme", is known to have been severely tortured during his earlier incarceration.

By the way, Leaving Fear Behind was one of the films shown as part of the March 10 special event during the just-completed exhibition "Heaven in Exile" in Jakarta. I was able to attend last Friday, and took in the film Dreaming Lhasa by Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam. The venue was magnificent (the historic old Antara News building, now converted into a public art space) and the photo exhibition was very inspiring. Many thanks to Enrico, Jay, Krish and Yori for their generosity and great commitment to Tibet's cause. Heaven in Exile wound up on Saturday night with the films Wheel of Time and The Cup, and finished with a Freedom Concert by Indonesian national recording artists Tony Q and Oppie Andaresta.

Tashi Dhondup
Tashi Dhondup, a Tibetan working for the Chinese civil service was seized at home on March 12, 2009.
A Tibetan civil servant for the Chinese government, Tashi Dhondup, was arrested on March 12 from his home in Mangra County, Tsolho T-"A"-P (Ch: Qinghai province). The 27 year old man was arrested without warrant or explanation after PSB personnel barged into his home, seizing not only him but his computer and mobile phone. Tashi Dhondup had previously served in the People's Armed Police for three years, and later as a school teacher in his hometown of Sum-dho. He has a wife and two young daughters aged five and three years. Mangra County is the location of Lutsang Monastery, home of the candle-bearing, vigil-holding monks mentioned above.

Tashi Dhondup's younger brother, Jinpa Gyatso, 25, had disappeared a few days before Tashi's arrest. Jinpa was a college student in Xining City, the capital of Qinghai province.

Jinpa Gyatso
Jinpa Gyatso, younger brother of Tashi Dhondup, went missing just before Tashi's arrest.
Photo: Voice of Tibet radio
Sources told TCHRD that the provincial authorities have deployed a huge contingent of armed security forces in Sum-dho Townships, Tharshul and Gomang Townships under Mangra County. TCHRD also learnt that a huge numbers of the Chinese security forces and informers in civilian dress were deployed in the surrounding areas of Mangra County.
A bomb blast was reported last week by the Chinese state-owned news agencies. The blast occurred at an unoccupied police station in Batang County, in western Kardze T-"A"-P in the early morning hours of March 16. The explosion shattered windows but no injuries were reported. A policeman at the Batang Public Security Bureau told AFP that, "It's not something serious," and expressed surprise that the incident was reported by state media.

Also last week, the newspaper of China's internal paramilitary security force, The People's Armed Police News, reported cryptically on the case of an allegedly shocking pink suitcase found in Lhasa's railway station. The find was made "sometime in early spring" and a check of the item revealed that it was "packed with TNT explosives." The size of the case, amount of explosives, or any other relevant information was not given. The paper claimed the case was dismantled by a robot and the explosives destroyed "in just 14 minutes." It's interesting that the exact time is given for this task, yet not even a general time period for the event itself was given. The whole thing seems rather questionable, given that The People's Armed Police News is not known as a reliable source for news (but neither is Xinhua, for that matter). A spokesman for the Tibetan "Autonomous" Region, reached on the phone by Reuters, denied the report.

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