Agam's Gecko
Saturday, March 28, 2009
THE NEW SERFDOM **updated**
*update at end of article*

Ragya town
The arrow indicates the location where Tashi Sangpo cast himself into the Machu River after bolting from a police station in Ragya town. Photo taken from the area of Ragya Monastery.
Photo: TCHRD file

ifty years ago today, the ruling Communist Party of China formally erased the last semblance of self-government in Tibet and placed its colony under direct rule. Three days later the Tibetan head of state, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, crossed the Indian border and entered his life-long freedom in exile.

Today the shackles on the Tibetan people remain quite firmly in place, and they still haven't gotten into the spirit for celebrating the loss of their country half a century ago.

Further reports have been received regarding the current situation in Ragya, where a massive public demonstration took place last Sunday. Additional sources have told the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy that copies of three separate pamphlets were distributed and posted on walls in the town. It's not clear whether this leafleting was part of last Sunday's protest, as this activity was previously reported on March 9-10, which led to the original lock-down of the monastery. One of the pamphlets apparently referred to recent Chinese attempts to buy Tibetan participation in celebrating communist rule, and concluded:
"It is better to die for Tibet and her people than being duped by the monetary rewards of the Chinese government."
Sources have also confirmed to TCHRD that Tashi Sangpo, whose apparent death by drowning after a daring slip from police on March 21 was the trigger for massive public protest, had been held in detention since his arrest on March 10 and was subjected to harsh beatings, torture and long interrogation sessions prior to his escape.
Sources told TCHRD that continuing torture and interrogation finally took its toll on Tashi Sangpo's mental state, which eventually forced him to take his own life by drowning in Machu River. In addition, the detained monks were currently said to be undergoing severe interrogation and torture in detention centre.
Shingsa Rinpoche
Shingsa Trulku Choeki Gyaltsen, the incarnate principal lama of Ragya Monastery, now resides at Sera Monastery in south India.
Photo: Phayul
The resulting protest is now revealed to have begun immediately upon the news of Tashi Sangpo's death reaching the public late on Saturday afternoon. Monks from the Ragya Monastery stormed the Public Security Bureau office and recovered the large Tibetan national flag which authorities had seized from the roof of the monastery on March 10. The flag was handed over to Tashi Sangpo's younger brother while the monks and local townspeople continued to protest and shout freedom slogans outside the government office for several more hours.
Thereafter, the highest ranking government official in Golog Prefecture, head of Golog PSB personnel and People's Armed Police (PAP) came to the protesting site. Unfazed by the intimidating presence of PSB and PAP forces, the Tibetans continued to protest, holding and waving the banned Tibetan National flag and shouted a slogan "STOP MURDERING THE INNOCENT TIBETAN PEOPLE".
Another source, who had been in contact with people in Ragya on that day, spoke at length with Free Tibet Campaign in London about what he had learned. The raising of the Tibetan national flag over the monastery had occurred on March 9, but Tashi Sangpo and six other monks were not arrested until a security raid on the monastery on March 20, according to this source. Separate reports indicated that several military trucks had initially arrived at the monastery on March 8, and military patrols were deployed around the monastery.

Palden Gyatso
Palden Gyatso, monastic prefect at Ragya Monastery: arrested.
Photo: Phayul
After the seven monks were held overnight in the town's detention centre on March 20, Tashi Sangpo was seen at around 2 pm the following afternoon running from the police station toward the swift-running Machu River. Eyewitnesses said that he had made a pretext of using the outhouse toilet, and then made his break for freedom.
Eyewitnesses told the sources that they had seen Sangpo jump into the river after running from the police station. The eyewitnesses, who were located on a bridge spanning the river, told the source that they had seen Sangpo’s body being swept under the bridge by the river’s strong current and had lost sight of his body shortly after.
Soepa, 42 year old monk at Ragya Monastery: arrested.
Photo: Phayul
Tashi Sangpo's actual intention is still not certain. Did he intend to commit suicide, or merely to escape? As far as is known, his body has not yet been found. Ragya Monastery remains completely sealed off by large contingents of PSB and PAP forces, while telephone services, mobile cell networks and postal services have been cut to the town.

Several more of the monks arrested on Sunday have been identified. In addition to the monastery prefect, Palden Gyatso, three others were named as Soepa, 42, Gyaltsen, 34, and Jamyang Khedup, 27. In earlier reports, Chinese officials said that of the 95 Tibetans being held, only two were laypeople. One of these has been identified by Tibetan sources as Yanglo, aged 54. Relatives and friends of Tashi Sangpo are being detained and questioned at a police station located about 2 km from the monastery.

Jamyang Khedup
Jamyang Khedup, 27 year old monk at Ragya Monastery: arrested.
Photo: Phayul
The principal lama of Ragya Monastery, revered as the 11th reincarnation of the Great Mother of Je Tsongkhapa (founder of the Gelugpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism) lives in exile at Bylakupee, in south India. Shingsa Trulku Choeki Gyaltsen, in a letter to the Chinese government, condemned its religious persecution and demanded an explanation for the death of his follower Tashi Sangpo. Shingsa Rinpoche also asked for the present condition of Tapey, the Kirti monk who set himself on fire at the end of February — of whom we've heard nothing since the report that authorities were planning to cut off his legs (a likely effort to destroy the evidence of Chinese forces having shot him, according to witnesses).

The 28 year old incarnate lama accused the government in his letter of having desecrated his monastery, and demanded that the troops must withdraw from their occupation of the institution. Insisting that issues must be resolved peacefully, he wrote that the central, provincial and local administrations will be held responsible for the ongoing unrest in Tibet. Shingsa Rinpoche fled the Chinese occupation in 1997, and is known as a strong supporter of Tibetan independence.

Lungtok Gyatso
Lungtok Gyatso, 22 year old monk at Lutsang Monastery: arrested.
Photo: Phayul
In an interview with the Voice of Tibet radio service, the lama said he has been in contact with people in Ragya, and he identified several more of the monks currently being detained. In addition to those named above, three others are Mengak, Sherab and Tsultrim. His local contacts also told him that the family of Tashi Sangpo has been offered financial compensation of 200,000 Yuan (which seems like an admission of responsibility, to this writer). After days of denying the death and trying to spread the idea that he had actually made good on his escape, authorities are now forced to admit the truth of Tashi's death after his robe was found on the riverbank, Rinpoche said.

The authorities' earlier assertion had been touted in the state-controlled mouth-piece media by the citation of one "witness" who claimed to have seen Tashi Sangpo swim out of the river and flee. That woman is now being held in Chinese custody, local people told Shingsa Rinpoche.

The people of Dzogchen township, in Derge County, western Kardze Prefecture, were preparing to observe Phurchen, an important day for their religious activities, on March 23. On the eve of the event, a large number of leaflets calling for Tibet's independence as well as prayer flags (Lungta) were scattered all over the main road leading to the Dzogchen Monastery.

A lone Tibetan monk staged a protest in Lithang County, also in western Kardze T-"A"-P, at around 11:20 am on Sunday morning, March 22. Choekyong Tsering, an 18 year old monk from Lithang Monastery, shouted slogans for the long life of His Holiness Dalai Lama and for Tibetan independence. He was severely beaten by security forces before being swept off to Lithang county prison.

Jamyang Sherab
Jamyang Sherab, 30 year old monk at Lutsang Monastery: arrested.
Photo: Phayul
Two more nuns have mounted a small demonstration in Kardze in recent days. Yulshey, 33, and Tsetan Lhamo, 28, carried a bag of political pamphlets and shouted freedom slogans calling for Dalai Lama's return to Tibet and independence for their country. The nuns were severely beaten, arrested and taken to the new detention centre in Kardze. Chinese officials in two vehicles arrived at the family homes of the two nuns on the morning of March25. Family members of the two were summoned to the local government office and accused of plotting against the government.

Radio Free Asia reported on what may have been the same incident. On March 24, two nuns from Lamdrak Nunnery scattered several hundred leaflets in front of the Kardze PSB headquarters before they were beaten and detained. This account identified the nuns as Yangkyi and Sonam Yangchen.
"More than 50 security personnel arrived at the scene. Some of them detained and beat the nuns while others cordoned off the area. Even after being beaten, the nuns called out for the long life of the Dalai Lama."

"Both nuns were placed in a military van and taken away," the source said.
Lutsang monks
Thabkhay Gyatso, age 25 (upper), Jamyang Ngodup, age 26 (lower), and Jamyang Khenrab, age 30 (right), of Lutsang Monastery: all arrested.
Photo: Phayul
RFA also has more on the Kardze farming boycott, reported here on Monday. The arrest of monk Jampa Dondrub, of the Tsesok Monastery in Lopa village, was made after he argued with local government officials over the boycott on March 19, a local woman told the radio service. Five vehicles full of Public Security Bureau personnel came and took him away to the detention centre in Kardze town. Six other Tibetans had been detained on March 16, according to a former Kardze resident in contact with the area. These include a second man named Jampa Dondrub, a girl named Dorje Lhamo, and four unnamed youths from four different villages in the area.
"Witnesses saw Chinese PSB personnel detaining them and beating them with iron rods and rifle butts," he added.

After this, "several posters appeared in Tibetan villages lying in the outskirts of Kardze [town], urging farmers to refuse to cultivate their land in protest against Chinese rule," [Yeshe] Dorje said.

"Tibetans who did till their land were warned of 'serious consequences,'" he said.
Authorities responded by calling a meeting at Lopa village, warning farmers that if they failed to work their fields they would be detained and their land confiscated. The Kardze region has been experiencing the most bizarre prelude to the forced celebration of the new, CCP-mandated public holiday — "Serfs' Emancipation Day" — which falls today.

Which leads me to wonder whether communists are actually able to perceive irony. Here is more of what I call, "The New Serfdom":
"On March 20, over 100 government workers, Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers, and soldiers came to Kara village in Kardze," Yeshe Dorje, a former resident of Kardze now living in Australia, said, citing sources in the region.

"They went from house to house and forced Tibetans into their fields and made them till their land. The Tibetans didn’t cooperate [at first] but later tilled their fields under pressure and with the assistance of government workers and security personnel," Dorje said.

He added that Tibetans are still boycotting in other parts of Kardze, where opposition to China runs strong.
Kunsang, 24 year old monk at Lutsang Monastery: arrested.
Photo: Phayul
Late on that same day an explosive was placed on the door of a man named Gonpo, the head of Dotso town. A notice was also posted in the area warning Gonpo, who is now under police protection, not to side with the authorities.

All major monasteries in Lhasa have been closed in the run-up to the new state serfs' holiday, and only the Potala and the Jokhang remain open. There are believed to be only around 100 monks in residence at the Jokhang Temple — hardly enough to go around, if residents of Lhasa were actually inclined to celebrate or honour a particular occasion. Under such conditions, a trip to the monastery to pay respect to the monks and to visit the shrines would probably figure into the holiday plans of many.

But the monasteries are closed now, and there's nothing for Lhasans to celebrate in any case. One of them told RFA that the state celebrations are "showings-off" against the Dalai Lama, adding, "The government will hold jubilant celebrations. However, they are irrelevant to religion in Tibet."

Kunga Tsayang
Kunga Tsayang, 20 year old writer, photographer and monk from Labrang Monastery: arrested.
Photo: Reporters Without Borders
An update to an earlier Voice of Tibet report on the fate of the candle-bearing, vigil-holding monks of Lutsang Monastery, showed photos of all six of the monks still being detained in Mangra County, Amdo (Ch: Qinghai) after 109 of them were subjected to severe patriotism re-education for several weeks. A source in contact with the area said that uniformed and non-uniformed police are combing the district, searching homes, and telling people that the "separatist forces of the Dalai Lama" were plotting to poison their drinking water.

A Tibetan writer-photographer was arrested for his work on a Tibetan website, Zin-dris ("Jottings") on March 17. Kunga Tsayang, a monk at Labrang Monastery in Sangchu County, Amdo, was seized from his room during a midnight raid by Public Security Bureau personnel.

Described as a well educated monk who takes great pride in his Tibetan identity, he is known as a serious writer and photographer who has travelled across China and Tibet documenting Tibetan landscapes, cultures, customs and religion. He had reportedly been under close watch by authorities in Sangchu County, but stayed only rarely at Labrang during important rituals and ceremonies.

Reporters Without Borders issued a press statement condemning the arrest of Kunga Tsayang, as well as the re-arrest of documentarian Jigme Gyatso ("Leaving Fear Behind"), and urged the Chinese government to release him immediately. The journalists' advocacy group cited his "many articles about Buddhism and Tibetan art and culture," and noted that he is also an avid environmentalist working with the Yutse Environment Department as a photographer. Kunga Tsayang is 20 years old.

UPDATE: Received in comments from Tibet Writes, an English translation of one of Kunga Tsayang's short essays may be read here: Who are the real separatists?.


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