Saturday, March 14, 2009
TIBETAN ANNIVERSARY PASSES GRIMLY; CRIMINALS' FEELINGS HURT
he March 10 anniversary has passed without incident in a stable and happy Tibet, according to Chinese "news services" and top leaders. It's easy enough for them to say this, after having expelled all foreigners — with particular attention to journalists — and shutting down communications by turning off phone networks and internet gateways. Yet even the mere trickle of information which somehow escapes from the prison on the roof of the world indicates that Chinese "news services" and top leaders are lying.
A little more information has been received from local sources by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, following the attempted suicide by self-immolation of a young monk named Tabey, from the Kirti Jepa Monastery in Ngaba County, on February 27 (earlier reports here, here, and photos here) after officials had banned the Kirti monks from performing the traditional religious observance of Monlam Chenmo. Tabey is said to be hospitalized in a secret government facility in Chengdu, the Sichuan capital.
Sources told TCHRD that Tabey's mother was permitted to meet him at the hospital by the Chinese authorities. However, they were not allowed to speak to each other. Sources also told TCHRD that their meeting lasted not more than few minutes. Tabey is currently placed under huge security cover and protection.Multiple eyewitnesses to the event had earlier reported seeing Tabey fall to the ground immediately upon hearing three gunshots. Chinese officials deny the shooting and claim that Tabey has no gunshot wounds as he lay recovering under iron-clad security and not permitted to speak. The logical conclusion is inescapable: Chinese officials intend to destroy the evidence of an atrocity by security forces by cutting off Tabey's legs.
In a sudden twist to Tabey's self-immolation episode, the Chinese officials explained his mother about the need to amputate his legs, which however, was strenuously resisted by Tabey himself.
What is the foremost thought in a criminal's mind after committing his crime? Destroy all evidence which might eventually lead to his being held responsible.
So far, the colonial regime's procedures for dealing with a Buddhist monk intent on giving his life in protest by self-immolation appears to be:
- Shoot the monk in the legs, rendering him immobile
- Extinguish the monk and keep him securely incommunicado
- Remove any evidence for point 1, amputate if necessary
- Explain to the world that Tibetans are overjoyed at living in a Chinese paradise on earth
It's probably too late to confront the Chinese Foreign Minister in the United States, who met with President Obama and Secretary Clinton yesterday (he'd likely be breathing a sigh of relief on his flight home by now, if he'd known of it). In a world that had effective international organisations (rather than the feckless United Nations we're stuck with at the moment), an independent investigator would have been flying into Chengdu two weeks ago (with or without an invitation from the offending party).
The Tibetan writer / poet / citizen journalist Woeser has written about Tabey's self-sacrifice, published yesterday on Radio Free Asia's Tibetan service (translation here). She says that while Buddhism strongly opposes the action of suicide, in the past 50 years Tibet has seen an unprecedented number of them — peaking in the late 1950's and again during the first Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).
When I was investigating the "Cultural Revolution" in Lhasa, an elderly man recalled that one day in 1959, he personally witnessed four monks throw themselves into the Lhasa River to their deaths. The Lhasa River flowed quietly while their crimson red robes slowly sank.During a hunger strike by Tibetans at New Delhi in 1998, exiled monk Thupten Ngodup immolated himself in protest, and died a few days later. Woeser rounds up some of the known suicides which followed the Chinese crackdown on nationalist expression last year, identifying six between March and October. Of these, four were monks, one a villager and one a 17 year old student. The student explained in his note, before leaping from a building:
"It is impossible to live under the Chinese oppression even for a minute or an hour, let alone a whole day. I use my own life to tell the world that Tibetans have no freedom."The Free Tibet Campaign in London reported on Tuesday that three more monks from Kirti Monastery were arrested within days of Tabey's protest. Jamyang Phuntsok, 34, was arrested on March 3, and Mewa Gyatso along with one other unidentified monk were arrested on March 5. The "well-placed source" informed FTC that the arrests were in connection with the distribution of flyers which had announced the intentions of four more Kirti monks to immolate themselves on March 10.
These arrests were also confirmed to Voice of Tibet radio service by a source with contacts in the area. Chinese authorities are searching for four monks who threatened to "follow Tabey's footsteps," the source said, adding that the three arrested were all friends of Tabey. Around 60,000 Chinese troops have been deployed in Ngaba Tibetan "Autonomous" Prefecture.
FTC has also learned that roughly 80% of the forces now deployed in Ngaba Prefecture (about one-fifth of Sichuan province) are stationed within Ngaba County (there are 13 counties of roughly equal size in Ngaba T-"A"-P). Local residents of the county are vastly outnumbered on the streets by armed troops, and a 7 pm curfew order has been in place since March 8. Unconfirmed reports state that all civilian road traffic was prohibited in the county's main town on March 10. Colonial officials have ordered members of Kirti Monastery's "Democratic Management Committee" to sign pledges that no monks would protest, and they stressed that even a minor protest would result in the closing of the monastery.
Lobsang Wangchuk lived in Lithang County, Kardze, before March 10. On that day he mounted a solo protest and called out loud for "Long Life for His Holiness Dalai Lama" and "Independence for Tibet." He was immediately apprehended by security forces and "beaten up mercilessly" according to a source speaking to Radio Free Asia. Lithang County has around 25,000 troops deployed within it, according to the source.
These are phenomenal troop levels — 25,000 in Lithang County, and 48,000 within Ngaba County. If these estimates are anywhere near accurate, China's military occupation has deployed into these two little counties more than half the number of all US forces currently in the entire country of Iraq (the latter of course, serving at the request and discretion of a democratically-elected Iraqi government, cannot really be compared with the half-century-old military occupation of Tibet by China).
As tough as this period has been for the people of the plateau, it's not much better for Tibetans who live in the lowlands of China proper. Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, is a city of 10 million people. It has a small Tibetan quarter, currently guarded by police with rifles and machine guns manning checkpoints at every point of entry. The Tibetan neighbourhood is a series of tree-lined streets packed with souvenir shops and restaurants. Residents say the already tight security had become much stricter since the beginning of March.
"We are suffocating," a Tibetan shopkeeper said as monks looked over religious artifacts. "I can't begin to put into words how we feel. There is such unease. I can only hope all this security lets up soon." He refused to give his name for fear of official retaliation.Tibetans outside the war zone marked the March 10 anniversary as they always do, but with a little extra help this year. By this I don't mean the demonstrations of support in many countries around the world, or the hundreds of cities and towns which now officially fly the Tibetan flag on that day to show solidarity with the freedom aspirations of an extremely patient people. Of course, these are all very welcome and highly appreciated, and let's have even more of them next year, and the ones after that until freedom comes.
But the extra special help this year came to Dharamsala in the form of a group of Chinese democrats, reports Maura Moynihan (whose famous father would be very proud of her, I'm sure). At an evening candle-light vigil before the Tsuglakhang Temple (Jokhang, in exile), Thomas Yan, chairman of the China Forum for Human Rights in Hong Kong spoke on behalf of the visiting group.
"A friend from Hong Kong tried to persuade me not to come to Dharamsala," he said. "He warned me, 'You don't know what you're doing. March 10 is a very sensitive day.'"
"I replied, 'I know exactly what I'm doing. March 10 marks the separation of brothers, of China and Tibet. I have discovered that Dharamsala is filled with lovely people, with confidence and determination, who have preserved a beautiful language and culture in a painful exile.'"
"The fact that the Dalai Lama is not in Lhasa is a great shame," he said.
As the end of his speech, Yan's voice swelled with emotion and rage.
"I spent five years in prison for joining the Tiananmen Square uprising, so I know how our Tibetan brothers and sisters have suffered. The Chinese Communist Party is an evil government. It is the enemy of the Chinese people. We must work together for a democratic China and a Free Tibet!"
Yan then clutched [Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament] Pemba Tsering's hand and raised it towards the night sky to a roaring crowd. Elderly women clutching Free Tibet flags came forward in tears to grasp Yan's hand.
But Chinese people, even more than the rest of the world, have no idea what is being done in their name amid the demonizing rhetoric which issues forth from their leaders' lips. They might know, if any independent journalism was permitted in Tibetan areas, but it's not. The Telegraph's Malcolm Moore has a detailed statement of complaint from the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China, outlining the many detentions and forced expulsions of journalists, confiscation of equipment and the like, just in the week prior to March 10. Journalists from the U.S., Japan, Italy, Spain and Finland have been harassed in recent days and prevented from working in areas which Chinese law (and promises made during the Olympics) guaranteed their right to work — outside the Tibetan "Autonomous" Region.
Reporters Without Borders has more details on these violations, which include reporters working for Agence France Presse, Italian news agency ANSA, Flemish television VRT, Spanish television TVE, Finish television FBC, Associated Press, and France 24 television (the latter detained after working in the Tibetan quarter of Chengdu, where all foreigners are now apparently also banned). The press freedom group has more in an earlier press statement, including a round-up of Tibetans recently punished for disseminating information.
And if one might think that's all bad enough, just wait. The Telegraph's Moore has been reading Radio Free Asia's Chinese language site, and passes on another item destined for the Unbelievably Creepy file. Someone in Beijing has been posing as a RFA reporter for the purpose of convening a meeting of petitioners against the government. These might be people whose homes have been seized, or who have some other complaint of injustice done to them by the authorities. It was a trap.
During the Olympics, the petitioners who dared to register for the public protest zones got carted away and sure enough the ones who showed up at this fake meeting were instantly arrested by security goons, said RFA's editor, Shao Delian. Indeed, RFA has no Beijing-based reporter and its website is blocked inside China.Come on now, humanity! Doesn't this sort of thing violate the most basic standards of civilised conduct? Alert the feckless UN (on second thought, never mind).
It is good to know that Tibet still has many good friends with influence in the world, if not necessarily with their CCP rulers. An appeal was released on March 9, supported by parliamentarians of 14 nations and the European Parliament, calling on China to end the intense repression and to engage honestly with the Tibetan side on the basis of the Memorandum for Genuine Autonomy, which was offered in good faith by the Dalai Lama's representatives last November. Signatories also include Vaclav Havel and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
The European Parliament separately adopted a resolution, urging the Chinese government to consider the Memorandum of Genuine Autonomy as a good basis for meaningful discussion, and called on the authorities to release prisoners of conscience, to open Tibet to media access, and to permit entry to UN human rights experts and recognized international NGO's.
And on Wednesday the United States House of Representatives passed H. Res. 226, in which the House resolves that it,
(1) recognizes the Tibetan people for their perseverance in face of hardship and adversity in Tibet and for creating a vibrant and democratic community in exile that sustains the Tibetan identity;The resolution passed almost unanimously — 422 Yeas, 1 Nay. Naturally I was just dying to find out which one of them couldn't support the four points quoted above. Some readers may have already guessed (I didn't). The answer is Ron Paul. Tibet remains the most bipartisan issue of agreement in the entire known universe.
(2) recognizes the Government and people of India for their generosity toward the Tibetan refugee population for the last 50 years;
(3) calls upon the Government of the People’s Republic of China to respond to the Dalai Lama’s initiatives to find a lasting solution to the Tibetan issue, cease its repression of the Tibetan people, and to lift immediately the harsh policies imposed on Tibetans, including patriotic education campaigns, detention and abuses of those freely expressing political views or relaying news about local conditions, and limitations on travel and communications; and
(4) calls upon the Administration to recommit to a sustained effort consistent with the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002, that employs diplomatic, programmatic, and multilateral resources to press the People’s Republic of China to respect the Tibetans’ identity and the human rights of the Tibetan people.
As surely as night follows day, officials in China immediately began to bleat about this vote by the American people's elected representatives, pouting that it "hurts the Chinese people's feelings." Boo freakin' hoo. This sort of response is a bit rich, coming just a day after they had lashed out against His Holiness' March 10 statement by saying (through a Xinhua Mouthpiece commentary) that the Dalai Lama was "like a kid trying to draw attention from other people by crying."
There is no one on earth who whines more about their "hurt feelings" than Chinese government officials, particularly whenever anyone points out the crimes they continue to commit against the proud nation whose independence they themselves stole more than half a century ago.