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Crackdown worsens in eastern Tibet: execution of Tibetan prisoner

October 10, 2007

ICT report, October 8, 2007

Tensions have increased in the Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi) area of 
eastern Tibet, present-day Sichuan province, with the execution of a 
Tibetan prisoner that may be linked to the political crackdown 
following a protest in support of the Dalai Lama by nomad Runggye 
Adak in August.

This report documents the following new developments in the region:

. Further detentions of Tibetans, including a young art teacher, a 
local nomad who expressed support for Runggye Adak and the Dalai 
Lama, and a senior monk respected for his commitment to Tibetan 
education, in the Lithang area

. An increased and intimidatory military presence in the two 
neighboring counties of Lithang and Kardze, both in Kardze Tibetan 
Autonomous Prefecture (in the Tibetan area of Kham)

0. An intensified political campaign that requires Tibetan monks, 
nuns, laypeople and children to denounce the Dalai Lama. The stepping 
up of this anti-Dalai Lama campaign in the region coincides with a 
period when the Dalai Lama himself is increasingly received by world 
leaders and respected for his leadership on peace and non-violence.

The execution of Kunjam

According to reports received by ICT, a Tibetan named Kunjam was 
executed on or around September 14 in Lithang (Chinese: Litang). 
Kunjam had initially been detained in 2003, because of his 
involvement in a fight with two Chinese men over an issue of land 
according to one report from a Tibetan source. The two Chinese men 
were apparently investigating the possibility of mineral extraction 
at a local mountain that is regarded by Tibetans as a holy site. 
Although the full circumstances are not known, it appears that one of 
the Chinese men was killed and Kunjam was linked to the death and 
imprisoned. It is not known if he was initially sentenced to death. 
But reports received by ICT indicate that his execution was hasty and 
unexpected, and may have been linked to the authorities' hardline 
approach towards political dissent in his local area through August 
and September.

The current crackdown in Lithang follows the protest by nomad Runggye 
Adak in front of an audience of thousands at the Lithang horse racing 
festival on August 1. In an apparently unconnected incident, a 
fortnight before Runggye Adak' protest, the wording 'Complete 
independence' (Tibetan: 'Rang Btsan Gtsang Ma') had been written on 
the entrance gate to the festival area.

Tibetans in Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (in the Tibetan 
region of Kham) are known for their strong sense of Tibetan identity 
and nationalism; many Khampas were involved in resistance to the 
Chinese invasion in 1949-50. Hardline Chinese campaigns against the 
Dalai Lama and economic policies that have led to the loss of their 
land and livelihoods as well as the extraction of minerals by Chinese 
prospectors have caused deep resentment in the region. The recent 
intensification of restrictions on religious expression, and the 
requirement to denounce the Dalai Lama, have compounded frustration 
in the region and appear to be increasing the likelihood of Tibetans 
taking risks to express their discontent.

The stepping up of an anti-Dalai Lama campaign in the neighboring 
counties of Lithang and Kardze, with more stringent requirements than 
usual for both the monastic community and laypeople to denounce their 
religious leader, coincides with a period when the Dalai Lama himself 
is increasingly respected on the world stage for his leadership on 
peace and non-violence. Next week, on October 17, U.S. President Bush 
will become the first sitting U.S. President to meet the Dalai Lama 
publicly, when the Dalai Lama is honored with the Congressional Gold 
Medal in Washington, DC. On September 23, German Chancellor Angela 
Merkel met the Dalai Lama in Berlin, becoming the first German 
chancellor to do so despite stern reprimands from Beijing and 
warnings that it could damage economic contacts. Austrian Chancellor 
Alfred Gusenbauer has also recently met the Dalai Lama, and Canada's 
Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, has announced his intention to meet 
the exiled Tibetan leader despite objections from China.

Detentions and crackdown in Lithang following local nomad's protest

The detention of an art and music teacher at Lithang Middle School 
called Kunkhyen at the end of August appears to have followed a 
systematic investigation of local people suspected of being loyal to 
the Dalai Lama or of supporting the views expressed by Runggye Adak, 
who is still in detention after his protest. (See ICT reports at: 
http://www.savetibet.org/news/newsitem.php?id=1160). Kunkhyen, who is 
in his early thirties, is a popular local musician and artist known 
for his skill on the Tibetan stringed instrument the 'dranyan', and 
for painting murals in some of the local monasteries. His current 
whereabouts are unknown.

Sources report aggressive searches of the residences of relatives and 
associates of 53-year Runggye Adak, a father of 11 children and 
respected figure in his nomadic community.

Runggye Adak's nephew, Lupoe, a senior monk at Lithang monastery, was 
detained on August 21, according to reports. Two of Rungyye Adak's 
other nephews were detained just before Lupoe and apparently beaten 
severely before being released. Lupoe's current whereabouts are 
unknown, but local people fear that he may face serious charges, 
possibly due to the position he took on the protest of Runggye Adak. 
Local police pasted posters in the town after Lupoe's detention 
announcing the detention of 'several' individuals, and warning that 
anyone who attempted to help them or petition on their behalf would 
also be imprisoned.

Lupoe, who is in his early forties, is respected in the local area 
for his Buddhist scholarship and for his concern about the Tibetan 
education of young people. He was involved in the administration of 
the monastery, which is now a target for increasingly repressive 
political campaigns. His detention appears to follow a pattern that 
has been observed in Tibet in recent years, of detaining senior 
Tibetan monks who have influence in the wider monastic and lay 
community, and who are believed to be loyal to the Dalai Lama. Often 
these individuals - such as Geshe Sonam Phuntsog, for example, who 
was tortured and sentenced to five years in prison from November 2004 
after holding a long life prayer puja for the Dalai Lama (see ICT 
report http://www.savetibet.org/news/newsitem.php?id=338) - have been 
under observation by the authorities for some time.

ICT has also received reports of the detention of a Tibetan nomad in 
his early thirties from Lithang called Jarib Lothog in a hotel room 
in Chengdu, which may be linked to local peoples' expressions of 
concern for Runggye Adak. Full details of the reason for his 
detention and his current whereabouts are not known.

The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), based in 
Dharamsala, India, reported on September 28 that a senior monk at 
Lithang monastery, Lobsang Phuntsog, was detained on September 15 
following a raid carried out in his monastery residence by Lithang 
County Public Security Bureau (PSB) officials (TCHRD report, 
September 28, http://www.tchrd.org). Thirty year old Lobsang Phuntsog 
was ordained as a monk at Lithang while in his teens and according to 
the same report excelled in the art of monastic dance (Cham).

TCHRD also reported the detention of a Tibetan nomad in his twenties 
called Adruk Kalgyam, after he expressed support for Runggye Adak and 
for the Dalai Lama during a public meeting called by local officials 
in his local area of Lithang on September 2 (TCHRD, October 8).

Witnessing Runggye Adak's protest

Runggye Adak, who staged the protest at the Lithang horse festival in 
front of an audience of thousands, was originally detained in the 
police detention center in Lithang town, but has reportedly been 
moved closer to the provincial capital of Chengdu. Immediately after 
his detention, local Tibetans and nomads in the area for the summer 
horse festival, where he made his protest, crowded into the courtyard 
of the police station to protest his detention before being 
dispersed. Several days afterwards, Tibetans gathered outside the 
town were dispersed by riot police using tear-gas and firing guns 
into the air (images were provided to ICT by a visitor to the area, 
see ICT report at http://www.savetibet.org/news/newsitem.php?id=1160).

An eyewitness to Runggye Adak's protest told ICT: "I saw him walk 
onto the stage, which was full of Chinese military and officials 
during an official ceremony. He was very calm, very dignified and he 
spoke clearly. I couldn't understand what he was saying because I 
don't know the Kham dialect, but I could see Tibetans around me 
shaking their heads in sadness, because they were fearful for him, 
and others openly agreeing with him."

During his protest, which emphasized the importance of the Dalai 
Lama's return to Tibet, Runggye Adak reportedly also called for the 
release of senior monk Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche, also from the Lithang 
area, who is serving a life sentence on charges of inciting 
'separatism'. Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche is widely respected in Lithang; 
before his imprisonment, he pioneered the development of Tibetan 
social and cultural institutions, brought schools and medical 
facilities to the local community, and attempted to limit the 
exploitation of the area's natural resources. His imprisonment 
continues to be deeply resented in the area and his welfare is of 
continued concern to Tibetans in Lithang and elsewhere.

Campaign against the Dalai Lama stepped up - intensification of 
'patriotic education' in Kardze

There has been a buildup of hundreds of troops in Lithang county, 
particularly in the main Lithang town, in recent weeks. A high-
ranking Chinese official together with security personnel and other 
Chinese cadres have also arrived in Lithang, according to Tibetan 
sources. At least two senior Tibetan leaders in Lithang who work for 
the local government have lost their jobs, which sources say could be 
indicative of distrust at higher levels of their ability to remain 
loyal to government rulings at a time of intensified oppression of 
local people.

Local people have been required to make denunciations of the Dalai 
Lama and of Runggye Adak's protest, while children in local schools 
have been asked to write essays denouncing the Dalai Lama and his 
'separatist clique'.

According to reports from sources close to unfolding events in the 
area, Chinese cadres have presided over political sessions in Lithang 
monastery, and in local government offices as well as with leaders of 
nomad groups. During these meetings, Tibetans have been told that 
they must denounce the Dalai Lama or risk imprisonment. One Tibetan 
source said: "The main points of the meeting are always the same: 
denounce His Holiness the Dalai Lama, oppose the 'separatist clique', 
of which Runggye Adak is said to be a part, and finally, to be 
grateful to the Communist government." The same source added that 
armed military personnel have been present at many of the meetings in 
order to increase levels of intimidation.

An American Buddhist scholar and practitioner who has traveled 
frequently to Tibet told ICT: "It is devastating for a Tibetan to be 
required to denounce the Dalai Lama. A basic vow of a Tibetan monk, 
nun, or lay practitioner is to deeply respect and always maintain a 
heart connection with the teacher. When Tibetans denounce the Dalai 
Lama, they feel as though they are breaking that heart connection, 
that critical link, to their root guru and most important teacher. It 
is one thing for Chinese officials to denigrate the Dalai Lama in 
front of Tibetans, but it is immensely distressing for Tibetans to be 
forced to do so themselves."

Government representatives have reportedly told Tibetan cadres there 
that if they continue to serve the government loyally they will be 
rewarded with increased salaries, and that they should never be 
'deceived' by the Dalai Lama.

During one meeting last week, a senior Tibetan monk at Lithang 
monastery reportedly refused to denounce the Dalai Lama. There are 
reports from the area of other refusals from Tibetans to submit to 
the demands of the cadres carrying out the patriotic education 
sessions. Feelings are running high in the area, and some sources 
have expressed fears that the crackdown may worsen due to the 
confrontational strategies used by the authorities.

Officials carrying out a new 'patriotic education' campaign in 
Lithang from the first week of September have warned local people 
that they must not keep any photographs of the Dalai Lama on their 
home shrine or in monasteries, and that government workers could risk 
losing their jobs if they worship at local monasteries. (TCHRD 
report, September 28, 2007). A Tibetan visitor to Lithang monastery 
soon after Runggye Adak's detention reported the atmosphere to be 
"fearful and tense". More than 500 monks live at Lithang monastery, 
which is one of the most important religious centers in the area, 
with hundreds more living in satellite monasteries in close proximity.

According to information received by ICT, several weeks before 
Runggye Adak's protest, the Chinese authorities circulated a petition 
at Lithang monastery for monks to sign saying that they did not want 
the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet. A Tibetan who visited the area 
this summer and spoke to monks told ICT that this was a deeply 
provocative act: "It seems that most of the local population knew 
about this petition being circulated by officials, and it caused an 
increase in tension and anxiety, because Tibetans in this area revere 
His Holiness."

"If you are with the Chinese government, there should not be space 
for Dalai Lama in your heart"

Since the incident, it has become increasingly dangerous for Tibetans 
to speak about the situation due to increased security in the area 
and the authorities' attempts to prevent news about the unrest 
reaching the outside world. Telephone calls to and from Lithang have 
been subject to extra monitoring during the past few weeks, and 
Tibetans are being threatened with repercussions if they speak about 
the incident and the detentions to anyone.

A Tibetan from the area who is now in exile told ICT: "Officials in 
Lithang have been showing footage [during political education 
sessions] that supposedly demonstrates the brutality of the Tibetan 
social system before the Chinese liberated Tibetans from the chains 
of the 'feudal masters'. The conclusion that is meant to be drawn 
from these programs is that the current prosperity Tibetans enjoy is 
solely because Tibetans are liberated from the feudal and brutal old 
system by the Communist government. If the liberation had not 
occurred, Tibetans would be still suffering and backward as before. 
They have also shown some photos of well known prisoners like Tulku 
Tenzin Delek Rinpoche saying if Tibetans continue to express dissent, 
they will be jailed just like him and other prisoners."

The same source continued: "They tell us that if you are with the 
Chinese government than there should not be space for Dalai Lama in 
your heart. These campaigns are aimed at changing peoples' minds, and 
when they can't coerce people into submission they just arrest them. 
It is supposed to go on till they get a clear answer from the public 
on the proposed choice - the Party or the Dalai Lama. The people of 
Lithang are facing a difficult dilemma and are under increasing 
pressure and restriction. I personally believe that the situation 
might escalate and become very serious."

Despite the atmosphere of oppression, Tibetans appear to have been 
determined to express their views peacefully and without using 
violence. The same source told ICT: "The courage of Tibetans inside 
Tibet should never be forgotten and the will and determination in 
Tibetan people's hearts should not diminish. As per Runggye Adak's 
wish, we should resort to peaceful and non-violent ways to improve 
the relationship between Tibetans and Chinese so that Tibetans in 
exile and in Tibet will see the day of reunion soon. That way, 
Tibetans in Tibet will have the opportunity to see His Holiness the 
Dalai Lama."

Climate of fear in Kardze monastery after official clampdown

The same hardline and confrontational strategies have been adopted 
with monks and local people in another important monastery, Kardze 
monastery in Kardze county, north of Lithang and also in Kardze 
Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. In early June, an official 'work team' 
arrived at the monastery and warned monks that images of the Dalai 
Lama were not allowed to be displayed in monks' rooms, and that if 
any monks were reported to be engaging in 'splittist activities', the 
monastery would be closed down.

While the monks were ordered to gather and sit in the main courtyard, 
a number of officials searched the premises and confiscated some 
photographs of the Dalai Lama. Before the team left the monastery, 
monks were instructed on respecting the laws of the country and given 
a copy of regulations for religious practice that were published in 
2004 in a booklet titled 'Regulations concerning religious affairs'.

During the Lithang Horse Festival, a fortnight before Runggye Adak 
made his protest in August, the wording 'Complete 
independence' (Tibetan: Rang Btsan Gtsang Ma') was written on the 
entrance gate to the horse race festival area. Following this 
incident, several hundred soldiers and police apparently arrived in 
Kardze town, and a large number of them stayed at Kardze monastery, 
in what appears to be an intimidatory measure. Scribbling Tibetan pro-
independence or pro-Dalai Lama graffiti can lead to imprisonment and 
torture; four Tibetan schoolboys are currently in custody in a 
Tibetan area of Gansu province, for being suspected of the same 
offence in an incident in early September (see ICT report at: http://
www.savetibet.org/news/newsitem.php?id=1170). The military personnel 
took over hotels and guest-houses in the town, requiring all other 
guests to leave. They stayed in Kardze for around 10 days.

According to information obtained by ICT, at present, monks at Kardze 
are subject to even more rigorous checks and psychological pressure 
than normal. Police regularly search their rooms for pictures of the 
Dalai Lama or the Panchen Lama (Gendun Choekyi Nyima, who has been in 
Chinese custody since 1995). According to the same report, the monks 
experience almost constant tension and anxiety, and are frequently 
fearful that they may be imprisoned if they say something wrong at 
the wrong time.

In 2006, the Public Security Bureau opened an office in the monastery 
staffed by a Chinese director and four Tibetan officials. The 
officials make enquiries as to monks' whereabouts, monitor what monks 
read and write, and check the backgrounds of monks who apply to join 
the monastery. This is done systematically through a registration 
form specifically designed for visiting monks. In filling in the 
registration form, the monks are requested to provide full and 
detailed information about their origins and family, as well as 
giving facts about their home monastery, major teachers, and the 
reasons for their visit.

Dalai Lama loyalty expressed at local festivals

Both instances of dissent described in this report - Runggye Adak's 
protest, and the pro-independence wording on the entrance gate - 
occurred during the Lithang Horse Festival, which is one of the major 
summer festivals in Tibet, attracting many international tourists as 
well as Tibetan local people and Chinese visitors. In recent years 
the Chinese authorities have used these festivals as a showcase for 
the presentation of 'exotic' Tibetan traditional culture, as part of 
a process by the Chinese government in Tibet of appropriating 
traditional culture and commercializing it.

This has included encouraging - or requiring - Tibetans to adorn 
themselves with expensive furs such as robes made of pelts from 
endangered animals such as tigers or leopards. But following a 
proclamation from the Dalai Lama condemning the wearing of animal 
furs, many Tibetans in the area have pointedly stopped wearing such 
adornments. In many areas, there has been the burning of wild animal 
pelts often worth thousands of yuan - often the equivalent to 
Tibetans of Westerners burning their cars or houses. (See ICT report 
at: http://www.savetibet.org/news/newsitem.php?id=910).

A Tibetan source who traveled in the area in summer said: "I have 
seen pictures and video of the Lithang festival before His Holiness 
made the comments about wearing furs [in January 2006], and so many 
Tibetans were wearing fur."

The same observer who witnessed Runggye Adak's protest confirmed to 
ICT that he saw "virtually no one" wearing wild animal pelts, despite 
official encouragement for them to do so.

In some cases, officials have threatened not to pay performers if 
they didn't wear wild animal pelts. At one festival, the 'Kampa Arts 
Festival' in Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai Province, 
most or all of the performers were wearing fur and skins, mainly 
otter, leopard and tiger. According to a blog written by a Tibetan 
writer in Chinese: "Photographers from the mainland pressed forward 
when people with more fur adornments appeared, as though they wanted 
to say that this was indeed Tibetan culture, and that showing off so 
much fur was an indication of Tibetan people's wealth. I asked a 
young child who was performing why he was wearing furs: 'It's a 
political duty. If we don't wear fur it's a political crime.'"

The same website also reported that officials who didn't wear fur 
could be sacked, that herders and peasants who were performing could 
be docked their 50 yuan ($6) a day for the period of rehearsal for 
not wearing fur, and others said they could be fined for not wearing 
fur. The writer commented: "Obviously wearing fur has become an 
expression of one's political standpoint, and the high officials on 
their platform were watching to see which people from which parts of 
Tibet had 'political consciousness'. But the people watching the 
performances were wearing considerably less fur than in previous 
years; many wore colorful cotton where once they wore fur 
trim." (http://woeser.middle-way.net/?action=show&id=191)

The same writer said: "It's worth pointing out that at the closing 
ceremony [of the Festival], when all of the performers were once 
again walking around the performance area, I heard a loud voice from 
within the crowd shout 'Leopard skins and tiger fur is shameful!' 
Even three Tibetan officials on duty were brave enough to say that 
the Dalai Lama's call was because he loves the people and treasures 
the environment."

The Chinese writer Wang Lixiong has also commented about the issue on 
a website, saying that the reason why more and more people were 
wearing fur - prompting the Dalai Lama to call on people to stop - is 
that the Chinese government is attempting to attract investment by 
popularizing images of Khampas wearing wild animal pelts at these 
festivals. Tibetans are an extremely compassionate people for whom 
killing wild animals is taboo, Wang wrote on April 20, and 
governments should realize when they put culture on an economic 
'stage' that culture becomes corrupted.

The Tibetan visitor to Lithang and Kardze, who traveled widely 
through the region and is now in the U.S, said: "Tibetans in Kardze 
and throughout eastern Tibet long and pray to see His Holiness back 
in Tibet. Not wearing wild animal pelts at the festivals despite 
official encouragement to do so is one way of expressing that 
devotion. One Tibetan living in a very Sinicized area of Sichuan 
close to Chengdu had the courage to confide in me, with tears in his 
eyes, that he and every Tibetan prayed for one thing deep in their 
hearts, and that was to see His Holiness. Almost every Tibetan, rich, 
poor, educated, illiterate, well-known or not, shared this sentiment. 
I think the Chinese government is trying to project an image of 
economic progress in Tibet and saying that Tibetans do not want the 
Dalai Lama to return as he represents the old ways, and is against 
modernization. I talked to a few Chinese who believe this strongly 
and think that Tibetans in Tibet are losing faith in the Dalai Lama. 
It is not true."

Press contact:

Kate Saunders_Communications Director, ICT_Tel: +1 202 580 6761_Cell: 
+1 202 375 4389_email: press@savetibet.org

CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
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