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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

'Terror and celebration' in Lhasa as Dalai Lama receives Gold Medal award

October 25, 2007

International Campaign for Tibet
October 23rd, 2007

Tibetans in Tibet celebrated the award of the Congressional Gold Medal
to the Dalai Lama last Wednesday despite a stepping up of security and
severe restrictions on religious practice in Lhasa and areas of
eastern Tibet.

One of the major monasteries in Lhasa, Drepung, is sealed off and
surrounded by armed troops after police stopped an attempt by monks to
peacefully mark the honor to the Dalai Lama last week. Another
significant monastery in the city, Nechung, is also apparently closed.
Tibetan sources report a buildup of armed police in the city,
checkpoints on roads out of Lhasa, and an order to Lhasa citizens not
to carry out any religious or celebratory activities.

Several Tibetans were detained temporarily and are now said to have
been released after celebrations with fireworks and prayers were held
at Labrang (Chinese: Xiahe in Gansu province) monastery in the Tibetan
area of Amdo (see images below). Armed police stopped fireworks being
set off and surrounded the monastery with armed troops. According to
eyewitness reports, police clashed with monks and laypeople and there
may have been some injuries.

According to other reports, internet bars were closed in some areas,
and two well-known Tibetan websites, focusing on Tibetan language and
literature, were closed down – one of them on the day the 17th Party
Congress opened in Beijing (October 15).

The Voice of America broadcast the Congressional Gold Medal award
ceremony live to Tibet via radio, television and the internet last
Wednesday, although it is unclear how many Tibetans would have been
able to witness the broadcast, given high levels of jamming of VOA's
service to Tibetan areas, especially towns and cities, by the Chinese
authorities. One report indicated that satellite receivers in Amdo may
have been confiscated over the past week in order to attempt to
prevent viewing of the ceremony.

Crackdown in Lhasa during week of Gold Medal honor and Party Congress

Hundreds of monks and pilgrims are apparently still held inside
Drepung monastery in Lhasa after an incident in which monks were
forced to stop whitewashing the Ganden Podrang at the monastery, the
former residence of the Dalai Lamas in the early 16th century, in
symbolic celebration of the Congressional Gold Medal award.

People's Armed Police troops moved in to stop the monks from
whitewashing the walls on the morning of the Congressional Gold Medal
ceremony, and according to one account, monks quietly left for their
morning prayers. But when they resumed their whitewashing afterwards,
the troops used force to stop them, and the Hong Kong newspaper Ming
Pao reported that one monk was hit on the head with a baton. Ming Pao
reported 'violent clashes' between hundreds of monks and police over
the incident – but it could not be confirmed that monks had resisted
or engaged in any violent confrontation with the armed troops.

According to several reports, a large number of armed troops are now
stationed outside the monastery, preventing monks and pilgrims from
entering or leaving. Local sources reported that some monks may have
been detained and others injured (Times Online, October 22). Details
have been difficult to confirm because of a climate of fear in Lhasa
inhibiting the gathering of information.

In the last few days, checkpoints have been installed on roads leading
to and from Lhasa, with local people describing the environment as
similar to that of 'martial law'. A Tibetan source said: "There is
restricted travel for all of the people in the city and searches of
vehicles going in and out, which is very unusual since March 1989
[when martial law was officially imposed following nearly three days
of pro-independence protests in the city]. Buses to all the
monasteries were stopped and the city is full of police."

At the beginning of last week, which also marked the opening of the
17th National Party Congress in Beijing, Lhasa citizens were subject
to more severe restrictions than normal. According to reliable
reports, all government workers were told not to go to monasteries,
and to refrain from taking part in any religious or celebratory
activities during the week.

Another Tibetan source, writing in Chinese on a website outside China
that remains open despite the closure of some blogs inside China over
the past few days, commented that the banning order on celebrating the
award had not appeared to be a deterrent in Lhasa. In a blog entitled:
'The Dalai Lama receives the Congressional Gold Medal, terror and
celebration combine in Lhasa', the source wrote: "In and around the
Barkhor on October 17 there were activities celebrating the Dalai Lama
receiving the award from four o'clock in the morning until the
afternoon. One by one, people in traditional Tibet dress made their
around the Barkhor. Even though peasants selling 'sang' [incense] had
been driven out of Lhasa beforehand by the authorities, people in the
city still produced sang [incense] from their travel bags and burnt it
at several altars along the route of the Barkhor."

Despite the closures of Tibetan blogs, many Tibetans in Tibet and
China discussed the Gold Medal ceremony online. One posting from Tibet
said: "I am an ordinary Tibetan and I don't actually care if Gyalwa
Rinpoche [the Dalai Lama] receives any medals; I have but one wish,
and that is for him to return to the holy city of Lhasa!" Another
said: "There are spirits watching over us – that I believe. Gyalwa
Rinpoche has done so much for us from his home for which we can only
dumbly and mutely shed tears of gratitude, but we ourselves are not
impotent and there is so much we can and should do, we can do more and
yet more…"

Beijing had repeatedly protested to the US government not to honor the
Dalai Lama. In a statement on Friday (October 19), Foreign Ministry
spokesperson Liu Jianchao said that the move "is a blatant
interference with China's internal affairs, which has severely hurt
the feelings of the Chinese people and gravely undermined the
relationship between China and the US."

The tension in Lhasa and other areas of Tibet coinciding with the Gold
Medal ceremony and the Party Congress in Beijing takes place in the
context of an intensified political campaign in Tibetan areas against
the Dalai Lama. The stepping up of rhetoric against the Tibetan exiled
leader coincides with a period when the Dalai Lama himself has
recently met with several world leaders, including President Bush and
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and is increasingly respected for his
leadership on peace and non-violence.

For pictues:

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