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Tibetans Mark Uprising Anniversaries Despite Crackdown: Lhasa like a "war-zone"

March 23, 2010

ICT report
March 22, 2010

Despite intensive security and a stepped-up military presence, Tibetans
marked two significant anniversaries on March 10 and 14, and called
attention to restrictions, with protests involving hundreds of people in
Amdo, eastern Tibet. Two of the protests, in Macchu (Chinese: Maqu) county
town and Tsoe City (Ch: Hezuo), both in Kanlho (Ch: Gannan Tibetan
Autonomous Prefecture) in Gansu Province, involved teenage students, and
their schools are now under military lockdown. In Lhasa, the atmosphere was
tense around March 10-14, with one Tibetan in the city describing it as
"like a war-zone."*

It is the only period in which protests against Chinese rule and in support
of the Dalai Lama have continued for more than two years despite the violent
crackdown in place against any form of dissent. ICT has monitored more than
230 protests, the overwhelming majority peaceful, since March 10, 2008. The
protests have involved almost every sector of society - including teachers,
scholars, intellectuals, monks, nuns, farmers and nomads, with many
involving school children and college students. Information about the
protests is extremely difficult to obtain due to the climate of fear across
the region and systematic efforts by the Chinese authorities to prevent news
reaching the outside world.*

Students protest in Machu

On the second anniversary of the protests and riots in Lhasa on March 14,
2008, at 11-12 noon, around 20-30 students from the Machu Tibetan Middle
School began a peaceful protest after the authorities intensified security
measures and refused to allow students to leave the school grounds in the
buildup to March 10, the 1959 Uprising anniversary. According to at least
three exile sources in contact with Tibetans in the area, the students were
soon joined by more than 100 local Tibetans (some sources say several
hundred), as they protested along the main street of Machu (Ch: Maqu) County
in Kanlho (Ch: Gannan TAP) in Gansu Province.

The demonstration included calls for a "Free Tibet," "Long life for His
Holiness the Dalai Lama," and "Chinese get out of Tibet," according to the
same sources, who also reported that protestors called for resolution of the
Tibet situation through dialogue. (Since 2002, envoys of the Dalai Lama and
Chinese officials have met for sporadic dialog, most recently in January

The students and local people were surrounded by riot police and soldiers
before teachers from the Machu Tibetan Middle School persuaded the students
to return to the school. At least 40 Tibetans were said to have been
detained, according to a Radio Free Asia report from Kathmandu. ("Tibetan
Students Stage Protest," Radio Free Asia, March 16, 2010,

According to a source who spoke to Radio Free Asia, following the protest
the school's headmaster, Kyabchen Dedrol, and two assistants-Do Re and
another man, who was not named-were dismissed from their jobs. The same
source said that the head of the Machu Public Security Office, Sonam Tse,
had also been either fired or demoted. The head of the Machu Education
Department, a Chinese official with direct responsibility for the middle
school, has been allowed to keep his job, according to RFA.

The military presence in Machu has been stepped up since the protests, and
shops and restaurants were closed. Travel between neighboring areas is being
blocked for many people, and internet and phone access also restricted.

Further protest by school students in Kanlho

According to several Tibetan sources, Tibetan students from two middle
schools in Tsoe - the Kanlho Tibetan Middle School (Ch: Gannan zangzu
zhongxue) and Tsoe City Tibetan Middle School (Ch: Hezuo Shi zangzu
zhongxue) - demonstrated peacefully in the streets on March 16. All of the
students had been prevented from leaving their schools, which are boarding
schools, since March 10 due to intensified security linked to the
anniversary of both the Uprising in 1959 and the beginning of the current
wave of protests on March 10, 2008.

One Tibetan source with contacts in the area said that around 30 or 40
students took part in the protest, which was quickly broken up after the
students were surrounded by armed police. More than 20 students, aged from
15 upwards, were detained, and are believed to be still in custody for
questioning and 'education.' The same Tibetan source said: "The students
found the restrictions since March 10 very difficult and they protested
about that.

Now the school is surrounded by armed military. They are at the main gates
and all around the school. Parents are there too, begging for permission to
see their children, but the school is locked and all students now have to
remain inside. The soldiers also confiscated the students' mobile phones.
There seems to be an increased troop buildup in the area, with one local
telling me he saw five or six military trucks full of soldiers moving into
some of the villages in the area near the school. It is the same in Machu -
troops are patrolling day and night and people are quite scared to go out in
the evening."

Tibetan students in the area were involved in other incidents of peaceful
protest in 2008: on March 17, 2008, Tibetan students from several different
colleges including the Tibetan Medical College and Teacher Training Higher
Institute held a protest in Tsoe, with at least one of the demonstrations
blocked by armed police. (Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy
report, March 17, 2008.)

The normal pattern after protests is that the authorities continue intense
surveillance and investigation, and detentions can continue for weeks
afterwards. Typically, people involved in protests during March 2008 and
since have been given harsh sentences, often as a result of the Chinese
authorities branding protests as "incitement to split the nation" - a crime
which carries a maximum term of life imprisonment - as opposed to charging
people solely with public order offenses. (For a list of Tibetan political
prisoners, including their sentences and other details, see:

Ditsa monks detained after peaceful protest

On March 10, some of the more than 400 monks at Ditsa monastery in Amdo
scattered leaflets in the monastery compound and pasted posters expressing
loyalty to the Dalai Lama and calling for a "Free Tibet." According to
Tibetans in exile and in contact with Tibetans in the area, at least 30
security personnel came to the monastery and were joined by at least 100
more later that day. They detained 18-year old Jamyang from Tsigortang (Ch:
Xinghai) county in Tsolho (Ch: Hainan TAP) in Qinghai Province; 19-year old
Yeshe, also from Tsigortang, and a reincarnate lama in his thirties, Tulku
Woeser, who has since been released after three days of interrogation.

The same source said that troops set up tents outside the monastery,
restricted the movements of all monks and preventing religious assemblies,
banning two religious events - a formal religious debate and a second
ceremony. The source said that the monastery school was also closed on March
10. The school is attended by more than 60 young monks, with lessons in
Tibetan, Chinese and mathematics.

Anniversary marked quietly in Lhasa: stepped-up security

Security in and around Lhasa was significantly tightened in the buildup to
the March 10 and 14 anniversaries and during the anniversary days. One Lhasa
citizen reported more than 10 checkpoints on the road to the airport on
March 9 and 10, and said that Lhasa was "like a war-zone". A Tibetan in
exile said: "We don't call people in Lhasa on March 10 - it's too dangerous
for them."

According to Radio Free Asia, hotels and restaurants owned by Tibetans in
Lhasa were closed on March 14. A Lhasa resident told RFA: "They were ordered
to open their businesses as usual and were told that if they did not open
their shops, their display carts would be taken away. The Tibetans didn't
open their shops and marked the March 14 anniversary in silence."

Beginning on March 2, 2010, authorities implemented a 'Strike Hard' campaign
that resulted in several hundred Tibetans in Lhasa being detained and
questioned. Authorities had implemented a Strike Hard campaign in the
buildup to the 50th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan Uprising in March 2009.

Strike Hard campaigns are typically carried out in various parts of the
People's Republic of China prior to major events, including national
holidays, as well as before the main annual government and Party
conferences, often with the stated intention of "cleansing the social
environment." As with the Strike Hard campaign in Tibet in 2009, the
unprecedented levels of security in the region appeared to be intended to
intimidate Tibetans still further in the buildup to the March 10

In a blog written from Lhasa during the Tibetan New Year last month, the
Tibetan writer Woeser said: "Lhasa in February, with the arrival of Losar,
we can also observe some special colors: one is green, representing soldiers
with weapons in their hands, running wild in the streets of Tibet. When one
runs into them directly, one has to quickly give way, or else one might with
sudden force be pushed aside. There are also some soldiers, who boldly stand
on Tibetan people's rooftops, looking down from above, valiantly pressuring
the Tibetans walking below gasping for breath.

The other color is blue, representing the police also carrying weapons in
their hands, not just a few of them are Tibetans. I witnessed myself that a
young Tibetan who was paying homage to Buddha was pushed away and when he
answered back defiantly, a Tibetan policeman clutched his throat. Another
color is always changing. I am not sure how many times these plainclothes
policemen have changed their outfits; I even heard that some of them pretend
to be Buddhist monks wearing robes wandering around the temples. Or they
pretend to be tourists wearing rosaries on their wrists." (Translation into
English from Chinese by High Peaks Pure Earth
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