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News From Behind The New Iron Curtain

June 26, 2008

Agam's Gecko Blog
June 24, 2008

Small and peaceful demonstrations have continued in Kardze County (in
Kardze Prefecture, Sichuan), always with the same outcome: those who
demonstrate their conscience are beaten severely and disappear into
the Chinese security system.

In our last round-up of events in Tibet, on June 19, such incidents
were reported for June 14, 15, 17 and 18. In addition to the three
nuns seriously beaten with iron rods by the People's Armed Police and
the Public Security Bureau officers, and arrested on June 17, two
more nuns from Geyma Drak Nunnery School protested the next day and
got the same treatment.

It's not known where Dhungtso and Drashi Tso were taken, but there
are reports that nuns arrested in Kardze County have been moved to
Dartsedo, the prefecture capital. Geyma Drak has around 120 nuns,
some of whom were arrested in April.

A number of similar peaceful protests took place in Kardze County on
June 18. Three monks from Bheri Monastery (including both the former
and current chant masters) mounted a peaceful demonstration around 11
am that day at county government headquarters, but their fate remains
unknown. One more Tibetan was arrested there after peacefully
protesting on June 19.

On the same day, June 19 at around 2 pm, Ghayou, a monk from Koetsa
village in Serthar County, Kardze Prefecture hoisted a Tibetan
national flag and called for Tibetan independence and for Dalai
Lama's swift return and long life. A large number of people gathered
and were about to join him when many Chinese police blocked them and
arrested the monk.

In a separate incident (date unknown) a monk was found to have taken
photographs at the launch of the political re-education campaign in
Choktsang Toema village, in Serthar County. He was severely beaten
and arrested; his relatives' appeals to the authorities were answered
by demands for 20,000 yuan -- a huge and impossible amount.

Three Tibetans who work harvesting wild Yartsey Gonbo (caterpillar
fungus) in Kardze County returned from their collecting expedition on
June 15, and were appalled at the arrests of so many of their people.
They decided to take action against the brutality, and launched a
peaceful protest at 10 am that day inside the Kardze market.

While one held a portrait of His Holiness above his head, the other
two passed out leaflets calling for Dalai Lama's long life and swift
return to his people, and the release of all political prisoners
including the 11th Panchen Lama Gendun Choekyi Nyima. The men shouted
out similar appeals, as well as called for independence and for China
to get out of their country. The PAP pounced, and heavily beat them
before hauling them off in a waiting military vehicle.

Due to the number of recent demonstrations in Serthar County, there
is a heavy Chinese military deployment and a very tense atmosphere.
In one area, Shetoe Phugu Shang, Tibetans have carved their language
into the hills, where a large inscription now reads, "Tibet's
Independence." People have filled in the letters with white stones to
make it more visible.

A lot of Chinese troops have poured into the Kardze and Ngaba
Prefectures, which are the Tibetan "Autonomous" jurisdictions within Sichuan.

"In Sichuan province about 70,000 troops have been deployed in
Tibetan towns and villages to prevent fresh outbreaks of unrest.

All foreigners are banned from these areas. However, visitors who
returned within the last few days described scenes of virtual siege
in many villages. Troops manning machineguns have been deployed on
the fringes of most communities. Chicanes have been thrown up to
force vehicles to slow down for checks and rolls of anti-tyre spikes
are ready to be thrown down across roads in case of trouble.

One Chinese visitor said: "It looks like Iraq. It's as if there's a war."

The difference being, in Iraq it's the majority of the people, along
with their democratically elected government and the assistance
forces helping at the invitation of that government, together against
murdering terrorist Islamist fascists. In these parts of Sichuan, and
elsewhere in Tibet, it's a totalitarian Party against its subjects.

On the primary day of the Tibetan holy month Saga Dawa ( the 15th
day, full moon), which fell on June 18, another 12 monks were
reportedly arrested at Sera Monastery, Lhasa, for protesting. The
same day, gunshots were heard from inside Drepung Monastery, Lhasa.
An eyewitness reported that PAP officers had opened fire into the
air, to warn the monks against protesting in the monastery.

In an update to last week's report of monks in Barkham County, Ngaba
Prefecture (like Kardze located within Sichuan province) removing
foisted Chinese flags from their monastery, it appears they actually
destroyed both the flag and pole. As a result, no one is allowed to
enter or leave their institution, except for the greater numbers of
PAP who have been deployed there. The monks are being "interrogated"
to find who had committed this "serious crime."

On June 22, the day after Her Harmoniousness' visit to their capital
city, two monks from Khangmar Monastery in Kardze County peacefully
protested at the county government office at around 11 am, and were
arrested by PAP and PSB officers. Later in the day at 1 pm, two more
monks from the same institution protested peacefully and were beaten
and arrested by PAP and PSB officers. At around 3 pm more than 10
more people, led by a layperson this time, mounted a peaceful protest
at the same offices while also passing out pro-independence
pamphlets. The security forces launched tear gas, severely beat them
and then took them all away. At all these demonstrations, the
aspirations expressed were, "Tibet is Independent," "His Holiness
Must Return to Tibet," and "Long Live His Holiness Dalai Lama."

When the torch of scorching harmony was in Lhasa last weekend, a
young man named Dragu in Kardze County wrapped his head in a cloth
with "Tibet's Independence" written on it, painted his face with the
Tibetan national flag, protested against the authorities, and handed
out independence pamphlets listing the following demands:

    1. The Chinese Government should invite His Holiness to Tibet
    2. Human Rights in Tibet
    3. Freedom in Tibet
    4. Stop the genocide in Tibet
    5. Withdraw all Chinese armies from Tibet
    6. Stop torturing the peaceful demonstrators with different
inhuman instruments in Tibet, particularly in Kardze Area
    7. Release all Tibetan political prisoners
    8. Withdraw all Chinese armies surrounding the monasteries in
Kardze area and stop condemning His Holiness the Dalai Lama and
Tibetan Government in Exile
    9. No Olympic torch in Tibet and Tibet belongs to Tibetans

He was immediately arrested by Public Security Bureau officers. Four
other young people made a similar demonstration in Kardze, and
further demonstrations by monks in Phenpo County, near Lhasa, have
also been reported, but details have yet to be confirmed.

A day after the torch show in Lhasa on Saturday, Buddhist pilgrims
began returning to the Potala. But the Globe and Mail reporter had a
question: Where are Lhasa's monks?

A visit yesterday to the Sera monastery, the second-biggest Buddhist
monastery in Tibet, found that its 550 monks had virtually
disappeared from sight. Most buildings and outdoor areas at the
monastery were nearly empty, and only about 10 monks could be seen.

After three days of travelling around the city, he realized that the
monks had almost completely vanished from the city's streets. Police
are stationed at all monasteries, which are under heavy surveillance.
But the authorities produced one for the journalists' press
conference -- the chief of Sera Monastery's "Democratic Management
Committee," the Party's watchdog in all monasteries under the "Strike
Hard" program.

Lobsang Choepel, a 77-year-old monk who heads the
government-controlled administration at the Sera monastery, denied
there were any restrictions on the monks. "They can go downtown to do
shopping and they can go to the market to buy vegetables," he said
yesterday. But he didn't explain why so few monks were visible on the
streets or in the monastery itself.

After giving brief answers to five questions from foreign
journalists, the monk was hustled away by Chinese officials, who
refused to permit further questions.

When will Lhasa return to "normal" (normal for the capital of an
occupied country, as opposed to regular normal)? Many Tibetans are
said to believe the security clampdown will diminish after the torch
show, hoping that tourists may soon return. But a Chinese analyst of
Tibet issues told the Times the opposite is more likely.

"I think that once the Olympics are over we will start to see the
real crackdown.

"Now the authorities worry about international opinion, but once the
Games are over there will be a settling of accounts. Then we will see
many people being sent to jail and even tougher measures to restore order."

A new report by the International Campaign for Tibet, released on the
eve of the Lhasa torch show, contains much new information,
eyewitness testimony and some dramatic new photos (some of which you
can see here, but go there for the full resolution pictures and report).

This report contains a very interesting preliminary analysis of
events since March, produced from the documentation of 125 separate
incidents of dissent across the plateau. Of these, 47 were carried
out by monks (or nuns, I would infer), 44 by laypeople, and 28 by
both religious and laypeople. The majority of these incidents took
place in the Tibetan areas of Sichuan (Kardze and Ngaba Prefectures).
Around 14 involved violence against property, although on March 14 in
Lhasa, Chinese civilians were also attacked.

     Security forces fired on, killed and wounded unarmed
demonstrators in at least 11 separate incidents across the plateau.
These protests occurred in Lhasa on March 14; in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba)
TAP in Sichuan province on March 16; in Serthar (Chinese: Seda)
county in Sichuan on March 17, 18 and 20; in Chigdril (Chinese:
Jiuzhi) county in Qinghai province on March 17; in Drango (Chinese:
Luhuo) county in Qinghai province on March 24; in Tawu (Chinese:
Daofu) county in Sichuan on April 5; and in Jomda (Chinese: Jiangda)
county in the TAR on April 8. There are conflicting reports on the
events in Kardze on March 18, and insufficient information in many
other cases. On May 28, a 21-year old Tibetan student, Rinchen (or
Rigden) Lhamo, was shot in the leg after she called for the return of
the Dalai Lama to Tibet and the release of Tibetan prisoners outside
the Kardze county government headquarters.

Here we have the first confirmation that Rigden Lhamo, on whom
witnesses saw blood as she was taken away following the sounds of
gunshots (reported here on June 1), was indeed shot by the security forces.

Many of the protests were clearly in direct response to the
authorities' political re-education campaigns (see report for
details), which were intensified in March. Several were primarily
expressions of sympathy for those killed, and appeals for leniency
for those arrested.

Among the measures put into place in Lhasa during the religious
festival of Saga Dawa this month is a heightened undercover presence
of security forces. Police and informers patrol the streets dressed
as beggars and pilgrims. And even children are not spared from being
used to intimidate their families.

A Tibetan source told ICT: "Teachers at one kindergarten told
children that they would be expelled if their relatives attended
ceremonies for Saga Dawa."

A communications blackout continues to be imposed, and Tibetan
families who have received a phone call from outside the country
often get an immediate visit from the internal security people. In
one case, a young woman was so severely beaten for taking such a call
that she required hospitalization.

TSENDROK MONASTERY INVASION

Testimonies are included in the report which shine light on
conditions in the high-security Chushul (or Chushur) Prison in
Nyethang, Chushul County, west of Lhasa. This is the primary facility
for political prisoners, and conditions are reportedly harsher than
at the better known Drapchi Prison in Lhasa city. The interrogation
and torture methods are reported to be worse in Chushul, according to
former prisoners familiar with both facilities. Informers also play a
key role on the inside (as they do on the outside) according to one
former inmate.

     "In every political prisoner's cell there are two criminal
prisoners, one Chinese and one Tibetan, to watch what the political
prisoners are doing and talking about. Every week those two criminal
prisoners would attend a meeting with the prison authorities and
would report what they saw and heard in the cell... Sometimes they
would even report our dreams, as we might have said something
relating to a political event."

The same former prisoner reports that the cells have video cameras in
each corner of the room, and audio recording as well. But many
Tibetans rounded up in Lhasa have also been moved to far distant
Sichuan or Qinghai facilities, with hundreds reportedly moved out at
a time by train.

The dramatic image of an invasion of military vehicles and soldiers
at Tsendrok Monastery in Mayma township, Machu County, Kanlho
Prefecture (Ch: Gansu) is one of three published in the report. On
the morning of April 18, the large convoy arrived without warning
from Lanzhou, carrying hundreds of armed soldiers.

"The soldiers barged into the monastery, conducted random searches,
and broke down doors, windows, and other objects." They cooked food
for themselves from the monastery's supplies, and when they left that
evening, took with them a number of valuable and precious religious
artefacts, according to the same source, a Tibetan in exile with
connections in the area. The monastery has reportedly filed a
complaint based on the confiscation of the artefacts...

According to reports circulating in the area, local Tibetans are
disturbed by other actions of security personnel now entrenched in
Machu - in particular, news has reached ICT of soldiers or armed
police shooting and eating Tibetan mastiff dogs, and also taking cash
from monasteries where patriotic education is being enforced.

Foreign journalists on a government media tour visited two
monasteries in Machu County the day after they had been at Labrang
(where monks demonstrated their feelings to them in an unauthorized
way on April 9). Prior to the visits in Machu, propaganda officials
gave the monks precise instructions.

"If you are asked about your opinion on the Dalai Lama you should
respond by saying that you oppose a free Tibet and will always oppose
activities aimed at separating the country." The monks were also
advised to say that they accepted the Chinese recognized Panchen
Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu, and not the boy recognized by the Dalai Lama,
Gendun Choekyi Nyima, who is in Chinese custody.

On the day the press arrived, monks were made to give prayers in the
main hall of the monasteries and army personnel were stationed out of
sight. According to the same report, "Police officers were given
Tibetan laypeople's clothes and asked to circumambulate the monastery
holding prayer beads."

As the Globe and Mail reporter said a few days ago, Chinese
government-sponsored media tours are no way to actually gather news.
You'll gather something, but it won't be news. The only way for
journalists who have a genuine interest in covering this story to get
anything worthwhile, is to get their feet dirty. It won't be easy,
but sneaking around is the only way to get the real story.

But some should definitely keep covering the official media tours.
They are great producers of real laughs in this dark time for Tibet.
("Lhasa is normally closed on Saturdays.") Heh.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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