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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."

China's heavy Olympic footprint on Tibet

August 24, 2008

China's heavy Olympic footprint on Tibet
August 23, 2008

August 23 -- On the eve of an Olympics closing ceremony, which will
include a final propaganda push on Tibet, tight security remains in
place across the Tibetan plateau, including shoot to kill orders to
prevent further unrest during the final days of the Olympics Games.

Beginning in March and continuing in the weeks and months preceding
the Beijing Olympics, a tidal wave of protests swept across the
Tibetan plateau, the result of more than half a century of Chinese
government misrule. The uprising revealed the breakdown of Beijing's
Tibet policy at a time when China hoped to convey to the world an
image of harmony, as characterized in their "one world, one dream"
Olympics slogan.

"Thanks to its own hard-line policies and miscalculations - and the
determination of free people around the world - Beijing utterly
failed to portray the happy picture of Tibet it had planned for. In
the lead-up to the Olympics and during the Games, Chinese authorities
have espoused vitriol against the Dalai Lama and his supporters,
broken their pledges of media access and committed both petty and
gross violations against internationally recognized human rights
norms, from blocking access to rock songs celebrating peace to
shooting Tibetan demonstrators dead," said John Ackerly, ICT President.

The Olympics closing ceremony on Sunday, August 24 will feature an
operatic depiction of China's historic relations to Tibet. The piece
was commissioned to support Chinese legitimacy in Tibet and first
performed following the March 1959 uprising in Lhasa, which led to
thousands of Tibetan deaths and the flight of the Dalai Lama into exile.

Mary Beth Markey, ICT Vice President for International Advocacy, said
today: "There is a real drama going on in Tibet during these Olympic
Games and it has little to do with the flying Buddhist sprites of the
opening ceremony or the operatically conveyed propaganda of the
closing ceremony. China's leaders now should move beyond showmanship
to statesmanship and engage the Tibetan people in finding real
solutions to the real problems in Tibet."

According to numerous reports received by ICT, there are serious
fears that the crackdown could worsen still further after the
Olympics, once the global focus is no longer on China. Many Tibetans
are concerned - and in some cases, have been warned by Chinese
security personnel - that more reprisals may follow the Olympics,
with people who are now being monitored being taken into custody
later. One source referred, chillingly, to the well-known Chinese
phrase of "settling accounts after autumn harvest" (qiu hou suan zhang).

Veteran China analyst Willy Wo Lap Lam believes this may well apply
throughout China, saying: "Not only have the Olympics failed to act
as a catalyst for political liberalization in China, but the regime's
pre-Olympics security buildup looks set to enable the government to
crack down as hard as ever on dissent after the Games are over...
Growing instability on various fronts has predisposed the Hu
leadership toward strengthening the police-state apparatus that has
been put together in the name of ensuring a trouble-free Olympics.
Moreover, cadres in the law-and-order establishment, who include
senior officials in the Central Political and Legal Commission as
well as military, police and judicial departments, have gained
immense clout, not to mention much more funding, since early this
year." (Wall Street Journal, August 22, 2008).

New images and reports received from Tibet despite China's attempts
to impose an information blackout give evidence of the following:

     * In the early days of the Olympics, military snipers were
positioned in Lhasa hotels
     * Two Tibetan women entering a shop in Ngaba were shot by
security personnel on 9 August, the day after the Olympics opening ceremony
     * Security personnel in Ngaba held a mock demonstration a week
before the Olympics complete with display of flags that appear to be
similar to the banned Tibetan 'snow lion' flag
     * Monasteries across the Tibetan plateau remain under lockdown
     * Intense security remains in the Kham area of eastern Tibet
with severe restrictions on the movements of Tibetans and the
atmosphere of a 'war zone', as described by a recent visitor

Despite the Chinese government's attempts to impose a news blackout
across the Tibetan plateau during the Olympics, ICT has received the
following reports in the last few days.

Military snipers positioned in Lhasa hotels

 From August 6-10, military snipers were positioned in Lhasa hotels.
According to a report by a Western expert with Tibetan sources, "In
one hotel, which had no guests at the time, about 20 soldiers took
over upstairs rooms overlooking the street for the entire period.
They entered the hotel discreetly so few people knew they were there.
They were behind curtains or stood back from the window in some other
way so as not to be visible from the street. They were changed
periodically by replacements. They paid a small token fee for each
room and were well behaved and friendly. All were Chinese. My source
believed that an order had been given for that 24-hour period that
soldiers could shoot on sight anyone who was seen with a knife or
other weapon." It is not known if the snipers were People's
Liberation Army or People's Armed Police, although the former appears
to be the most likely according to the same report.

Two Tibetan women shot by security personnel

A day after the Olympics opening ceremony, on August 9, at around
4.30 p.m. local time, two Tibetan women in their twenties were shot
by security personnel as they went to a shop in the town of Ngaba
(Chinese: Aba), Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan
province. The two women are Sonam Wangmo, aged 22, from Lower Ngawa
Sezo and Tranyeyeng, aged 28, from Gyalrang. One was shot in the leg
and the other sustained an injury to her hand and they are still
receiving medical treatment. According to three Tibetan sources in
contact with exile Tibetans, it appears that the women were visiting
the shop to recharge their mobile phones, and may have been shot
because they were in the street at a time of restrictions linked to
the Olympic Games and in the aftermath of protests in the region.

A Tibetan source told ICT: "[The source] heard four or five gun shots
while he was at home with family and friends. He wanted to go out
into the street to see what was going on. But his family and friends
advised against that because the situation was obviously dangerous
and, in addition, strict restrictions had been imposed upon the
movement of Tibetans since a few days before the Olympics began. He,
along with his family and friends, performed some prayers at home."

Sources in the area say that restaurants and shops are closed before
7 pm and no one is allowed to go out of their houses after that.
People are even frightened to go out in the daytime. Monks are
ordered to stay in their monasteries, which are surrounded by armed
troops, according to various reports.

Mock protest demonstrates military force

During the Olympic period, there has been a significant buildup of
troops in the Ngaba region, with military even carrying out a mock
protest as a training exercise at the end of July/early August. The
images - which are available for press - show troops near to Tro-Tsuk
monastery in Ngaba county re-enacting a protest and demonstrating the
suppression of that protest. They carried flags that appeared to be
similar to the Tibetan national flag, just as Tibetan protesters
carried Tibetan flags in demonstrations in the area in March. In that
protest, police fired on and killed unarmed protesters (see ICT's
report Tibet at a Turning Point: The Spring Uprising and China's New
Crackdown). According to Tibetan sources who provided the images,
some soldiers were dressed as monks and lay protesters during the
exercise. Sources have speculated that the protest was being filmed,
perhaps for propaganda purposes as well as to train military personnel.

On August 4, the military troops stationed in this area, said to be
occupying nomadic pastureland a few kilometers from Ngaba town,
staged a drill performance attended by officials. Security has been
stepped up at Kirti monastery after monks participated in protests in
March. New surveillance cameras have been installed in the monastery,
which is surrounded by Chinese security personnel. Monks are not
allowed to leave the monastery without permission from senior monks
in the monastery's management.

Kham area "like a war-zone"

A number of reports received by ICT indicate that Beijing has ramped
up security substantially in Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi), Sichuan (the
Tibetan area of Kham) in order to ensure that no discontent was
expressed during the Olympics. Many monasteries in the area are still
under lockdown and severe restrictions imposed on the movements of
Tibetans in these areas.

A Taiwanese-American tourist, Wen Yan-King, who was detained and
expelled from the Kardze area after an unauthorized visit in July,
reported: "There's a good reason that foreigners aren't allowed in
these places. It looks like a war zone. In Kardze the police are in
the middle of the sidewalks. They're sitting in helmets holding their
guns and riot shields in rows of 10 or 15. They are outside
convenience stores under blue tarps every half a block, on both sides
of the road - watching. They're up on raised metal posts with cutout
windows - watching. I couldn't walk anywhere without dozens of armed
police staring at me. I've never seen so many police and military
personnel in one town in my life. Nor have I experienced this kind of
heart-pounding fear before." (Huffington Post blog by Rebecca Novick,
August 12).

Since the unrest began in March, the crackdown in the Kham area of
Tibet has been particularly severe - ICT has logged a total of 45 out
of 125 protests in Sichuan (incorporating the traditional Tibetan
area of Kham) since March, the highest total out of all the provinces
incorporating Tibetan autonomous areas (Qinghai, Tibet Autonomous
Region, Gansu, Yunnan). Tibetans in this area are known for their
strong sense of Tibetan identity and nationalism; many Khampas
(residents of Kham) were involved in resistance to the Chinese
invasion in 1949-50 and to the Chinese presence in 1956-9.

Wen Yan-King reported similar restrictions in the Lithang (Chinese:
Litang) area, where she counted as many as seven police stations in a
half-mile radius. "The local Tibetans told me that these police
stations had sprung up after the protests in March. If there's a way
to instill fear in people, this is the way to do it. You're not going
to go out in the street and protest when you see fifty armed police
to the left and right of you." (Huffington Post, August 12).

The recent intensification of restrictions on religious expression,
and the requirement to denounce the Dalai Lama, has led to a new wave
of protests and arrests of monks, nuns and laypeople in the last
couple of months and a number of unarmed protesters have been shot
dead. Hundreds of Tibetans in Kham including monks, nuns, laypeople
and schoolchildren, have been detained and treated with extreme
brutality. Unarmed peaceful protesters were shot dead during mainly
peaceful protests in Kham in March and April. (see ICT's report:
Tibet at a Turning Point: the Spring Uprising and China's New Crackdown).

Tibet and the Olympics

In order to hide its violent repression in Tibet, particularly as it
seeks to project an image of stability and unity during the Olympics,
China has sealed off virtually the entire plateau, despite promising
increasing openness prior to the Games in August. Although the Tibet
Autonomous Region [TAR] opened up to foreign tour groups on June 25,
according to an announcement in the official media, tourism is not in
any way back to normal, despite official reports. It is still highly
restricted and monasteries are still closed.

While the crackdown continues in Tibet, Tibetan cultural performers
were featured in the Olympics opening ceremony, and will feature in
Sunday's closing ceremony, in an attempt to convey the impression
that Tibetan culture is thriving and that the Tibetan people are
united with the rest of the PRC.

The opening ceremony had also included a procession of children
dressed in traditional clothing to represent China's officially
recognized 55 ethnic nationality groups. News reports later revealed
that the children were all Han Chinese, China's majority ethnic group.

Tibetan traditional opera singers performing in Beijing have been
warned that they must be on "their best ideological form," with a
senior government official in the TAR giving them the following
briefing: "All performers who are going to Beijing must have the
strongest consideration for political responsibility and must show
the best ideological form in order for the performance to be lively
and attractive." The same government official added: "The performance
must be symbolic of the great unity of ethnic groups in the TAR and
to represent the remarkable achievement of Tibetan people under the
excellent Communist Party's leaders and their policies." (News
bulletin on Xizang TV, July 22, 2008.)

The Chinese-Tibetan opera to be performed at the Olympic Games
closing ceremony is called "Princess Wencheng," and is the story of
the marriage between the eponymous Chinese princess and Songsten
Gampo, a Tibetan king in the 7th century. The tale is often used by
Beijing for propaganda purposes to illustrate the historic and
cultural connection between the Tibetan and Chinese peoples. The
director of the opera in Beijing this week, Mr Gao, told The Times of
London: "Now you can say this is a perfect marriage between these two
art forms just as the marriage of Princess Wencheng and King Songtsen
Gampo was a marriage between the Chinese and Tibetan peoples."
(August 20). When The Times reporter asked a Tibetan performer if he
was happy to be in the show, he replied: "What choice do I have?"

The ICT report, 'Tibet at a Turning Point: The Spring Uprising and
China's New Crackdown', which includes an analysis of Chinese leaders
responsible for implementing Tibet policy and the crackdown, is
available for downloading. Press in China can contact for an electronic pdf copy. Images of the
military buildup and mock protest are also available for press;

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