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August 25, 2008

Agam's Gecko Blog
August 23, 2008

On this day of remembrance (hit the candle in the sidebar, and be
there or be square!) for those killed, maimed, tortured and
imprisoned, let us review recent events in the captive nation of
Tibet, as China's big party winds down at long last.

Radio Free Asia, citing informed sources, reports on curfews at many
monasteries across the plateau. A lama at Rong Gonchen (Rongwu)
Monastery in Rebkong County, Malho Prefecture (Ch: Qinghai) said the
monks are now confined inside the monastery. An assistant to the
elderly lama Alak Khasutsang (Khaso Rinpoche), who was very seriously
injured by security forces in April, said he is now able to walk with a crutch.

At Bora Monastery, Kanlho Prefecture (Ch: Gansu), authorities
prohibited an annual ritual dance on August 8. The monastery is
surrounded by police keeping 24 hour watch over the monks, who are
warned of serious consequences for going outside. Monks at Kumbum
Monastery near Sining city report being refused the right to purchase
train tickets.

The Times' Richard Lloyd Parry was recently able to get into Rebkong
County, and found that during the Olympic period this region was
experiencing an uneasy peace. A foreshadow of the uprising-to-come
occurred here in February, when a dispute between a Tibetan customer
and a Hui Muslim shopkeeper escalated into police repression, and
then a local uprising. For now, the fear of imminent violence has
given way to quiet anger and hopelessness.

"They have stopped for the Olympics, but after they have finished we
don't know what they will do," says Jigdal [not his real name].
"Maybe things will go bad again. Maybe the police will hurt us again.
We don't know. But our future is poor; our future is nothing."

The tension here was evident, Parry writes, "in the reluctance of
many monks and people to talk about what had happened and in the
columns of armed police, sporting bulletproof waistcoats and
travelling in armoured vehicles, who patrolled the streets by night."

The displays of defiance which took place in March and April were met
with massive raids on Rong Gonchen Monastery, an elderly monk told
the reporter.

"There are 400 monk lodging houses here and they came into every
one," he said. "If you had a lock on the door they broke it. They
pointed their guns and shouted, 'Freeze!' and took away our
possessions. They took 1,000 yuan (£80) if you had it, or 3,000 yuan.
Pictures of the Dalai Lama they broke on the floor, and they arrested
many monks. We went to the police but they told us to get out."

Computers, cameras and mobile phones were confiscated as monks and
lay-people alike were taken away by security forces, their wrists
bound by electrical wire. But one thing which cannot be so easily
bound up and removed by brute force, is Tibetan resentment.

"They build the roads, they build the train to Lhasa, but they build
for the Chinese, not Tibetans," says Jigdal. "They send Tibetans to
school, but then there are no jobs, except nomad and farmer. The jobs
go to the Chinese. This is what I feel when I watch the Olympics.
Because on the television the Chinese smile for the rest of the
world, but behind it they do so much bad here. That is why I cannot
support the team of China — China, which is cunning like a fox."

On the day of the Olympic opening, all towns across Tibet were
reported to be under strict surveillance by a heavy military
presence, boosted in the run-up to the games. No one is allowed to
enter the Drepung or Nechung Monasteries in Lhasa, and no monks are
allowed to leave. There is no contact with the inside of these
institutions, as all cell phones held by monks have been confiscated.

In the streets of Lhasa, Kardze, Ngaba and other centres, the
military is conducting practice exercises for the further crackdown
expected after the games are finished -- arbitrarily searching and
intimidating Tibetans, and arresting them at will. Such checks are
not done on Chinese people. Tibetans who merely receive international
phone calls are arrested. Two monks from Jhangkar Monastery in
Bathang (Kardze Prefecture) remain missing after months of searching
by relatives. Karma Choejor, 27, and Drongpo Rabten, 18, had joined a
peaceful demonstration at Sera Monastery in March.

With the continuing prohibition on foreign reporters in Tibetan
areas, the world must rely on messages passed along secretly by local
people (who risk everything to do so), just to get some idea of
current conditions. One exception was a young Taiwanese-American
woman who recently travelled in Kardze.

"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."

Her fear was well-founded -- soon after, she herself was arrested.

Two Tibetan women were wounded on August 9 in Ngaba town, by what
appears to be troops taking pot-shots from their quarters. Sonam
Wangmo, 22, and Trang Yeying, 28, were going to a mobile phone shop
around 4:30 that afternoon when four or five shots rang out,
according to witnesses who pinpointed the source as a building which
accommodates newly-arrived troops in the town.

People who went immediately to the women's aid reported that Chinese
soldiers arrived at the scene soon after, saying that the shooting
had been a "mistake." Information received by International Campaign
for Tibet indicates that one of the women sustained a leg wound while
the other was shot in the hand.

Ngaba is under a 7 pm curfew, and has seen a five-fold increase in
the number of soldiers based there in recent weeks. Tibetans
registered elsewhere are not permitted to enter the town. Troops have
been seen performing military drills on the grasslands outside Ngaba town.

On August 10, Buddhist nun Dolma Yangtso, 34, made a peaceful
demonstration in Kardze with the freedom slogans, "Tibet belongs to
Tibetans," "Release all Tibetan political prisoners including Panchen
Lama" and "The Chinese Government did not keep the promise it made at
the time of winning the Olympic bid." Security forces struck her with
their driven vehicle, and then began beating her. Dolma is apparently
made of tougher stuff, as she continued shouting words of freedom.
She was rendered unconscious after being shot with some sort of
weapon, and then arrested.

Following the July 18 shooting of monks at Dzogchen Monastery, in
Derge County, Kardze (see earlier report), the Shriseng Dialectical
College within the monastery has now become deserted after
approximately 300 monks who were studying there left the institution,
unable to tolerate the current situation.

Six monks from Othok Tharpaling Monastery in Nyagchuka County, Kardze
staged a peaceful demonstration at the police post at Sera Monastery
in March, where they demanded the release of monks arrested earlier.
Lobsang Jampal, 46, Lobsang Jamyang, 43, Lobsang Jampa, 42, Lobsang
Jampal, 36, Gyaltsen Norbu, 29, and Thongga, 27, all went missing
later the same evening and their whereabouts remain unknown five months later.

On August 2, Dechen Wangmo, 38, and Tseten Wangmo, 25, applied for a
permit to travel to Kardze County. Authorities rejected their
application. Leaving their village that same evening, they arrived in
Kardze around midnight and hid themselves until morning. Their
peaceful protest included the distribution of pamphlets calling for
Tibet's independence and the immediate return of His Holiness to
Tibet. When security forces attempted to arrest them they intensified
their protest, so security forces shot them with some sort of weapon,
rendering them unconscious for their arrest. The condition or
whereabouts of the two is not known.

On August 9, a monk named Tenphel was arrested in Serthar County,
Kardze for allegedly hoisting the Tibetan national flag on a
telephone pole, and suspicion of distributing pro-independence
pamphlets. Drungkhar of Tseshul village and his cousin Aten were also
arrested for a peaceful demonstration in the same area. Another man
from this area named Tendar was released after payment of 5,000 yuan,
but in critical condition due to his torture in prison.

On August 13, Buddhist monk Sengha of Tokden Mindrol Tashi Kyil
Monastery in Ngaba Prefecture was arrested and accused of revealing
information about peaceful demonstrations to the outside world. The
following day security forces surrounded his home and threw out his
aged mother, who was living there. The home was ransacked and some of
their belongings were confiscated. Sengha had previously been
imprisoned for more than three years in 2000 for putting up
pro-independence posters and distributing thousands of photographs of
His Holiness, with the inscription "We held high His Holiness the
Dalai Lama as the spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet and we pray
his immediate return to Tibet."

At the end of July, Nagchu County court sentenced Takla, around 22
years of age, to one and a half years of detention. TSC reports that
Takla had been arrested last year for distributing pictures of His
Holiness, as well as his recorded teachings and speeches against the
use of animal fur.

A former abbot of Ramoche Monastery in Lhasa, Sonam Rabgay, was among
those monks arrested on March 13 during a non-violent demonstration
at the Jokhang Temple. To this day, his relatives have not been able
to locate him within the Chinese prison system. Sonam Rabgay was
known to have been under close surveillance after he read out a
statement to a large gathering: "Long live His Holiness the Dalai
Lama and immediate resolution of just cause of Tibet."

TSC has mined some interesting information out of state-run Chinese
websites on current conditions in Tibetan areas. Police in Malho
Prefecture, Amdo (Ch: Qinghai) are closely interrogating those
Tibetans coming from other areas, and expelling those who fail to
produce local "guardians." In Drachen County, Nagchu Prefecture (T
"A" R), Tibetans from outside are obliged to register their names.
Anyone without a resident's permit and local "guardian" is expelled.
Residents in Marhu village are not allowed to leave it, except for
emergency medical treatment. The re-education campaign continues in this area.

In the Golog region of Amdo, all monasteries are forbidden to perform
any religious activities or public ceremonies until after the
Paralympics are finished. Local and district authorities are
compelled to maintain a presence within every monastery, while
military training drills intimidate the people outside them. Rigorous
military manoeuvres are reported in Drango County, Kardze, under
something called the "Committee for Maintaining Peace and Security."
In the Tso Ngon region of Amdo, similar military training drills are
reported since August 6.

New reports and images received by the International Campaign for
Tibet indicate the level of Chinese military preparedness in Lhasa at
the time of the Beijing opening ceremony.

"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."

One feature of the previously mentioned massive buildup and military
exercises in the Ngaba region has been mock protesting for the
soldiers to practice their suppression techniques. Images received by
ICT (not yet publicly released) show that in early August, troops
near Tro-Tsuk Monastery re-enacted a demonstration for other troops
to practice their skills. The "protesters" are seen carrying flags
similar to the Tibetan national snow-lion flag, and some of these
soldier-actors are dressed in monks' robes or in Tibetan traditional
styles. These activities may have also been filmed for later
propaganda purposes.

During non-violent protests in this same area in March, in which
Tibetans carried their flag and chanted freedom slogans, Chinese
soldiers opened fire killing dozens of unarmed people.

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