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Tibetan Anniversary Passes Grimly; Criminals' Feelings Hurt

March 17, 2009

Agam's Gecko Blog
March 14, 2009

The March 10 anniversary has passed without
incident in a stable and happy Tibet, according
to Chinese "news services" and top leaders. It's
easy enough for them to say this, after having
expelled all foreigners — with particular
attention to journalists — and shutting down
communications by turning off phone networks and
internet gateways. Yet even the mere trickle of
information which somehow escapes from the prison
on the roof of the world indicates that Chinese
"news services" and top leaders are lying.

A little more information has been received from
local sources by the Tibetan Centre for Human
Rights and Democracy, following the attempted
suicide by self-immolation of a young monk named
Tabey, from the Kirti Jepa Monastery in Ngaba
County, on February 27 (earlier reports here,
here, and photos here) after officials had banned
the Kirti monks from performing the traditional
religious observance of Monlam Chenmo. Tabey is
said to be hospitalized in a secret government
facility in Chengdu, the Sichuan capital.

Sources told TCHRD that Tabey's mother was
permitted to meet him at the hospital by the
Chinese authorities. However, they were not
allowed to speak to each other. Sources also told
TCHRD that their meeting lasted not more than few
minutes. Tabey is currently placed under huge security cover and protection.

In a sudden twist to Tabey's self-immolation
episode, the Chinese officials explained his
mother about the need to amputate his legs, which
however, was strenuously resisted by Tabey himself.

Multiple eyewitnesses to the event had earlier
reported seeing Tabey fall to the ground
immediately upon hearing three gunshots. Chinese
officials deny the shooting and claim that Tabey
has no gunshot wounds as he lay recovering under
iron-clad security and not permitted to speak.
The logical conclusion is inescapable: Chinese
officials intend to destroy the evidence of an
atrocity by security forces by cutting off Tabey's legs.

What is the foremost thought in a criminal's mind
after committing his crime? Destroy all evidence
which might eventually lead to his being held responsible.

So far, the colonial regime's procedures for
dealing with a Buddhist monk intent on giving his
life in protest by self-immolation appears to be:

1. Shoot the monk in the legs, rendering him immobile
2. Extinguish the monk and keep him securely incommunicado
3. Remove any evidence for point 1, amputate if necessary
4. Explain to the world that Tibetans are
overjoyed at living in a Chinese paradise on earth

After nearly two decades following the Tibetans'
struggle for freedom and the measures taken by
their colonial masters to prevent them from
having it, I thought I'd heard just about
everything. But this episode is quickly becoming
one of the creepiest and sickest expressions of
Chinese power, even though far from the deadliest.

Tabey's case must be raised at the highest levels
of every official venue with PRC participation,
and democratic countries must demand a halt to
this gruesome, apparently intended destruction of
bodily evidence of a state atrocity. Such
destruction by amputation would surely amount to a second atrocity.

It's probably too late to confront the Chinese
Foreign Minister in the United States, who met
with President Obama and Secretary Clinton
yesterday (he'd likely be breathing a sigh of
relief on his flight home by now, if he'd known
of it). In a world that had effective
international organisations (rather than the
feckless United Nations we're stuck with at the
moment), an independent investigator would have
been flying into Chengdu two weeks ago (with or
without an invitation from the offending party).

The Tibetan writer / poet / citizen journalist
Woeser has written about Tabey's self-sacrifice,
published yesterday on Radio Free Asia's Tibetan
service (translation here). She says that while
Buddhism strongly opposes the action of suicide,
in the past 50 years Tibet has seen an
unprecedented number of them — peaking in the
late 1950's and again during the first Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).

When I was investigating the "Cultural
Revolution" in Lhasa, an elderly man recalled
that one day in 1959, he personally witnessed
four monks throw themselves into the Lhasa River
to their deaths. The Lhasa River flowed quietly
while their crimson red robes slowly sank.

During a hunger strike by Tibetans at New Delhi
in 1998, exiled monk Thupten Ngodup immolated
himself in protest, and died a few days later.
Woeser rounds up some of the known suicides which
followed the Chinese crackdown on nationalist
expression last year, identifying six between
March and October. Of these, four were monks, one
a villager and one a 17 year old student. The
student explained in his note, before leaping from a building:

"It is impossible to live under the Chinese
oppression even for a minute or an hour, let
alone a whole day. I use my own life to tell the
world that Tibetans have no freedom."

The Free Tibet Campaign in London reported on
Tuesday that three more monks from Kirti
Monastery were arrested within days of Tabey's
protest. Jamyang Phuntsok, 34, was arrested on
March 3, and Mewa Gyatso along with one other
unidentified monk were arrested on March 5. The
"well-placed source" informed FTC that the
arrests were in connection with the distribution
of flyers which had announced the intentions of
four more Kirti monks to immolate themselves on March 10.

These arrests were also confirmed to Voice of
Tibet radio service by a source with contacts in
the area. Chinese authorities are searching for
four monks who threatened to "follow Tabey's
footsteps," the source said, adding that the
three arrested were all friends of Tabey. Around
60,000 Chinese troops have been deployed in Ngaba
Tibetan "Autonomous" Prefecture.

FTC has also learned that roughly 80% of the
forces now deployed in Ngaba Prefecture (about
one-fifth of Sichuan province) are stationed
within Ngaba County (there are 13 counties of
roughly equal size in Ngaba T-"A"-P). Local
residents of the county are vastly outnumbered on
the streets by armed troops, and a 7 pm curfew
order has been in place since March 8.
Unconfirmed reports state that all civilian road
traffic was prohibited in the county's main town
on March 10. Colonial officials have ordered
members of Kirti Monastery's "Democratic
Management Committee" to sign pledges that no
monks would protest, and they stressed that even
a minor protest would result in the closing of the monastery.

The peaceful, candle-bearing monks of Lutsang
Monastery, in Mangra County, Amdo, are also
paying the price for their procession and quiet
vigil on February 25 (earlier report here). A
local source told FTC that a list of 190 monks
(Lutsang's population is around 350) were
subsequently ordered to the local police station,
where they were individually interrogated and
beaten, and then sent back to their institution.
On March 8 local officials returned to the
monastery with a somewhat shorter list of 109
names. The names were read out, and the named
monks were ordered to pack blankets and food for
their transfer to an undisclosed location for
their impending "patriotism re-education."

Lobsang Wangchuk lived in Lithang County, Kardze,
before March 10. On that day he mounted a solo
protest and called out loud for "Long Life for
His Holiness Dalai Lama" and "Independence for
Tibet." He was immediately apprehended by
security forces and "beaten up mercilessly"
according to a source speaking to Radio Free
Asia. Lithang County has around 25,000 troops
deployed within it, according to the source.

These are phenomenal troop levels -- 25,000 in
Lithang County, and 48,000 within Ngaba County.
If these estimates are anywhere near accurate,
China's military occupation has deployed into
these two little counties more than half the
number of all US forces currently in the entire
country of Iraq (the latter of course, serving at
the request and discretion of a
democratically-elected Iraqi government, cannot
really be compared with the half-century-old
military occupation of Tibet by China).

As tough as this period has been for the people
of the plateau, it's not much better for Tibetans
who live in the lowlands of China proper.
Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, is a
city of 10 million people. It has a small Tibetan
quarter, currently guarded by police with rifles
and machine guns manning checkpoints at every
point of entry. The Tibetan neighbourhood is a
series of tree-lined streets packed with souvenir
shops and restaurants. Residents say the already
tight security had become much stricter since the beginning of March.

"We are suffocating," a Tibetan shopkeeper said
as monks looked over religious artifacts. "I
can't begin to put into words how we feel. There
is such unease. I can only hope all this security
lets up soon." He refused to give his name for fear of official retaliation.

Tibetans outside the war zone marked the March 10
anniversary as they always do, but with a little
extra help this year. By this I don't mean the
demonstrations of support in many countries
around the world, or the hundreds of cities and
towns which now officially fly the Tibetan flag
on that day to show solidarity with the freedom
aspirations of an extremely patient people. Of
course, these are all very welcome and highly
appreciated, and let's have even more of them
next year, and the ones after that until freedom comes.

But the extra special help this year came to
Dharamsala in the form of a group of Chinese
democrats, reports Maura Moynihan (whose famous
father would be very proud of her, I'm sure). At
an evening candle-light vigil before the
Tsuglakhang Temple (Jokhang, in exile), Thomas
Yan, chairman of the China Forum for Human Rights
in Hong Kong spoke on behalf of the visiting group.

"A friend from Hong Kong tried to persuade me not
to come to Dharamsala," he said. "He warned me,
'You don't know what you're doing. March 10 is a very sensitive day.'"

"I replied, 'I know exactly what I'm doing. March
10 marks the separation of brothers, of China and
Tibet. I have discovered that Dharamsala is
filled with lovely people, with confidence and
determination, who have preserved a beautiful
language and culture in a painful exile.'"

"The fact that the Dalai Lama is not in Lhasa is a great shame," he said.

As the end of his speech, Yan's voice swelled with emotion and rage.

"I spent five years in prison for joining the
Tiananmen Square uprising, so I know how our
Tibetan brothers and sisters have suffered. The
Chinese Communist Party is an evil government. It
is the enemy of the Chinese people. We must work
together for a democratic China and a Free Tibet!"

Yan then clutched [Speaker of the Tibetan
Parliament] Pemba Tsering's hand and raised it
towards the night sky to a roaring crowd. Elderly
women clutching Free Tibet flags came forward in tears to grasp Yan's hand.

Just, wow. Afterwards the Tibetans took their
Chinese friends for a feast of momos and chang
(dumplings and beer), while one longtime resident
recalled earlier times, when, "[I]f we saw any
Chinese in Dharamsala, we'd chase them out of
town with shouts and fisticuffs." This is
excellent stuff, which should make any young,
modern Chinese person's chest swell with pride.

But Chinese people, even more than the rest of
the world, have no idea what is being done in
their name amid the demonizing rhetoric which
issues forth from their leaders' lips. They might
know, if any independent journalism was permitted
in Tibetan areas, but it's not. The Telegraph's
Malcolm Moore has a detailed statement of
complaint from the Foreign Correspondents' Club
of China, outlining the many detentions and
forced expulsions of journalists, confiscation of
equipment and the like, just in the week prior to
March 10. Journalists from the U.S., Japan,
Italy, Spain and Finland have been harassed in
recent days and prevented from working in areas
which Chinese law (and promises made during the
Olympics) guaranteed their right to work —
outside the Tibetan "Autonomous" Region.

Reporters Without Borders has more details on
these violations, which include reporters working
for Agence France Presse, Italian news agency
ANSA, Flemish television VRT, Spanish television
TVE, Finish television FBC, Associated Press, and
France 24 television (the latter detained after
working in the Tibetan quarter of Chengdu, where
all foreigners are now apparently also banned).
The press freedom group has more in an earlier
press statement, including a round-up of Tibetans
recently punished for disseminating information.

And if one might think that's all bad enough,
just wait. The Telegraph's Moore has been reading
Radio Free Asia's Chinese language site, and
passes on another item destined for the
Unbelievably Creepy file. Someone in Beijing has
been posing as a RFA reporter for the purpose of
convening a meeting of petitioners against the
government. These might be people whose homes
have been seized, or who have some other
complaint of injustice done to them by the authorities. It was a trap.

During the Olympics, the petitioners who dared to
register for the public protest zones got carted
away and sure enough the ones who showed up at
this fake meeting were instantly arrested by
security goons, said RFA's editor, Shao Delian.
Indeed, RFA has no Beijing-based reporter and its
website is blocked inside China.

Come on now, humanity! Doesn't this sort of thing
violate the most basic standards of civilised
conduct? Alert the feckless UN (on second thought, never mind).

It is good to know that Tibet still has many good
friends with influence in the world, if not
necessarily with their CCP rulers. An appeal was
released on March 9, supported by
parliamentarians of 14 nations and the European
Parliament, calling on China to end the intense
repression and to engage honestly with the
Tibetan side on the basis of the Memorandum for
Genuine Autonomy, which was offered in good faith
by the Dalai Lama's representatives last
November. Signatories also include Vaclav Havel and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The European Parliament separately adopted a
resolution, urging the Chinese government to
consider the Memorandum of Genuine Autonomy as a
good basis for meaningful discussion, and called
on the authorities to release prisoners of
conscience, to open Tibet to media access, and to
permit entry to UN human rights experts and recognized international NGO's.

And on Wednesday the United States House of
Representatives passed H. Res. 226, in which the House resolves that it,

(1) recognizes the Tibetan people for their
perseverance in face of hardship and adversity in
Tibet and for creating a vibrant and democratic
community in exile that sustains the Tibetan identity;

(2) recognizes the Government and people of India
for their generosity toward the Tibetan refugee
population for the last 50 years;

(3) calls upon the Government of the People’s
Republic of China to respond to the Dalai Lama’s
initiatives to find a lasting solution to the
Tibetan issue, cease its repression of the
Tibetan people, and to lift immediately the harsh
policies imposed on Tibetans, including patriotic
education campaigns, detention and abuses of
those freely expressing political views or
relaying news about local conditions, and
limitations on travel and communications; and

(4) calls upon the Administration to recommit to
a sustained effort consistent with the Tibetan
Policy Act of 2002, that employs diplomatic,
programmatic, and multilateral resources to press
the People’s Republic of China to respect the
Tibetans’ identity and the human rights of the Tibetan people.

The resolution passed almost unanimously -- 422
Yeas, 1 Nay. Naturally I was just dying to find
out which one of them couldn't support the four
points quoted above. Some readers may have
already guessed (I didn't). The answer is Ron
Paul. Tibet remains the most bipartisan issue of
agreement in the entire known universe.

As surely as night follows day, officials in
China immediately began to bleat about this vote
by the American people's elected representatives,
pouting that it "hurts the Chinese people's
feelings." Boo freakin' hoo. This sort of
response is a bit rich, coming just a day after
they had lashed out against His Holiness' March
10 statement by saying (through a Xinhua
Mouthpiece commentary) that the Dalai Lama was
"like a kid trying to draw attention from other people by crying."

There is no one on earth who whines more about
their "hurt feelings" than Chinese government
officials, particularly whenever anyone points
out the crimes they continue to commit against
the proud nation whose independence they
themselves stole more than half a century ago.
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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