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Chinese Security Forces Murder Monk, Cover Up Crime

April 3, 2009

Agam's Gecko Blog
March 31, 2009

Fifty years ago today, on March 31, 1959, the
spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists and head of
the Tibetan state, His Holiness the Dalai Lama,
left his country under the hot pursuit of the
communist Chinese army and crossed the Indian
border, beginning a half century of freedom in exile.

Today we learn that yet another Tibetan Buddhist
monk has been killed by Chinese security forces,
this time in Drango County, Kardze Prefecture.

The brutal killing of 27 year old Phuntsok Rabten
of the Drango Monastery on March 25 comes amid an
ongoing farming boycott by Tibetans in many parts
of the Kardze Tibetan "Autonomous" Prefecture. A
former Drango resident in contact with sources in
the area told Radio Free Asia that Phuntsok
Rabten was distributing leaflets in support of
the boycott as a means of protest against Chinese
repression, and to mourn those Tibetans whose
lives have been lost in the military crackdown.
He was spotted by police and tried to escape,
first on motorcycle and then on foot but was
cornered at a place called Wada, said the source.

"He was severely beaten by the Chinese security
force and died at the scene. His body was tossed
over a cliff in order to cover up the death."

Phuntsok's body was discovered later by local
residents, who went to the local police station
together with monks from the monastery to complain about the murder.

"The police did not accept responsibility, though
they admitted they had pursued him. The monks of
Draggo monastery and local Tibetans planned to
parade his body through the town in protest, but
the elder monks of the monastery advised them not to do this."

RFA contacted the Drango Public Security Bureau
and was told, "There was no such incident."

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy
has also received reports on the murder of
Phuntsok, who comes from Zongpa Village in Drango
County. A source told TCHRD that Phuntsok had
been pasting a seven page document on the walls
of a branch of Drango PSB, on the Shara Thang-do
Bridge, and on eucalyptus trees along the roads and highways of the county.

His action took place exactly one year after a
large and peaceful demonstration in Drango was
quelled by gunfire, killing at least one monk and
critically wounding at least one other. Hundreds
were arrested and subjected to torture. The
anniversary of this incident was also not ignored
by the Chinese authorities, who had already
increased paramilitary troop deployment in the area before Phuntsok's protest.

The young monk's leaflets called upon the local
people to support the farming boycott as a method
of civil disobedience and non-cooperation with injustice.

"Let it be, if we die of hunger and starvation,
but for those of our brothers and sisters who
were tortured, injured, detained and killed in
the last year's peaceful demonstration, we must
forego planting crops in fields as a gesture of
respect, mourning and to express our solidarity
with them. Those who had already planted crops in
the fields must not tend and reap the harvest.
This is a request for all of you. If anyone who
still goes on to plant crops in fields and
harvest them, I will come with a black scarf to greet them."

He had been pasting these leaflets on the walls
of an automotive service centre when Drango
"Public Security" Bureau officers spotted him. He
fled by motorbike behind the Baatak Nunnery and
up into the mountains, but was caught after the
bike couldn't climb any further.

The account says that Phuntsok was arrested and
beaten with batons on the spot by PSB personnel,
and he died shortly afterwards. In an attempt to
cover up their crime, the "Public Security"
Bureau officers threw his body off the mountain,
hoping to make it look like a suicide. The body
was discovered by local people the next day, and
the colonial authorities continue to insist that
Phuntsok died after committing suicide.

In a separate report, Reuters reveals a clash
between Tibetan farmers and Chinese soldiers
which took place last Friday in Drango County.
Local sources told the news agency that farmers
had refused to sign a pledge committing
themselves to cultivate crops on a certain amount
of their land, and armed police were then called
in. The forced pledge had been instigated by
local officials after a county official had
travelled to several villages to promote crop planting the previous day.

It's difficult to reconcile the killing of
Phuntsok Rabten with this Reuters report, which
says that one monk was killed and eight people
injured in the clash on Friday. One problem is
that Reuters uses only Chinese names and places.
"Luhuo County" is definitely Drango, but the monk
killed in Friday's clash is identified as
"Panchou Lede" and the location of the incident
is given as Dandu township. An official at the
county hospital confirmed the monk's death to
Reuters, but attributed it to a motorcycle accident.

AP now has the story up, and managed to get
through by phone to the monastery. The monk who
answered said a monk had died on Friday, but
couldn't give details. Subsequent calls to the
same number were answered by people who said there's no monastery here.

RFA also reports that on March 25 two monks from
the Minyak Monastery in Drango staged a protest
calling on Tibetans to observe the farm boycott.
Identified as Olu and Thubten, the monks were
detained and taken away. Two days later (Friday)
government officials came to Pongda village with
some farm equipment, pressuring the people to get to work in those fields.

"The Tibetan farmers refused to cooperate," he
said. "Chinese police cracked down on the
protestors, and about 20 lay Tibetans were
detained. Eleven were severely beaten."

The eleven who were beaten were taken, some of
them unconscious, to a local hospital, [Lobsang] Gyaltsen said.

This sounds more like the incident described in
the Reuters report, in which it said a monk was
killed. Gyaltsen also said that the men of six
villages in Drango have all "escaped into the
hills" to avoid arrest, and that only women and
children remain at home. Those who were severely
injured in the incident have been taken to Chengdu for treatment.

TCHRD identifies the location of this incident as
Da-do village, which is likely the same as
Reuter's sinified Dandu township. It says the 11
arrested Tibetans were paraded around the village
on March 27, and were last seen in a hospital surrounded by PAP forces.

Separately, a local woman told RFA that a man was
arrested on March 23 in connection with the farm boycott.

"A Tibetan named Paga, the son of Tseten Dolma,
was detained by Draggo police on suspicion of
involvement in the distribution of leaflets
calling on Tibetans not to till their land," she
said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"We have no information regarding where he is
detained or what his present condition is," she added.

A meeting was called by the authorities in Drango
the next day, promising fertilizer and other
incentives for the Tibetans to get to work in
those fields, and threatening land confiscation if they refused.

Perhaps the Chinese leaders are the only people
in the entire known universe who fail to see the
hypocrisy of forcing cultivation of land under
threats of confiscation, beatings and even
murder, while celebrating themselves on 50 years
of "Serfs' Emancipation" -- as though the Chinese
Communist Party was the modern incarnation of Abraham Lincoln.

The upcoming G20 meeting will provide an
excellent opportunity for leaders of democratic
countries to point this out to Hu Jintao in
person. Emancipation means freedom, while
Tibetans beaten into plowing fields means serfdom.

When the apostle of hope and change -- who also
likes to channel Lincoln -- meets with the
Chinese president (who is also a former commissar
of China's Tibetan colony), I expect some frank
words to be exchanged. Or I expect to be disappointed, one or the other.
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