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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

March Madness: Tibetans Riot After Monk's Suicide

April 8, 2009

By Cara Paley
Tufts Observer
April 7, 2009

After a Tibetan attack on a police station in
northwestern China that took place Saturday,
March 21, nearly a hundred people involved in the
incident were detained the following day.
According to the Washington Post, the attack was
directly triggered by the alleged suicide of a
Tibetan monk; however, this particular episode
marks just one of many tumultuous clashes between
the Tibetan population and the ruling Chinese officials.

To the Chinese, control of Tibet is natural and
unquestioned. "To most Chinese, it seems
self-evident that Tibet is and always has been a
part of China; the idea of Tibetan secession is
as absurd as Alaskan or Hawaiian secession based
on the mistreatment of native populations "would
be to most Americans," said Elizabeth Remick, a
political science professor at Tufts.

According to the government-run New China News
Agency, though the Chinese police caught six of
those allegedly engaged, the remaining 89 who
partook in the riots turned themselves in. The
New China News Agency also affirmed that all but
two were monks. While less than 100 were
arrested, the Washington Post cites a Tibetan
exile who states that as many as 2,000 people were involved in the protest.

Several hundred people?among them, close to a
hundred monks from the Ragya monastery?attacked
the police station in Ragya and assaulted
policemen and government workers. While some
officials were slightly injured in the events, no
serious damage has been reported

The violence during March occurred after
28-year-old monk Tashi Sangpo escaped from police
custody and disappeared. According to the
Washington Post, Tashi Sangpo had been detained
due to his involvement in removing the Chinese
flag and spreading out the Tibetan national flag
over the Ragya monastery’s main prayer hall.
Allegedly, fearing his arrest, Sangpo fled from
the Ragya police station after asking to use the
washroom. He was last seen swimming in the Yellow
River; his body has yet to be found.

Triggered by Tashi Sangpo’s death, protestors
violently rallied against Chinese police and
officials in the Ragya Township. According to the
New York Times, such protests also reveal the
Tibetan motive behind their actions: a cry for
independence against Chinese rule. Through such
riots, they lament the day in which China seized
control over the region and simultaneously forced
the spiritual Dalai Lama into exile in India.
Fervently waving the Tibetan national flag and
banners, rioters were seen shouting "Independence
for Tibet" and "Long Live His Holiness the Dalai Lama."

After the clash that occurred between Tibetan and
Chinese groups last March, in which Tibetan riots
in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, resulted in the
death of several Han Chinese, China has sent
thousands of troops to Tibetan areas. However,
despite the increased presence of Chinese
security, these areas remain consumed by chaos.

Ragya, a township in the Tibetan prefecture of
Golog, is just one of many Tibetan-dominated
areas under Chinese rule that has been the
location of recurring conflict.  In the
predominantly Tibetan Ganzi prefecture in the
Sichuan province, a bomb exploded in an
unoccupied police station. Although it shattered
the building’s windows, the explosion caused no
injuries. Another instance of Tibetan-Chinese
animosity was a minor explosion in a Tibetan part
of Qinghai, which damaged a police car and a firetruck.

Also, according to the Washington Post, a
thousand monks gathered in February at a
monastery in Aba county of the Sichuan province
to protest a ban on celebrating Monlam, a
traditional prayer festival. One monk, in a
dramatic public suicide, soaked himself with gasoline and set himself on fire.

Along with numerous other anti-Chinese protests,
the Tibetan government in exile in Dharamsala,
India released a seven-minute video that reveals
Chinese police officers brutally beating Tibetans
following the Lhasa riots. Currently shown on
YouTube, such actions further mark the ongoing
hostilities between the two groups.

These events, along with the variety of other
clashes that have preceded them, vividly display
the profound tension that exists between restless
Tibetan populations eager for independence and
Chinese officials attempting to enforce their
power. Unfortunately, as hostilities persist,
hopes for peace between Tibetan and Chinese factions remain bleak.
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