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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."

Tibetans refuse to sow spring crops in protest against Beijing

April 14, 2009

Jane Macartney in Beijing
The Times (UK)
April 11, 2009

Tibetan discontent at Chinese rule has taken a
new twist, with farmers refusing to till their
fields in a show of passive resistance against Beijing.

So anxious are officials at the latest action
that they have sent in troops from the People's
Liberation Army to work with farmers - or in
their place if need be - to carry out spring
planting in mountainous regions able to support only one crop a year.

Local sources said that many farmers in areas of
Sichuan province with large ethnic Tibetan
populations have decided to down tools and leave
their barley fields fallow this year.

"The farmers know that they will be the ones to
suffer if they do this," one source told The
Times. "But this is a way for them to show their unhappiness."

State-run TV broadcast footage, shot by army
cameramen, of soldiers accompanying Tibetan
farmers into the fields to plough and hoe. The
Government has even ordered officials and party
members into the fields themselves to get on with the spring planting.

The extent of the protest was impossible to gauge
since foreign reporters are barred from Tibet and
have been prevented from entering
Tibetan-populated regions. However, it appears to
be serious enough to have prompted a statement
this week from the Dalai Lama's base in India,
saying: "The Tibetan Government in exile of the
Dalai Lama appeals to Tibetans not to make this
sacrifice and to stop their ‘refusal to till the fields'."

A huge police and army presence across Tibet has
failed to still simmering unrest, local residents
said. Incidents occur almost daily across the
Ganze area of Sichuan, which experienced some of
the most widespread protests after peaceful
demonstrations by monks in Lhasa in March last
year spiralled into a riot that left 22 people dead.

A Tibetan monk was killed and eight people
wounded when Tibetan farmers and paramilitary
police clashed in Luhuo county late last month.
The farmers had refused to commit to plant a
certain amount of their land with crops and the
police were called in. The dead monk had been
organising the farmers to refuse to plant crops, local residents said.

Fearful of losing control, the paramilitary
People's Armed Police on Sunday paraded detainees
in seven trucks around the streets of Ganze. Each
suspect was held by two police, who forced them
to bow their heads. A notice was hung around the
neck of each one, although a Tibetan source said
that he could not read them because he was unfamiliar with Chinese characters.

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