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Images of protest by Tibetan children and students obtained from Tibet

May 10, 2009

Tibet Custom
May 7, 2009

New images of a protest by Tibetan schoolchildren
in Labrang (Chinese: Xiahe) on April 24 have been obtained from Tibet.

The images confirm that several hundred students
from Labrang Tibetan Middle School, including
several children who appear to be as young as ten
or 11, were involved in the protest against
continued vilification by the authorities of the
Dalai Lama. One image shows a group of young
girls, who appear to be aged around 12, many in
traditional Tibetan dress, leading a group of
protestors. The incident occurred in Labrang
(Sangchu) county, Kanlho (Chinese: Gannan)
Tibetan autonomous prefecture, Gansu province,
the Tibetan area of Amdo. Other images depict
children carrying what appear to be home made
white banners. Adults or older students can also
be seen, and monks (probably from Labrang
monastery) are visible in the distance, although
they do not appear to be part of the protest.

The protests depict the moments before armed
police moved into apprehend the students. In a
further image, army trucks can be seen in the
background. The number of demonstrators and bold
nature of the protest clearly took the
authorities by surprise despite the tight
security in the area. While the students detained
are now believed to have been released, some
after being beaten, local Tibetans fear further retaliation by the authorities.

Some images have been withheld as they reveal
identities of individual Tibetans. Since the
current wave of protests began in Tibet on March
10, 2008, the authorities have adopted
increasingly systematic measures to block
information flow from Tibet. A few months after
the protests began last year, the authorities
conveyed warnings of penalties for ‘spreading
rumors’, presaging a new wave of detentions and
signaling a more rigorous and hard-line approach
to Beijing’s cover-up of the crackdown in Tibetan
areas. These images of the protest clearly
involved significant risk. Details of the protest
in Labrang:

All images were obtained by the Tibetan service of Voice of America.

Tibetan teenagers from Labrang (Chinese: Xiahe)
Tibetan Middle School in the Tibetan area of Amdo
made a bold protest on April 24 against continued
vilification of the Dalai Lama and an
'anti-separatism' campaign in schools in the
area, according to several Tibetan sources. While
the students detained are now believed to have
been released, some after being beaten, local
Tibetans fear further retaliation by the
authorities. Tibetan areas including Labrang have
been tense since protests began to spread across Tibet from March 10, 2008.

The protest occurred in the town of Labrang,
Sangchu (Chinese: Xiahe) county, Kanlho (Chinese:
Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu
province, the Tibetan area of Amdo. Tibetan
students reportedly took to the streets near the
school at around 8:00 a.m. on Friday, April 24.
Many were calling for freedom and democracy, and
for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet. Some
were protesting about the rise in the number of
Chinese students in college level institutes, displacing Tibetans.

They were immediately surrounded by armed police
who stopped the protest. One Tibetan eyewitness
told ICT: "Around 300 soldiers and police arrived
immediately at the scene. Older Tibetans were
begging the soldiers not to harm the students and
to let them go back into the schoolyard. The school was then

The local authorities apparently sparked the
protest by posting an article on the school
notice-board entitled "Dalai cannot win," which
accused the Tibetan exiled leader of starting the
demonstrations that began on March 10, 2008. The
article, written by someone named Yedor, was
published in the Kanlho News on April 15.
Although such articles are now commonplace in the
media in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), they are a new phenomenon in Amdo.

A Tibetan source with contacts in the area said:
"The main reason for the students' protest is
that the local authorities are implementing a
campaign of patriotic education and
'anti-separatism' in schools, which is strongly
focused on denouncing the Dalai Lama. At the same
time, many articles vilifying the Dalai Lama have
been published in newspapers in the Tibetan language."

According to a posting on a Chinese-language blog
today: "As well as protesting about the article
critical of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, students
were also calling on the authorities to stop the
phenomenon of 'University Entrance Exam Refugees'
[1] where the university entrance exam quota for
Tibetan students is used by students coming in from elsewhere."

The same Tibetan source said: "What was
interesting was that at the time, relevant
officials from Kanlho prefecture were on their to
Lanzhou to pick up an award they'd won for
outstanding [political] 'stability' work, but
this incident happened while they were on the
road there and so cursing their luck, they had to head back!"

Students detained during the protest are now
believed to have been released and the school,
which has several hundred pupils, partially
re-opened. However, there are indications that
teachers are under suspicion and a continuing
investigation may lead to new detentions.
According to another report, the authorities have
taken a list of students, which includes the
names of those believed to have taken part in the
protest, from the school. The same source said
that officials sent to the school from the Kanlho
prefectural government offices stressed that
there was a need to educate the Tibetan students
not to carry out "separatist" activities. "There
is now an increasing military presence on the
streets of Labrang, with local people saying
there is a curfew in place," the source said.

Sangchu Tibetan Middle School in the Tibetan area
of Amdo, where students held a peaceful protest on April

24, 2009 calling for freedom, democracy and the
return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet.

According to two Tibetan sources, a further
protest by students from Sangchu County Tibetan
Elementary School occurred in the past few days,
although the date could not be confirmed. A
report by a Tibetan on a Chinese language blog
said that as a result of both protests officials
strengthened control over all schools and
students in Gannan prefecture, and teachers from
Tsoe (Chinese: Hezuo) Vocational School cancelled leave for the May vacations.

Labrang monastery, which is near the school, was
the site of demonstrations against the Chinese
authorities on March 15-16, 2008. Those protests
were a major indication that demonstrations were
spreading across Tibetan areas of the People's
Republic of China and were not just isolated in the TAR.

Labrang monk detained

There are fears for the safety of a Labrang monk,
whose whereabouts remain unknown following his
detention on March 18, 2009. The monk, who is
known as Tsaye Godrop-shi (Tsaye is the name of a
township in Sangchu county) was detained at a
police checkpoint when traveling out of Labrang
by bus. He is believed to have been involved in
an emotional protest during the visit of a group
of foreign journalists to Labrang monastery on a
rare Chinese government-organized trip last

According to the Tibetan Center for Human Rights
and Democracy in India, two other Labrang monks,
Thabkhey and Tsundue, are also reported to be missing.

News of detentions and disappearances of Tibetans
is still reaching the outside world almost daily
one year on from the beginning of the protests
that have swept across Tibet, and which were met
by a violent crackdown. Some have been killed in
custody after torture. Others are still being
detained without charge and without access to legal counsel.

[1] A literal translation. This refers to a
process by which people use faked ID to show they
are Tibetan and therefore sit the university
entrance exam, or sit the exam because they've
moved into the area as the children of government
workers. The exams for Tibetans are also supposed
to be slightly easier because of language
considerations -- another reason why Chinese
students try and sit them if they can.
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