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Protest Monks Escape Tibet

May 11, 2009

Radio Free Asia
May 9, 2009

Five Tibetan monks wanted in China for staging a
protest at a major monastery reach safety in India.

NEW DELHI -- Five Tibetan monks who took part in
widely publicized 2008 protests against Chinese
rule have arrived safely in the Indian capital
after eluding Chinese security forces for more than a year.

The monks -- identified as Gendun Gyatso, Kelsang
Jinpa, Lobsang Gyatso, Jamyang Jinpa, and Jigme
Gyatso -- had disrupted a government-controlled
tour by foreign journalists of Labrang monastery,
in a Tibetan-populated area of China’s Gansu  province, in April last year.

Their demonstration, in which they called for
freedom for Tibet, came amid widespread protests
against Chinese rule throughout the Tibetan region beginning in March.

Hearing after the protest that they had been
targeted for arrest, the five escaped in separate
groups into the hills near the monastery.

"We lived like animals, moving from place to
place. But this was better than prison," Gendun
Gyatso, one of the protest organizers, said in an interview.

After two months in hiding, Gyatso said, he and
two friends found themselves surrounded one day
by Chinese police. Gyatso and Kelsang Jinpa again escaped.

Their companion was captured and remains in jail, Gyatso said.

Advised to escape

Jamyang Jinpa, one of the monks who spoke to
foreign journalists during the April protest,
said that he first heard on a Radio Free Asia
Amdo-dialect broadcast that the reporters had been invited to visit Labrang.

"But we didn’t know the exact date," he said.

Jinpa said that he and monastery classmates
Lobsang Gyatso and Jigme Gyatso then helped to
plan the protest, feeling this would be a "good
opportunity" to publicize concerns about Tibet.

"We called for freedom for Tibet and for the
release of Tibetan political prisoners, including
the Panchen Lama," Jinpa said.

Chinese troops surrounded Labrang monastery after
the protest, Jinpa said, adding that he and his
friends then fled into the hills dressed as
laymen after a lama advised them to escape.

Asked about the group’s present plans, Jinpa said
that they now want only to go to Dharamsala, seat
of the Tibetan government-in-exile, to meet the
Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader.

Despite their escape, they have no special feeling of accomplishment, he said.

"Too many people are still suffering in Tibet," he said.

Massive protests

Much of Tibet has been closed to foreigners since
a peaceful demonstration last year in the Tibetan
capital, Lhasa, erupted into a riot that left at
least 22 dead, ignited protests in three
neighboring provinces, and prompted Beijing to
dramatically increase its troop presence.

The Tibetan government-in-exile in India says
about 220 Tibetans died and nearly 7,000 were
detained in the subsequent region-wide crackdown.

Original reporting by Palden Gyal for RFA’s
Tibetan  service.  Tibetan service director:
Jigme Ngapo. Translations by Karma Dorjee.
Written in English by Richard Finney. Edited and
produced for the Web by Sarah Jackson-Han.
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