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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?"

Tibetans in Tibet protest detentions

February 23, 2010

Monks and nuns in Tibet protest over detainees
unaccounted for after nearly two years.
Radio Free Asia (RFA)
February 22, 2010

HONG KONG -- Hundreds of Tibetans staged a rare
public protest in the southwestern Chinese
province of Sichuan during the lunar new year
holiday, known as Losar, according to sources in the region.

Hundreds of monks and nuns from Gede and Se
monasteries, and the Mani nunnery, staged a
sit-in in Ngaba township [in Chinese, Aba] on Feb. 14.

"Yes, [the Tibetans held a sit-in]," said one Ngaba resident.

"The Tibetans have all left. Gone home."

A second resident, asked if armed police were
dispatched to the scene, replied, "Yes, yes, lots of them."

Dekyi Dolma, a nun whose hometown is in Ngaba but
who currently lives in the northern Indian town
of Dharamsala, said as many as eight or nine
monasteries and nunneries were involved in the protest.

"They staged the sit-in because the authorities
never accounted for the whereabouts of the many
Tibetans who were detained in March 2008," she
said, referring to detentions made during a wave
of unrest in Tibetan regions under Chinese rule,
sparked by riots in Lhasa earlier that month.

"Three people were detained [following the sit-in]," she said.

"The Tibetans were surrounded by ... armed police
with guns. Nuns and children and the elderly joined in the sit-in."

"Those detained were staging a peaceful sit-in," she added.

Much of Tibet has been under tight security since
a peaceful demonstration by monks in 2008 in the
Tibetan capital, Lhasa, was violently suppressed,
leading to a riot that left at least 22 dead
according to Chinese authorities, ignited
protests in three neighboring provinces, and
prompted Beijing to dramatically increase its troop presence in the region.

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

Police presence

The protesters had dispersed by the end of the
day, according to Tibetan sources, who said local
authorities had sent government officials from
each of the monasteries to mediate, and to
persuade the monks and nuns to return home.

Police threw a security cordon around the town, blocking all nearby roads.

Tsering, a Tibetan monk living in exile in
Dharamsala, said police and demonstrators
numbered in the hundreds, with many more police.

"It was only for one day, the 14th," he said, citing local witnesses.

Calls to police stations in the Ngaba region went unanswered Thursday.

An official who answered the phone at the Ngaba
prefectural religious affairs bureau declined to comment.

"I know nothing," he said. "You got the wrong
number. It didn't happen. I have not heard about it."

More protests

Sethar Tsultrim, a Tibetan now living in
Dharamsala, said armed police in his native
Khekor, Seda township, tried unsuccessfully to
detain two Tibetan youths who argued when police
tried to take down a Tibetan flag that had been
hung on an electrical post on Feb. 14.

He identified the two youths as Rinchen Dorje,
23, and Drukchung, 24. Another Tibetan source
provided a consistent account of those events.

This week, Tibetans inside China risked
persecution to burn incense, pray, and raise
Buddhist prayer flags ahead of the first meeting
between their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai
Lama, and U.S. President Barack Obama on Feb. 18.

Braving tighter security by Chinese authorities
who regard the Dalai Lama as a dangerous
separatist, Tibetans crowded into the Barkhor
area of Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous
Region (TAR) and the epicenter of a 2008 uprising against Chinese rule.

Witnesses reported stepped-up security beginning
Feb. 17, including several hundred armed personnel in the city.

Residents of Ngaba refused to celebrate Losar in
2009 in protest at detentions following the 2008 protests in the region.
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