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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."

Second day of protests in Lhasa: monks dispersed by tear-gas

March 13, 2008

ICT
March 11, 2008

A crowd of several hundred monks were dispersed today in Lhasa by
tear-gas after they protested the detention of Sera monks yesterday on
the 49th anniversary of the major uprising against Chinese rule in
Tibet, according to a report just released by Radio Free Asia. An
eyewitness told RFA's Tibetan service that a couple of thousand armed
police and People's Security Bureau personnel fired tear-gas at the
crowd on a second day of protest in Lhasa.

The protests, unprecedented in recent years in Tibet's capital,
followed bold demonstrations yesterday by monks from Drepung and Sera
monasteries on the 49th anniversary of the major uprising against
Chinese rule in Lhasa. According to reports, the protests yesterday
also involved as many as two or three hundred Drepung monks, while lay
people formed a silent circle in an attempt to prevent the detentions
of a small group of monks from Sera outside the Jokhang temple in
central Lhasa.

The demonstrations are the largest by monks since the 1989 protests
that led to the imposition of martial law in Tibet's capital, and
coincide with a march by Tibetan exiles through India to the Tibetan
border in the buildup to the Beijing summer Olympics. They are likely
to be of serious concern to Beijing, particularly following the
peaceful 'saffron protests' by monks in Burma recently.

A new eyewitness report posted online by tourists of the incident
yesterday in the Jokhang Square, in the centre of Lhasa, said that
Tibetans "formed a strong, silent, peaceful circle around the police"
after between seven and nine monks from Sera monastery shouted slogans
outside the temple. The tourists, who posted their account on a blog,
said that "hundreds" of Tibetans had formed a circle around the
police, but that soon the police called for backup: "Undercover
agents, not so difficult to recognize, film the whole happening.
Especially the faces. This is one method to create fear. Suddenly
there is panic. Six or seven monks are arrested and driven away.
Tibetans are very scared because of the stories about the prisons and
tortures. In the meanwhile big numbers of policemen arrive. They drive
everybody apart."
(http://steve.ulrike.stivi.be/english/list.php?LijstNr=2&Item=55)

According to Radio Free Asia, as many as 300 monks set out from
Drepung monastery outside Lhasa on the roughly 10-km (5-mile) walk
into the city center yesterday (March 10). Security was already tight
in Lhasa due to the significance of the 10 March anniversary, marking
the uprising against Chinese rule that led to the escape of the Dalai
Lama from Tibet in 1959. Around 50 to 60 monks were apparently
detained at one of the checkpoints that leads into Lhasa. Witnesses
reported seeing about 10 military vehicles, 10 police vehicles, and
several ambulances at the checkpoint.

The whereabouts of the monks following all three protests is unknown
although in answer to a press query today, Chairman of the Tibet
Autonomous Region, Jampa Phuntsog, denied that any monks were still in
custody following yesterday's events. The report of demonstrations by
Sera monks today by RFA indicates that the Sera monks who demonstrated
in the Jokhang yesterday may still be in custody. Foreign Ministry
spokesman Qin Gang said: "Yesterday afternoon in Lhasa city there were
monks from some temples who, under the instigation and encouragement
of a small group of people, carried out an illegal activity that
threatened social stability." (Associated Press report, March 11,
2008).

According to one source, the Drepung monks were reportedly calling for
the release of Drepung monks who were detained last October following
an incident in which monks celebrated the award of the Congressional
Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama in Washington, DC, by whitewashing a room
in the monastery. The same source said: "The demands were not
political, it seems that the monks were being careful." Another source
said that the monks were also concerned about the issue of the lack of
religious freedom in Tibet and at their monastery. According to the
report by RFA today, the Sera monks protesting today shouted freedom
slogans.

According to reports from inside Tibet, security was quickly stepped
up even further at Drepung and Sera monasteries as well as in Lhasa
itself, and hours after the detention of the monks, police closed one
of the roads from Lhasa to Drepung, at the junction with Bayi Road and
Beijing West Road, and vehicles were only allowed to head towards
Lhasa. Reports of gunfire last night in the vicinity of Drepung
monastery mentioned on a Tibetan blog by an authoritative source could
not be confirmed today due to the severe restrictions on information
flow imposed by the Chinese authorities and the atmosphere of fear in
Lhasa.

The same account by a Tibetan reported that following the incident
eyewitnesses saw: "Around ten army and police vehicles with sirens
blaring and lights flashing [were seen] speeding in the direction of
Drepung monastery. The vehicles had either army or police plates, and
other vehicles had no plates. On the second ring road, seven army
trucks with canvas awnings were speeding in the same direction behind
another truck that had some concealed installation on it [which could
have been a water cannon]. Around 10 minutes later, another seven
similar trucks sped towards the western suburbs, but this second
convoy was tailed by a "military ambulance". At around 5:00 in the
evening, the Lhasa Haiguan crossroads and all other roads leading to
Drepung were closed by the army and several police were directing the
traffic, some 20 of them, armed, with soldiers wearing packs spread
out along the west side of the crossroads stopping all vehicles and
pedestrians from passing."

Several Tibetan blogs published yesterday on National Uprising Day
included poems by Tibetans in Tibet lamenting "the dark period" and
"the memory of past heroes". A Tibetan in exile who studied the blogs
said: "Their contents were not new, but messages were very clear".

In India, several hundred Tibetan exiles have so far defied police
orders in an attempt to march to Tibet from Dharamsala, home of the
Dalai Lama, to the Tibetan border, in a protest against the Beijing
Olympics. A Tibetan researcher who has been monitoring the protests
inside and outside Tibet said: "People in Tibet have heard about the
exiles' march, and there seems to be something of a momentum linked to
the international spotlight on China due to the Olympics."
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