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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."


March 26, 2009

Agam's Gecko Blog
March 23, 2009

Widespread protests are once again gaining
momentum in many parts of the Tibetan plateau as
the Chinese colonizing power prepares to
celebrate its "happy former serfs", and to oblige
the Tibetans to join in celebrating the loss of
their country on "Serfs Emancipation Day" this
Saturday. A massive public protest at a major
monastery in Amdo followed the apparent suicide
of a young monk who believed he was destined for arrest.

Ragya Monastery, said to be the second largest
monastery in all Qinghai Province and the most
important Gelugpa monastery in the Golog region
(located in Machen County, Golog T-"A"-P) has
been locked down and sealed by security forces
since March 10, after political leaflets were
circulated and a huge Tibetan national flag was
hoisted over the main prayer hall in place of the
red flag of Chinese communism. On March 21,
security forces claim to have found a Tibetan
national flag and political leaflets in the room
of 28 year old monk Tashi Sangpo, who was among
the monks who had earlier raised the banned
Tibetan flag. The young monk escaped arrest by
throwing himself into the Machu River, one of
Tibet's largest rivers which flows past the monastery, in an apparent suicide.

The following day, thousands of local people came
out into the streets in protest, blaming the
police for Tashi's death while they carried
Tibetan flags and banners, and raised freedom
slogans for Tibetan independence and long life
for the Dalai Lama. The huge demonstration was
carried out in front of the local police station
and government offices, and the angry protesters
also managed to retake the large Tibetan flag
which had been previously confiscated by security
forces. A cellphone video of the protest can be
viewed in the sidebar at right, or here.

Security forces arrested 95 people, nearly all of
them monks and including the monastery prefect
(Tib: Gekoe), Palden Gyatso. Voice of Tibet radio
reported that seven military troop trucks have
arrived in Ragya, with more having been called in
from Xining. The situation continues to be extremely tense.

Tibetan sources in the region told The Times that
hundreds of people, including local herdsmen as
well as lamas, staged a sit-in outside the police
station. They shouted slogans demanding Tibetan
independence and many wept, saying police had
forced the missing monk to take his own life in the nearby fast-flowing river.

One source said: "Now the whole town in filled
with armed police. They are patrolling the
streets and there is no way to find out what is going on now. It is cut off."

Chinese state-controlled media claimed that
several hundred people attacked the police
station and assaulted police and government
staff, slightly injuring some of them. A Tibetan
exile who has received information from Ragya
told Associated Press that around 500 monks
(which is about the total current population of
the monastery) had protested outside the local
administration offices, and the group swelled to
around 2,000 as many more people from the town joined them.

Ragya Monastery was founded by the monk Arou
Geshe Gyentsen Ozer in 1769, after he was sent to
this locale by the 7th Dalai Lama. The curriculum
of the Tantric College at Sera Monastery was used
to establish the Guypa Dratsang (Tantric College)
at Ragya, one among the five Buddhist Studies
colleges located at this monastery. The Shingsa
Pandita, a reincarnated lineage believed to
emanate from the mother of Tsongkhapa,
traditionally heads Ragya Monastery, and this
lineage has become one of the most influential in
the entire Amdo region. There were over 1,000
monks in residence in 1958, but the monastery was
demolished in the Cultural Revolution hysteria
and only began to be reconstructed in 1980. See
the Tibet Heritage Fund link above, for more.

A farming boycott is gaining momentum in Kardze
Prefecture. Chinese authorities arrested 27 year
old monk Jampa Dhondup of the Tse-Tsang Monastery
on March 19, alleging his involvement in the
boycott. The civil disobedience movement is
intended to oppose the oppressive Chinese
policies against Tibetans, according to posters
which have proliferated in the streets of Kardze
towns. Counter threats have been issued, including land confiscation:

In retaliation against the movement, an official
announcement was made that "anyone who defies
farming will face arrest and their land will be officially confiscated."

Several members of Jampa Dhondup's family were
involved in peaceful protests last year,
including his elder brother Tashi Namgyal, who
has been on the run since a peaceful protest in
Serthar County on March 17, 2008 resulted in a
warrant for his arrest. An elder sister, Lhagha,
was arrested after a peaceful protest in Kardze
County on May 14, 2008 with her fellow nuns from
Pangri-Na Nunnery. She was later released, but
must report to the Public Security Bureau every
week. At least 28 incidents of peaceful protest
have been reported from Kardze so far this month,
resulting in more than 60 arrests.

Three other people were arrested in connection
with the boycott on Saturday. Dhunka Dorjee, 40,
Tsering Wangrak, 40, and Pachen, 30, all from
Lhoe-pa Township in Kardze County, were taken in
by PSB forces for having allegedly participated
in the boycott. Another unidentified Tibetan fled
toward the mountains and escaped when PSB forces
came to arrest him. Many of the young people in
Kardze region have already been detained for
protesting last year, leaving few capable hands
to do farm work in any case. The exile Tibetan
Government has appealed to the boycotters to resume their farming.

Earlier this month, more small protests were
reported in Kardze, Lithang and Nyarong Counties.
Three teenaged girls protested with leaflets and
freedom slogans on March 11 (previously cited
here), and were arrested by around 50 security
police. On March 12, two boys identified as Sonam
and Dawa Tsering mounted similar protests in
Kardze town. In Nyarong County, three men in
their twenties, identified as Sonam Gonpo, Thok
Thok and Pema Yeshe, were arrested after publicly
setting fire to a pile of documents belonging to local authorities.

Following the solo protest of nun Pema Yangdzom
in Kardze on March 3 (previously reported here),
three more people staged a similar protest the
same afternoon. Rinchen Phuntsok, 15, Tsering
Dakpa, 16, and a monk named Choenyi Gyatso, 18,
were all arrested. In Nyima town in Nagchu
County, Tibetan freedom slogans were written in
bold blue letters across the wall of a government
building. PSB officials suspected monks of Drong
Ngu and Tana monasteries, subsequently rounding
up the monks from these institutions to compare
their handwriting. A manhunt is being conducted to find more suspects.

Similarly, on the night of March 10, a large
number of written slogans affirming Tibet's
independence and calling for the return of the
Dalai Lama were distributed and posted on walls
around Sumdo Monastery in Dzoge County, Ngaba
T-"A"-P. On March 12, a group of Tibetans in
Nyarong County raised freedom slogans,
distributed leaflets, pasted protest letters at
the front of the government office, and raised
the Tibetan national flag at a school. Three men
were reportedly arrested, along with the
inevitable severe beatings — with the PSB
officers breaking one man's leg, according to a
local source. The three were later paraded
through the local market by police, who issued a
cash prize offer for information leading to the other protesters.

On March 6 at around 10 am, nun Lobsang Khandro,
21, of the Gema Dra-wok Nunnery in Kardze County,
staged a solo protest march from the Takchu
Bridge to Kardze government headquarters. The
nunnery is around 16 kilometres distant from the
county seat. She carried pamphlets and other
political literature on Tibet, and some prayer
flags. As she marched, Lobsang shouted such
slogans as "No Freedom in Tibet", "Tibetan People
Rise Up, Rise Up", "Long Live the Dalai Lama" and
"Chinese Authorities Release all Political
Prisoners". Chinese security forces rushed five
police vans to the scene, dishing out a severe
beating to Lobsang before taking her away for
detention. When her friends and relatives
inquired about her with the local police, they
were given the following threat and warning:

"If she has involved in this kind of activity,
there is no other way but to die. She has
committed a serious offense and crime. There is
nothing left for all of you to inquire about her
well-being. Moreover, all of you must not contact
the outside world on this matter."

On March 14, four young Tibetans shouted freedom
slogans in Kardze County. Namsel Dorjee, 28,
Karma Norbu, 17, Rinchen Wangsel, 16, and Sangye
Tsering, 17, were immediately arrested and are
currently locked up in the new detention centre
near the Kardze People's Hospital. Relatives who
attempted to offer them food and clothing were
denied access by PSB authorities, according to
local sources. Jamyang, the father of Karma
Norbu, was arrested last year for participating
in peaceful protests. He remains in prison and is
known to be in poor health. Two other sons of
Jamyang are currently serving three year prison
sentences for protesting Chinese policies.

Ngangrong Tashi Choephel Monastery in Chentsa
County, Malho T-"A"-P (Ch: Qinghai province)
marked March 10 with a Sangsol incense-burning
ceremony. Six young monks were reported to be
detained by Public Security Bureau police. On the
same day, youths from two nearby villages
performed Sangsol in recognition of the fiftieth
National Uprising Day. A number of them are known
to have been arrested, but further information is not yet available.

Most of the Lutsang Monastery monks who were
arrested earlier this month and taken away for
"severe" patriotism re-education have been
released. The monks had held a candlelight
procession and vigil at Mangra County
headquarters on February 25, the first day of
Losar, the Tibetan New Year. Of the 109 monks
taken away for re-grooving, only six — Jamyang
Sherab, Jamyang Ngodup, Jamyang Khenrab, Lungtok,
Lobsang Thabkhey and Kunsang — are still being
held, according to reports received by Voice of
Tibet radio. The six are senior monks involved in
monastic education, and are not part of the
monastery's administration. Chinese authorities
have ordered all monks who originate from outside
Mangra County to leave the monastery and return
to their home areas, and these reportedly
comprise nearly half of the Lutsang monks. Most
of the monks suffered severe beatings as part of
the "re-education" process, with one reported to
have been deafened in one ear as a result of
their instructors' patriotic fervor.

Jigme Gyatso, the 40 year old monk from Labrang
Monastery who assisted Dhondup Wangchen from
October 2007 until March 2008 in filming the
documentary film Leaving Fear Behind, has been
re-arrested from his home in Sangchu County,
Kanlho T-"A"-P (Ch: Gansu province). He had been
arrested on March 23 last year, and was released
under close watch on October 15. Dhondup Wangchen
has remained in Chinese custody since his arrest on March 26, 2008.

Sources told TCHRD that around 4 am in the
morning, around 10 March 2009, the Sangchu County
PSB personnel entered Jigme Gyatso's room and
arrested him without giving any explanation.
Since then there has been no information about his whereabouts.

Another Tibetan named Golok Kunga Tsangyang was
also arrested with Jigme. Both men are described
as writers of "politically sensitive" material.
Jigme Gyatso, also known as "Golog Jigme", is
known to have been severely tortured during his earlier incarceration.

By the way, Leaving Fear Behind was one of the
films shown as part of the March 10 special event
during the just-completed exhibition "Heaven in
Exile" in Jakarta. I was able to attend last
Friday, and took in the film Dreaming Lhasa by
Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam. The venue was
magnificent (the historic old Antara News
building, now converted into a public art space)
and the photo exhibition was very inspiring. Many
thanks to Enrico, Jay, Krish and Yori for their
generosity and great commitment to Tibet's cause.
Heaven in Exile wound up on Saturday night with
the films Wheel of Time and The Cup, and finished
with a Freedom Concert by Indonesian national
recording artists Tony Q and Oppie Andaresta.

A Tibetan civil servant for the Chinese
government, Tashi Dhondup, was arrested on March
12 from his home in Mangra County, Tsolho T-"A"-P
(Ch: Qinghai province). The 27 year old man was
arrested without warrant or explanation after PSB
personnel barged into his home, seizing not only
him but his computer and mobile phone. Tashi
Dhondup had previously served in the People's
Armed Police for three years, and later as a
school teacher in his hometown of Sum-dho. He has
a wife and two young daughters aged five and
three years. Mangra County is the location of
Lutsang Monastery, home of the candle-bearing,
vigil-holding monks mentioned above.

Tashi Dhondup's younger brother, Jinpa Gyatso,
25, had disappeared a few days before Tashi's
arrest. Jinpa was a college student in Xining
City, the capital of Qinghai province.

Sources told TCHRD that the provincial
authorities have deployed a huge contingent of
armed security forces in Sum-dho Townships,
Tharshul and Gomang Townships under Mangra
County. TCHRD also learnt that a huge numbers of
the Chinese security forces and informers in
civilian dress were deployed in the surrounding areas of Mangra County.

A bomb blast was reported last week by the
Chinese state-owned news agencies. The blast
occurred at an unoccupied police station in
Batang County, in western Kardze T-"A"-P in the
early morning hours of March 16. The explosion
shattered windows but no injuries were reported.
A policeman at the Batang Public Security Bureau
told AFP that, "It's not something serious," and
expressed surprise that the incident was reported by state media.

Also last week, the newspaper of China's internal
paramilitary security force, The People's Armed
Police News, reported cryptically on the case of
an allegedly shocking pink suitcase found in
Lhasa's railway station. The find was made
"sometime in early spring" and a check of the
item revealed that it was "packed with TNT
explosives." The size of the case, amount of
explosives, or any other relevant information was
not given. The paper claimed the case was
dismantled by a robot and the explosives
destroyed "in just 14 minutes." It's interesting
that the exact time is given for this task, yet
not even a general time period for the event
itself was given. The whole thing seems rather
questionable, given that The People's Armed
Police News is not known as a reliable source for
news (but neither is Xinhua, for that matter). A
spokesman for the Tibetan "Autonomous" Region,
reached on the phone by Reuters, denied the report.
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