– Dozens of Tibetans imprisoned in Kardze in new wave of demonstrations in the holiest month of the Tibetan calendar
- Monk from Dargye detained in demonstration in Lhasa, already under intense crackdown and closed to tourists in the buildup to further anniversary celebrations
Dozens of Tibetans have been imprisoned in a new wave of protests in Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi) in eastern Tibet despite an already intense crackdown in the region. At least 30 Tibetans, including some senior monks, nuns and laypeople, have been detained in at least 15 separate peaceful demonstrations, calling for freedom, the release of local and respected religious teachers, and for the Dalai Lama to return home. The incidents, carried out with the knowledge that violent reprisals and imprisonment are certain on detention, indicate the strength of Tibetans’ determination to express themselves and protect their cultural and religious identity despite the dangers of doing so. The latest protest was made by two teenage girls yesterday (June 26) in Kardze County town, who were both immediately detained. The father of one of the girls and brother of the other are in prison following the protests of 2008 in the region, according to Voice of Tibet in Oslo, Norway.
The demonstrations took place during the holiest month of the Tibetan calendar, coinciding with Saga Dawa, one of the most important religious festivals celebrated in Tibet, marking the anniversary of the Buddha’s birth, death and enlightenment. During this period it is believed that good deeds and prayers are multiplied, which may have been a motivating factor for the Tibetans who demonstrated.
Demonstration in Lhasa by Dargye monk: first since March 2008
News has just reached ICT of a demonstration last Wednesday (June 22) by two monks in the Barkhor, shouting for freedom and human rights, according to a Tibetan source who spoke to an eyewitness. The two monks shouted slogans including: “We want freedom and human rights in Tibet,” according to the same source. This is the first known demonstration of its kind in Lhasa since 2008, and since then the city has been under lockdown with a climate of fear and tension. One of the monks, who has been identified as 19-year old Tashi Tsewang from Dargye monastery in Dargye (the Tibetan area of Kham), was detained almost immediately and the whereabouts and identity of the other monk are not known. The demonstration occurred despite the rigorous security measures in place in Lhasa, particularly during the ban on foreigners visiting the Tibet Autonomous Region from Saturday (June 25) to July 25. The reasons for the travel ban are not known although it is thought to be linked to upcoming major celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the “peaceful liberation” of Tibet, according to at least one travel agent in the region and other sources. A Tibetan source in contact with Tibetans in Kardze said that the protest may have been sparked by the demonstrations in Kardze this month and repression in the region since 2008.
Tension in Kardze following demonstrations and repression
Repressive measures have been intensified still further following the incidents in Kardze yesterday and earlier this month. A Tibetan in exile who is in contact with Tibetans in the region told ICT: “The current security situation in Kardze is extremely tense, with Kardze County town completely locked down by paramilitary forces who have set up so many checkpoints – there’s one at every road junction. Pedestrians have to show their household registration and their identity cards, as well as a document issued by the local government saying that you have permission to travel from one given place to another, and where you were born and where you are staying.”
On the main day of Saga Dawa, June 15, 37-year old monk Ngawang Lobsang staged a solo demonstration on the main street of Kardze County town in Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province (the Tibetan area of Kham) at around 7 am. He called for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet and threw leaflets into the air. On detention, he was severely beaten by police. Around two hours later, five or six monks and nuns whose identity is not known by ICT staged a similar protest. They were beaten by People’s Armed Police and taken away in a police truck, and their whereabouts are not known. Later in the same day, three nuns from Gyematag Nunnery in Kardze County, named as Jampa Choedon, Shi Lhamo and Yangchen, also staged a protest in the main street, shouting various slogans calling for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet and for religious freedoms. All three were reportedly beaten by police and taken to an unknown location.
Tibetans in Kardze are known for their strong sense of Tibetan identity and nationalism; many Khampas were involved in resistance to the Chinese invasion in 1949-50. Hardline Chinese campaigns against the Dalai Lama and economic policies that have led to the loss of their land and livelihoods as well as the extraction of minerals by Chinese prospectors have caused deep resentment in the region. The recent intensification of restrictions on religious expression, and the requirement to denounce the Dalai Lama, have compounded frustration in the region and appear to have increased the likelihood of Tibetans taking risks to express their discontent.
Protests swept across Kardze in March and April 2008, and continued in 2009. At least eight Tibetans were killed in April 2008 in Tongkor, Kardze, after armed police fired on a crowd of several hundred monks and laypeople following an incident in which monks were detained after they objected to an intensified ‘patriotic education’ campaign, including photographs of the Dalai Lama being thrown to the ground, according to reliable sources.
A rare video of a demonstration by monks in Nyarong (Chinese: Xinlong) County in Kardze Prefecture in 2010, emerged recently and can be seen at: www.savetibet.org/media-center/tibet-news/new-video-tibet-protests. The video depicts three monks protesting in much the same manner as the protests described below in Kardze: the monks, named as Apo Tashi, 22, Tsering Gyaltsen, 19, and Tsering Wangchuk, 22, are seen walking through the streets of Nyarong carrying home-made Tibetan flages, shouting slogans and tossing leaflets into the air. Some passers by follow the protestors and other voices are heard occasionally joining in with the protestors’ shouting.
The Kardze region has been closed to visitors since April 21 when a travel ban was imposed by the authorities following a major crackdown in neighboring Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture. No explanation was given for the ban, and the Chinese authorities have denied to governments that it is in place.
An article in Ganzi Daily published on January 4, 2008, noted that the county’s remote location and “historical reasons” – a reference to Tibetan pro-independence sentiment and loyalty to the Dalai Lama – had made the work of “maintaining public order and safeguarding stability…very arduous.” Kardze, one of 18 counties in the prefecture, has been the site of more known political detentions of Tibetans by Chinese authorities than any other county outside the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) since the current period of Tibetan political activism began in 1987, based on data available in the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) Political Prisoner Database (PPD). (Party, Government Launch New Security Program, Patriotic Education, in Tibetan Area, CECC.
Details of the demonstrations in Kardze this month follow below:
June 6, 2011: Two monks from Kardze Monastery staged a protest along the main street in Kardze County town, holding up a large banner and shouting slogans including demands for the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet and calls for human rights. The monks, Jrimey and Tsewang Tashi, were detained by People’s Armed Police and taken to an unknown location. Their whereabouts remain unknown.
June 7, 2011: Woeser Phuntsog, 31, a monk from Beri Monastery in Kardze County staged a solo protest along the main street in Kardze County town, shouting slogans including “Long Live His Holiness the Dalai Lama” and throwing leaflets and handbills in the air. He was detained by People’s Armed Police and according to ICT’s sources, was taken to a detention facility in the town.
June 10, 2011: Gonyang, 30, a monk from Tsetsang Monastery who is currently studying at Kardze Monastery, staged a solo protest on the main street in Kardze County town, shouting slogans including calls for the release of all political prisoners in Tibet, and reportedly referring to the imprisoned lama Phurbu Rinpoche (also known as Pang Ri Rinpoche) by name. The influential senior monk Phurbu Rinpoche abbot of Pang Ri nunnery in Kardze, Kham, was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison in December 2009 following his arrest shortly after around 80 nuns from Pang Ri held a peaceful protest on May 14, 2008. Gonyang was detained by police, and his whereabouts are not known. According to the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, Gongyang’s brother, Loyang, 23, was detained in May 2008 during a similar wave of protests in the aftermath of the government’s crackdown on the protests that swept Tibet in March 2008, and served a three-year sentence.
In the early evening of the same day, two nuns from Lhamdrak Nunnery in Kardze County, named as Shampa Lhatso, 25, and Ringa, 20, staged a protest by shouting slogans calling for the long life of the Dalai Lama and protesting the lack of religious freedom in Tibet, as well as throwing leaflets in the air. Sources report that police beat the two nuns at the scene before loading them into a vehicle. Their current whereabouts and condition are not known.
June 11, 2011: The Deputy Discipline Master of Beri Monastery in Kardze County, named as Pema Tsering, staged a solo protest in Kardze, shouting slogans on Tibetan independence and calls for the return of the Dalai Lama, before being detained by armed police.
Also on June 11, a monk named as Rinchen from Khangmar Monastery in Kardze County staged a protest on the main street in Kardze County town, shouting slogans in support of the Dalai Lama and calling for Tibetan independence. Police arrived on the scene immediately and took him away to an unknown destination.
June 12, 2011: Three nuns, named as Yeshe Lhatso, 27, Choeyang, 22, and Penpa Lhamo, 22, from Nyinmo Nunnery in Kardze County, staged a protest on the main street in Kardze County town. Sources report that the three women shouted slogans for around half an hour before being detained by People’s Armed Police. Nuns have led many of the protests in Kardze since protests swept across Tibet from March 10, 2008, onwards.
Later that same day, an unidentified monk also staged a lone protest in Kardze County town, reportedly shouting slogans calling for Tibetan independence. ICT sources say he was severely beaten by police at the scene before being driven away in a police vehicle. His current condition and whereabouts are not known.
Another protestor, a female layperson named as Tenzin Lhatso, also protested on the same days in Kardze County town, shouting slogans calling for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet before being beaten by police and driven away to an unknown location. According to ICT’s sources, Tenzin Lhatso was born in 1984, and her parents are called Duldrel and Wangmo.
June 13, 2011: Two nuns, named as Namgyal Lhamo and Tashi Choedun, staged a protest along the main street in Kardze County town by shouting slogans against China’s rule of Tibet. Police reportedly arrived at the scene immediately and severely beat the two before taking them away to an unknown destination.
June 15, 2011: At around 7.00 in the morning, a monk from Tragye Monastery, named as Ngawang Lobsang, 37, staged a protest along main street in Kardze County town by shouting slogans calling for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet and throwing leaflets into the air. He was reportedly severely beaten by police, who took him to an unknown location.
According to witnesses, around one and a half hours after Ngawang Lobsang was detained, around five or six unidentified monks and nuns staged a similar protest in the same area before a People’s Armed Police truck arrived at the scene and the protestors were beaten and loaded onto the truck.
Later that same day, three nuns from Gyematag Nunnery in Kardze County, named as Shampa Choedon, Shi Lhamo and Yangchen, staged a protest along the main street in Kardze County town, shouting various slogans calling for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet and for religious freedoms. All three were reportedly beaten by police and driven away to an unknown location.
June 18, 2011: According to the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, three nuns from Nyagae Nunnery in Kardze County named as Lobsang Yangtso, Lobsang Khando and Thinley Dolma, staged a protest in the market area of Kardze County town, shouting slogans calling for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet and for religious freedom. All three were immediately detained by police and their current whereabouts are unknown.
June 19, 2011: According to the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, two unidentified nuns and an unidentified older woman staged a protest in the market area of Kardze.
June 26, 2011: According to the Oslo, Norway-based radio station Voice of Tibet, two young Tibetan women named as Dheyang, 18, and Bomo, 17, staged a protest on June 26 in Kardze County town by shouting slogans including “Tibet is independent,” “Long live the Dalai Lama,” and “Permit the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet,” and by throwing leaflets in the air. Both were detained by People’s Armed Police. According to Voice of Tibet, Bomo’s father, Taghu, was sentenced to six years in prison for participating in the protests of 2008, and is currently serving his sentence in Mianyang Prison in Chengdu; and Taghu’s brother, named as Khadro, was sentenced to seven years, and is now incapacitated following prolonged beatings and torture by police.