Tibetans Resisting Chinese Flag Campaign Destroy Flagpole Stands

2013-11-13
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Chinese flags fly at a monastery in Chamdo in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

Updated at 11:15 EST on 2013/11/13

Tibetans have destroyed flagpole stands erected to hoist Chinese flags in a restive county in Sichuan province as part of a growing campaign opposing forced displays of loyalty to the Chinese state, according to sources.

The Chinese authorities had set up the flag stands in newly built community halls in several villages in Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) county in the Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture but the Tibetans have repeatedly demolished them, the sources said.

In some villages in Dongkhor township, "the flag stands were demolished two or three times after Chinese government personnel came and rebuilt them" to press a campaign of forced displays of loyalty to the Chinese state and the ruling Chinese Communist Party, a Tibetan living in exile in South India with contacts in the township told RFA's Tibetan Service.

Aside from Kardze in Sichuan province, residents in at least two Tibetan-populated counties in Qinghai province have in the past refused Beijing's order to fly the Chinese flag.  

In the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), residents of one county had taken Chinese flags distributed for display and dumped them in a river, prompting a security crackdown in which Chinese police fired into unarmed crowds.

Acts of defiance

In the latest acts of defiance, Tibetans in Dongkhor township villages opposed a directive by local authorities to fly the national flag on community centers built with government funds, the exile source said.

"The officials made arrangements to fly the flags and even built concrete stands for the flags," the source said.

"In some villages, the flag stands were demolished two or three times. The Chinese government personnel came again and rebuilt the flag stands," the source explained.

Sources said that the local villages were also forced to watch over the flags stands and sign documents assuring the safety of the structures.

Meetings and orders

Last week in Kardze county, officials in Dongkhor township had called meetings in area villages to urge local residents to fly the flag.

“However, Tibetans attending the meetings strongly objected to the idea, arguing that Tibetan houses in the area had never flown Chinese flags in the past,”  a local resident had told RFA.

Officials countered by saying that people in other areas had already agreed to fly the flag, adding that compliance in those places had resulted in “generous government assistance.” 

Also last week In Dzatoe (Zaduo) county in Qinghai province’s Yulshul (Yushu) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture where there had been protests against Chinese mining operations, officials also issued orders to Tibetan homes and monasteries to fly the Chinese flag but no one had yet obeyed the order, a local source said.

The families of government employees and recipients of government assistance have been told to take the lead in flying the flags, he said.

On Oct. 15, residents of a Tibetan township in Qinghai’s Chentsa (Jianzha) county also refused demands to hoist the Chinese flag.

Driru shootings

The move followed weeks of protests in Driru (Biru) county in the TAR’s Nagchu (Naqu) prefecture earlier in the month in which Tibetan villagers refused to fly Chinese flags from their homes, throwing them instead into a river and prompting a deadly security crackdown.

Shootings in Driru’s Sengthang and Trinring villages on Oct. 8 left four dead and at least 50 injured, sources said.

Earlier, on Oct. 6, security forces shot and wounded at least 60 Driru-area Tibetans demanding the release of a villager who had led protests against Chinese orders to hoist the flags.

Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.

A total of 123 Tibetans have also set themselves ablaze in self-immolation protests calling for Tibetan freedom in China, with another six setting fire to themselves in India and Nepal.

Reported by Pema Ngodup for RFA's Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect spelling for Dongkhor.