Five Protesting Tibetans Held on 'Uprising Day'

2013-03-10
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A Tibetan activist participates in a candlelight vigil to mark "Uprising Day" in India's Hyderabad city, March 10, 2013.
AFP

Updated at 12:15 a.m. EST on 2013-03-11

Chinese police detained five Tibetans, including three monks, in Sichuan province after they protested Sunday on the anniversary of the failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule and called for the return of Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, sources said.

The "Uprising Day" anniversary was also marked by protests by Tibetans in various cities in the world, including in India's Dharamsala, where police prevented a Tibetan man from setting himself on fire to protest Chinese rule in Tibetan-populated areas.

In China's close ally Nepal's capital Kathmandu, 18 people, mostly Tibetans, were held by the government on suspicion of "anti-China activities."

The detention of the five Tibetans in Sichuan's Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture came as Chinese authorities stepped up security in the run-up to Uprising Day and following the 107 Tibetan self-immolation protests that have occurred so far.

The self-immolators had mostly questioned Chinese rule and called for the return of the Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet after the failed national revolt against Chinese occupation in 1959.

Carrying a white banner with the photo of the Dalai Lama, the three monks in Kardze called for freedom and democracy in their protests just before noon in Sershul (in Chinese, Shiqu) county, sources inside Tibet told RFA's Tibetan Service.

As the monks—identified as Lobsang Samten, Sonam Namgyal, and Thubten Geleg from the Mang Ge monastery—were detained, two Tibetan laymen shouted at the Chinese police and the duo were also taken away, the source said.

The two laymen were identified as Lobsang Kalsang, 17, and Ngawang Gyatso, 41. Both of them were former monks.

"Those three monks protested for quite some time in the county center before police took them away," the source said.

The fate of the five were not known as communication links were cut off immediately after the detention, the sources said.

Message

In a message on Uprising Day, the Tibetan government in exile based in India's hill town Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama lives, called on Beijing to end "the grave situation" in Tibet and asked the international community to press the Chinese government to enter into meaningful dialogue with the Tibetan leadership.

"The only way to end this brutal and grave situation is for China to change its current hard line Tibet policy by respecting the aspirations of the Tibetan people," said Lobsang Sangay, the political leader of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the official name of the exile government.

"The yearning for freedom that moved our elders to undertake the epochal events of March 10, 1959 is a beacon that guides our present-day struggle to secure our basic freedom, dignity and identity," Sangay said.

He said that recent attempts by the Chinese authorities to criminalize the Tibetan self-immolators and persecute their family members and friends through "sham trials" are likely "to prolong the cycle of self-immolation, persecution, and more immolation."

Thousands of Tibetans and supporters held protests in the streets of Sydney, Tokyo, New Delhi, Paris, Toronto and other cities to mark Uprising Day, the Students for a Free Tibet group said in a statement.

"Today, we commemorate the historic uprising of 1959 when Tibetans—armed with only the will and determination to fight for their country—resolutely rose up against China's invading forces to protect the life of the Dalai Lama and to ensure his successful escape into exile," the group's executive director, Tenzin Dorjee, said.

In Dharamsala, Indian police prevented a Tibetan man from setting himself on fire as Tibetan exiles gathered to mark the anniversary, officials said, Agence France-Presse reported.

Dawa Dhondup, 30, was marching with hundreds of Tibetan exiles, when he consumed and poured gasoline over himself, police constable Sanjeev Kumar said. Police stopped him from setting himself on fire and took him to a hospital.

Nepal arrests

In Kathmandu, Nepalese police arrested 18 people, most of them Tibetans, on suspicion of "anti-China activities," police spokesman Uttam Subedi told AFP, saying all but three had been released on the same day.

Nepal, home to around 20,000 Tibetans, is under intense pressure from Beijing over the exiles, and has repeatedly said it will not tolerate what it calls "anti-China activities."

On February 13, a Tibetan monk doused himself in petrol in a Kathmandu restaurant and set himself on fire.

In Taiwan, hundreds of slogan-chanting Tibetan activists and their Taiwanese sympathizers marched peacefully through the capital in protest at Chinese rule of Tibet.

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

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story gave incorrect spellings for county names and the names of detained protesters.