Police in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamsala have stepped up security around a Buddhist temple after a Chinese woman attacked a Tibetan lawmaker and tried to destroy photographs in an exhibition.
Some 20 police officers were dispatched to the scene near the Tsuklakhang temple in the town, which is the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile, on Sunday, eyewitnesses told RFA.
The unidentified Chinese woman, whom local Tibetan media later identified as a U.S. passport-holder named Zhu Wenqi, grabbed the face of the movement's president, Tibetan lawmaker-in-exile Lhagyari Namgyal Dolkar, she said in comments e-mailed to RFA.
The attacker also used scissors to damage photos at an exhibition run by Tibetan rights activists of the non-governmental Gu-Chu-Sum Political Prisoners' Movement of Tibet that was held to "commemorate 30 years of non-violent struggle by Tibetan people in Lhasa."
"She suddenly came to the event, and besides assaulting a VOA Tibetan videographer for filming, she took down some of the pictures, saying that those are old and fake pictures, and asked why we are displaying them," Lhagyari Namgyal Dolkar told RFA's Tibetan Service.
"She grabbed a photo, crumbling and destroying it and refused to let it go. She was enraged, and arrogant, and she didn’t listen to any explanations at the time. We were concerned that she might use the scissors to attack one of us," she told RFA.
The encounter became a shouting match that went viral on Tibet-focused websites and social media.
The MP said it was unclear whether the woman was acting of her own volition, or under orders from someone else.
"Nonetheless, this is definitely a very serious warning signal," Lhagyari Namgyal Dolkar wrote. "The most frightening thing was that this woman was using His Holiness the Dalai Lama's name, and claiming to be one of his followers."
Former movement director Lukar Jam Atsock told RFA: "Suddenly, this unidentified lady came and started pulling at the photographs, saying that they are false."
"Lhagyari Namgyal Dolkar of the Gu-Chu-Sum Movement tried to explain them to her but she didn't listen."
"It's hard to say whether she was put up to this by someone, but if you have a political point to make, then you have to give evidence and talk about it," he said.
Views colored by Chinese propaganda
He said many Chinese people have only received the official propaganda on Tibet put out by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
"These people's ideological viewpoint is the result of the completely one-sided tyranny of the Chinese Communist Party," he said. "It seems they can't see what's been going on in Tibet for the past 87 years."
Very little information, photos or footage made it out of Lhasa at the time of the bloody suppression of pro-independence protests in the city on Oct. 1, 1987, with Western media quoting extensively from the Chinese state media version of events.
Six people were reported dead after Chinese police fired on Tibetan pro-independence protesters outside Jokhang Temple in Lhasa. The New York Times reported that demonstrators had thrown stones at police and set fire to a police station.
Tibetan poet and author Tsering Woeser said via her Twitter account that the woman was "a fishwife created by the current dynasty," in a satirical reference to the Chinese Communist Party.
"She concealed sharp scissors on her person outside a temple where His Holiness the Dalai Lama was teaching the dharma," Woeser wrote. "She wielded the scissors to destroy a suppressed photographic record of a 1987 protest in Lhasa, shouting that it was fake, and that Tibetans have 'no compassion'."
"She hit out at a security camera, hitting the lens, and slapped and grabbed an exiled Tibetan who tried to reason with her," she said. "She also uttered a stream of filth at some Hong Kong Buddhists who went there to study the dharma, who tried to reason with her."
The Tibet Express, which identified the woman as Zhu Wenqi, said concerned Tibetans reported the incident to Indian authorities. Zhu was interrogated by Indian police and is now barred from attending any religious teachings of the Dalai Lama, the newspaper said.
U.S.-based democracy activist Rose Tang said the woman could be in the pay of the Chinese government.
"Her behavior had a different quality to it than the usual rude Chinese tourist overseas," Tang said. "She was going after photos of the bloody suppression of Tibetan demonstrations by the People's Liberation Army and police in Lhasa on Oct. 1, 1987.
"We can't rule out the possibility that she was hired by the Communist Party as a 50-center, nationalist or spy," she said. "She is out to create trouble and create misunderstanding and even hatred between the Tibetans and the Chinese."
Tang, who has traveled to Dharamsala twice in recent years, said growing numbers of Chinese people are finding out about Tibetan Buddhism and the uncensored history of Tibet under Communist Party rule via exiled Tibetans in India.
In February 2016, Chinese state media lambasted Hong Kong singer and actress Faye Wong and actor Tony Leung after they sat close to two key figures in the Dalai Lama's entourage during a Tibetan Buddhist event in India.
Reported by Ng Yik-tung and Sing Man for RFA's Cantonese Service, and Sangay Dorjee for the Tibetan Service. Tibetan translation by Dorjee Damdul. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.