Updates on Tibet

As communication becomes more difficult with people living inside Tibet, cell phone conversations with family and friends overseas and second-hand accounts continue to describe events. For security reasons, we do not identify some of our sources by name in order to protect them from retaliation.

Armed paramilitary police are paraded by the truckload along the streets of Lijiang, south of Shangrila on March 24, 2008 in southwest China's Yunnan province. AFP
A caller from Tashiling (in Chinese, Lixian) county in Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan, June 11, 2008:

“Historically, this area was a busy trading town on the border between Tibet and China. Many Tibetan homes were destroyed [in the earthquake], and many people are now living in tents. Even Gyalrong monastery in Tashiling was damaged. They are planning to rebuild it but face several obstacles at present. Many Tibetans were crushed by falling houses. Many Tibetans died in Tashiling itself. I personally saw many Tibetans lying dead in the rubble of Tashiling.”

“The earthquake was very strong and sudden. It shook houses in the area, and several houses crumbled and fell. I did not see all the areas affected by the earthquake, but I learned that a total of a hundred people died in Tashiling, most of them Tibetans and Chang.  I saw one Tibetan who was killed. He had gone to save his grandchild, and a stone fell from the house and hit his head. Later, when he was taken to the hospital, he was pronounced dead. His name was Amtso, and he was about 47.”

“Heavy rains followed the earthquake, and several Tibetans were forced to stay out in the rain, while others had tents or had improvised shelter of some kind. Because most rescue operations were focused on Wenchuan, no outside rescue teams arrived in Lixian. Local county officials warned residents to stay outside, and not indoors. Rescue teams arrived only on May 13 or 14 and not earlier.”

“At present, the Tibetans in Tashiling face severe problems because of lack of shelter. They lost their houses in the earthquake, and many Tibetans have no funds to rebuild their homes. Food is not a major problem, since many Tibetans in the area are farmers. The Chinese government is providing one kilogram of rice and 10 yuan for each member of every family. Even now, there are tremors on a scale of about 4-5, and seismologists are predicting further tremors like this over the next few months. So the local citizens are frightened and are living in tents. No one goes near their houses. The government is promising about 30 percent of the cost [to rebuild], but each family has to spend at least 70 percent of the total cost themselves.”

“[News programs] have talked about donations of money being made by Tibetans in exile. Some also said that Tibetans living outside Tibet have been conducting prayers for their countrymen inside Tibet, and this made Tibetans in Tibet very happy—especially those in Tashiling.”

A contact in India, citing sources in Tibet, June 11, 2008:

“About five Tibetans are known to have been killed in the earthquake in Wenchuan. Most of the Tibetans in Wenchuan are students. A smaller group of Tibetans there are farmers.”

“About three Tibetans are reported to have been killed in the earthquake in Thewo [in Chinese, Diebu] county, and six were killed in Machu [in Chinese, Maqu] in the Kanlho [in Chinese, Gannan] Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, but details are not available. Three Tibetans are known to have died in Danba [in Tibetan, Rongtrag] county in the Kardze [in Chinese, Ganzi] Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.”

A Tibetan man in Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan, June 12, 2008:

“There was series of protests in Kardze on June 10, 11, and 12. On the 12th, a young Tibetan named Palden Wangyal, 20, protested in the center of Kardze town. He tied a white scarf on his head and held a Tibetan flag in his hand. He managed to walk in protest for about two kilometers before he was seized and detained by the police. Since March 18, over a hundred Tibetans who protested in Kardze town have been detained. Only half of them are [still] detained in Kardze. The rest have been scattered throughout other counties like Nyagrong, Dartsedo, and so on.”

A Tibetan man in Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan, June 11, 2008:

“A woman, Namsel Lhamo, 30, from Raka village; a man, Tenzin Thargyal, 32; and another man whose name is unknown protested at the crossroads of Kardze town on June 11 at around 10:00 a.m. A boy and a monk from Lhoba village also protested on the same day. All five were severely beaten and taken away to be detained. Afterward, some local officials raided Namsel Lhamo’s home and took away photos of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, which they smashed on the floor. At that time, Namsel Lhamo’s brother Pema Gyatso, 30, drew his sword. The officials fled from the house, and shortly afterward about 200 Chinese Public Security Bureau police arrived to arrest him. Meanwhile, Pema Gyatso managed to escape into the mountains. The Chinese officials are now giving the rest of the family, including the elderly parents and young children, a hard time.”

A Tibetan man doing business in Ngari (in Chinese, Ali) Prefecture, TAR, June 3, 2008:

“Chinese helicopters are flying over the Ngari area on an almost daily basis, and convoys of military trucks are on display in the main towns of the prefecture. Local Tibetans see these activities as a show of force meant to threaten and intimidate them.”

“Chinese authorities have ordered all Tibetan families in the area to send one member from each family to serve in the local Chinese militia. All those conscripted into the militia are being trained at a place called Tashi Gang in Ngari. They are forced to wear uniforms issued by the Chinese.”

“The police have warned Tibetans not to provide information about the local situation to outsiders. Anyone caught doing this will face severe punishment.”

A Tibetan woman, 79, in Draggo (in Chinese, Luhuo) County, Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan, June 3, 2008:

“The ‘patriotic education’ campaign has been vigorously enforced in Tibetan areas and monasteries in the Draggo area during the past few days. On May 31, the Chinese authorities convened a meeting in a town close to Chogri monastery in Draggo and tried to force people to denounce the Dalai Lama. Many poor Tibetans were offered large sums of money to condemn the Dalai Lama and oppose Tibetan independence. The Chinese seem to be placing great importance on these criticisms of the Dalai Lama.”

“I am 79 years old, and I have never before seen or heard of monetary incentives for condemning the Dalai Lama. Those Tibetans who would not criticize the Dalai Lama were threatened with expulsion from the area. The Chinese officials claimed that all the land belongs to China, and that anyone refusing to comply with the patriotic education campaign or refusing to sign [the condemnations of the Dalai Lama] was free to go to India or any other place.”

“I heard that some poor families signed, but 90 percent of the Tibetans there refused to sign the criticisms of the Dalai Lama, even under threat of confiscation of their land and homes.”

A Tibetan caller from India, citing his own sources in Tibet, May 5, 2008:

“Choedrub, from the Hongkor monastery in the Golog [in Chinese, Guoluo] Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, was shot on April 28 by Chinese security forces. He had been involved in earlier protests and had gone into hiding. After he returned to his home to collect food some time toward the end of April, Chinese police surrounded the house and killed him. On May 4, we learned that Wangdrol, Choedrub’s mother, was also shot and had two bullet wounds. Both parents, a sister, three brothers, and an incarnate Rinpoche from the same family were detained.”

“Only two younger members of the family are left behind. Choedrub’s father was shackled and brought to see the body of his son. Chinese officials have declared that all the family’s property will now be seized by the government.”

A Tibetan caller in Wisconsin, citing his own sources in Tibet, May 3, 2008:

“Konchog Dondrub, aged between 26 and 30, was recently detained in Lhasa. He was from the town of Thayi in Markham county in the Chamdo [in Chinese, Changdu] Prefecture [of the Tibet Autonomous Region]. He was detained along with two other monks, named Tashi Gyaltsen and Choedrub Norbu. Chinese officials had issued a wanted notice for Konchog Dondrub in the local newspapers and on television, offering a reward of 22,000 yuan to anyone providing information leading to his capture.

“[Konchog Dondrub] was suspected of being an active participant in the March demonstrations and unrest in Lhasa, and had disappeared for a long time. However, some time toward the end of April, he was detained at the residence of two monks from the Gyuto school at Ramoche monastery in Lhasa. Those two monks, who were also detained,  were Tashi Gyaltsen and Choedrub Norbu. They will be charged with the same crime as Konchog Dondrub because they sheltered him.”

A Tibetan caller, a former Chinese government worker now living in Europe and citing his own sources in Tibet, May 1, 2008:

“A second version of the Olympic torch, which can stay alight in high altitudes, is going to be taken to the summit of Mount Everest. To ensure security, three additional military companies [note: this may refer either to regular PLA troops or to the paramilitary People’s Armed Police] were added to the two already stationed in the area of the Dram Friendship Bridge … Another five to six companies have been deployed between Shigatse and Dingri. Roughly, there is one soldier for every 50 meters in this area. I also heard the security is really tight in the Dingri area, where there are many Tibetans who have retired from the Chinese army and the police and so on. These restrictions are meant to stop any kind of protest when the Olympic torch passes through Dingri. What is worse is that Chinese soldiers are being allowed to enter the Nepalese side of Mount Everest because of pressure from China.”

“In Lhasa, the restrictions are the same as those that were imposed during the Cultural Revolution. These began about a week ago. We have to report any visitor to the Lhasa Municipal Committee. The authorities also go from house to house and check for residence permits. Only those Tibetans who were born and brought up in the Lhasa area are entitled to these. Any Tibetan without a permit is taken away and detained for no reason. Unfortunately, the Chinese do not need these permits. These are all precautions to prevent any untoward incidents when the Olympic torch is paraded in front of the Potala Palace.”

“If any Tibetan comes to Lhasa for business or trade, his host has to vouch for his guest, providing details of all relations and contacts and length of stay. No Tibetan [from outside Lhasa] is allowed to remain there for more than ten days. No one is allowed to stay there on pilgrimage, and all the holy sites are closed. I heard that they are going to allow only one Tibetan from each family to witness the Olympic torch ceremony in front of the Potala Palace.”

“It was announced in Lhasa that the ceremony of relaying the Olympic torch through Lhasa will be delayed for four to ten days. Weather conditions in the Mount Everest area are the official reason, but I have learned from a reliable source that real reason could be incomplete preparations by the Chinese troops [note: it is unclear here whether this refers to the regular army or to armed police]. To cover the presence of such a large force in Tibet, Chinese troops are being dressed in civilian uniforms with blue hats and red hats. The Chinese are also worried about possible collusion between Uyghur Muslims and Tibetans in the Ngari area in the northwest part of Tibet. Several thousand regular army troops are deployed in Lhasa and in other areas where the Olympic torch will be relayed. For two consecutive nights, trains coming from China were loaded with armored carriers and tanks, and the area just below Drepung monastery is packed with soldiers. Tibetans who are Communist Party members are being subjected to intense political education. Chinese security officials disguised as government workers participate in these classes, but their real job is to secretly monitor Tibetan officials for their loyalty.”

A caller from Kardze, April 23, 2008:

“On April 23 at around 1:00 p.m., two nuns protested in the Kardze town center. Their names are Bumo Lhaga, age 32, and Sonam Dechen, age 30, and they come from the Drakar nunnery in Kardze [in Chinese, Ganzi] county [in the Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Sichuan province]. They began by distributing hand-written flyers calling for the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet and saying that Tibet is independent. Chinese security officers saw the flyers and began to collect them, demanding to know who had distributed them.”

“Then, the nuns were observed on a street corner shouting slogans calling for the return of the Dalai Lama and for freedom for Tibetans. They were quickly detained and taken away in a police vehicle. Even while being taken away, they continued to shout. They were taken to the Kardze detention center in the town, but no one knows whether they will be held at that same place or taken somewhere else. The nuns declared in their flyers that they were acting on their own and that the Drakar nunnery was not involved in their protest.”

An official at the Kardze Public Security Bureau Office:

“No nuns were arrested. I don’t know.”

“Around March 13 or 14, a group of 40 Tibetans from the Amdo Dzoege Shamey area [in Sichuan province] were detained for no apparent reason while they were in Lhasa during the unrest. They were not involved in the protests, but they were detained for two days. All of them had come to Lhasa to visit holy places. They were a group of 17 monks and 23 laypersons of all ages. The youngest was about seven, and the oldest was in his 80's. While they were detained in Lhasa, the Chinese police beat up one layman named Sonam Rinchen. Later, he was taken away, and no one heard anything more about him. The remaining 17 monks and 22 laypersons were taken to Chengdu, in Sichuan, and detained there for almost a month. On April 10, the 22 laypeople from the group were released. The 17 monks remain under detention. The laypeople who were released told many stories of beatings and torture. They were fed on fruit and hot water.”—Tibetan monk in India, citing contacts in the Amdo Dzoege Shamey area in Sichuan, April 11, 2008

 In Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) county, there is an Institute called the Amdo Ngaba Buddhist School of Dialectics. On March 30, I heard that many monks there were detained and taken away. Many ordinary Tibetans were also detained in that area. In the same county, there is a monastery called Amdo Ngaba Gomang. Sixteen monks were detained from there alone. Many police came to that monastery and searched everywhere, including the monks' quarters.

Amdo Atob monastery was also raided. Seventeen monks were detained there and taken away, and no one knows where they were taken. Many plainclothes officials and police also came to Tatsang Lama Kirti monastery in Dzoege (in Chinese, Ruo'ergai) county, detained 17 monks, and took them to a local detention center. Under current restrictions of movement, both monks and ordinary Tibetans who need medical attention are not receiving any treatment. Even before the recent unrest, medical facilities were rare. Now, those who have been injured in the crackdown are afraid to go for treatment. Shortages of food are severe, and Tibetans are not allowed to move around to procure their daily needs.

As of March 29, over 500 monks have been taken away from the Kirti monastery in Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba). Several hundred armed police raided and searched the Kirti monastery, including the monks' quarters. They found several photographs of the Dalai Lama which they smashed and ground under their feet … Many ordinary Tibetans are also being detained. About 30 lay Tibetans were put into a police truck and paraded in the local town.

-- Tibetan source in India, speaking with RFA's Tibetan service and citing his own sources in Tibet, March 31, 2008

After the announcement was made [that reporters could travel on Thursday to Lhasa], we tried like mad to get more information from the Foreign Ministry and the State Council's information office. They said only a certain number of people could go, that there was only a limited number of slots. None of the major television media outlets were selected. The only exceptions were AP television, which only provides video footage without actual reporting, and Al Jazeera Arabic. Al Jazeera English was not invited. The selection was most likely based on certain considerations … There was a protest today [during the visit]. I think a second such tour may be difficult.

-- Journalist working in Beijing for a Western television station, speaking with RFA's Mandarin service, March 27, 2008

On March 25, at the Trehor Draggo monastery [Ganzi/Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture], the monks were planning to rise up and protest, but could not at first find anyone to lead them. Then, during a special prayer session organized for those who had been killed in the Chinese crackdown in the Kardze area, they decided to go ahead with the protest.

About 300 monks came out wearing the full dress of ordained monks and carrying pictures of the Dalai Lama, and marched peacefully toward the Draggo county center, not far from the monastery. A group of local police, mainly Tibetans, warned the monks to stop and return to the monastery, but the monks booed them and shouted that they should be ashamed to work for the Chinese government. The Tibetan policemen then persuaded some Chinese policemen, who had raised their weapons, to put down their guns.

So, under this pressure, the Tibetan police allowed the monks to move toward the county center. There, the monks shouted slogans calling for the long life of the Dalai Lama and demanding that he be allowed to return to Tibet, demanding the release of the Panchen Lama, and demanding that Tibetans be allowed religious freedom and human rights. Other Tibetans joined them at the county center. Armed police then arrived and tried to remove the monks, but the monks stayed in groups holding on to each other and did not allow anyone to be taken away.

The monks then marched back to the monastery and continued their protests. At one point, shots were fired, but the monks dodged the bullets by lying flat on the ground and declared that they would not respond with violence, though some of them damaged Chinese government vehicles on the way back. The monastery has now been surrounded by the People's Armed Police, and the monks have all been ordered to leave.

-- Tibetan sources in India, speaking to RFA reporters, March 26, 2008

'With just one phone call, we can finish you.’

In the Chabcha area of Amdo [Hainan/Tsolho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture], there is a small monastery called Atso. I am from this monastery.

On March 22, at around 11:15 a.m., the monks there began to protest. They put up Tibetan flags and gathered on the hilltop just behind the monastery, where they burned incense. They raised slogans like 'Freedom for Tibet!,' 'Long Live the Dalai Lama!,' and 'Release the Panchen Lama!'

There are about 100 monks in the monastery.

After these protests in the surroundings of the monastery, the monks all walked to the township center, not very far away. There, they pulled down the Chinese flag at the local government school and burned it. Then they returned to the monastery and continued their protest. Three trucks full of police then arrived, and the head of the police threatened the monks with 'serious consequences' if they continued their protest. He told them that 'with just one phone call, we can finish you.'

The monks shouted back that they can no longer bear Chinese repression and that they are ready to sacrifice their lives. The head lama and young Rinpoche of the monastery then calmed the monks down.

So far there have been no incidents of detentions or shootings in the area.

The local population also gathered and tried to join the monks, but was blocked by the Chinese in two different locations.

-- Monk at Drepung monastery in India, speaking with RFA's Tibetan service and citing his own sources in Tibet, March 24, 2008

No one has lost their life so far

On March 18, over 1,000 monks and local Tibetans protested in the area of Sangchu county [Gannan/Kanlho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture].

They marched to the county government center and raised the slogans 'Long Live the Dalai Lama!,' 'Freedom for Tibet!,' and 'Release the Panchen Lama!' They also called on the Chinese leadership to begin a dialogue with the Dalai Lama and demanded that the Dalai Lama be allowed to visit Tibet.

They then went to the local government school, pulled down the Chinese flag, and replaced it with the Tibetan flag. No security forces arrived on that day.

However, on March 21 at around 7:00 p.m., armed Chinese security forces arrived at the monastery and detained four monks and three laypeople.

Another four monks were detained at another monastery. Over 20 Tibetans were finally detained. They even detained some teenaged monks who were reading scriptures.

No one has lost their life so far … Some of those detained are Targyal (age 43), Choepel (age 42), Kalsang Tenzin (age 40), Jamyang (age 32), Sangye Gyatso (age 13), Tashi Gyatso (age 14), Kalsang Sonam (age 16), Kalsang Dondrub (age 17), Kalsang Tenzin (age 16), Choedrub (age 30), Damchoe (age 29). Those detained at the other monastery are Tenzin (age 27), Tenpa Gyatso (age 37), Zoepa (age unknown), and Kalsang Sherab (age 19).

-- Monk at Drepung monastery in India, speaking with RFA's Tibetan service and citing his own sources in Tibet, March 23, 2008

Helicopters flying over Ngaba

they are flying over the local monastery and the Tibetan areas and are frightening the local Tibetans …

On March 23, Tibetans in the Amdo Ngaba [Aba/Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture] area saw helicopters hovering very low over them.

This could be intended to threaten the local Tibetans. In the past, there were no incidents of helicopters flying over Ngaba, but now they are flying over the local monastery and the Tibetan areas and are frightening the local Tibetans …

Two days ago, on March 21, local Chinese leaders entered Kirti monastery and conducted re-education sessions with the monks. While conducting these sessions, the officials did not insist on condemning the Dalai Lama. Instead, they tried to persuade the monks that what they had done [in earlier protests] was wrong and 'not helpful.'

Some local Tibetans and monks tried to bring food to the monks being held inside Kirti monastery, but security forces stopped them. The monks inside Kirti monastery are facing a severe shortage of food, and the main roads leading to the Ngaba county centers are blocked by the People's Armed Police. So both monks and laypeople are facing shortages of food, and if they become desperate they may rise again.

Chinese officials are trying to entice local Tibetans to inform on persons involved in the protests, saying that first informers will be rewarded with unlimited money, while second informers will receive 5,000 yuan, and so on.

Many ordinary Tibetans are being detained. On average, one member of each Tibetan family is being taken away for interrogation and detention. The Chinese officials are displaying photographs and asking people to identify the persons shown in them.

-- Monk at Dharamsala, India, branch of Kirti monastery, speaking with RFA's Tibetan service and citing sources in Tibet, March 23, 2008

One person from each family is being taken away

Following the demonstration in the Penpo area [near Lhasa] on March 14 and 15, five monks were detained.

Later, over 3,000 Tibetans--monks from the Penpo Ganden Choekor monastery and other monasteries and nunneries as well as laypeople--joined the demonstrations and demanded the release of those who had been detained earlier.

A Tibetan youth was killed during the demonstration and crackdown, though the cause of his death is still unclear.

Now, Penpo Ganden Choekor monastery is surrounded by Chinese security forces. There were 90 monks there, and except for three elderly monks, all were detained and taken away. Altogether, 160 Tibetans are confirmed to have been detained. The total number could be much higher.

In fact, my source told me that one person from each family is being taken away. They were threatened with 'serious consequences' if they call or talk with outside contacts, so they are afraid to give detailed information.

--Exiled Tibetan, formerly from Penpo, speaking with RFA's Tibetan service and citing sources in Tibet, March 23, 2008

Original reporting in Tibetan

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