The nuns, identified as Bumo Lhaga, 32, and Sonam Dekyi, 30, belong to the Drakar nunnery in Kardze [in Chinese, Ganzi] prefecture, Sichuan province. On April 23, around 1 p.m., they handed out leaflets in Kardze town center calling for the return of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, the sources told RFA's Tibetan service.
"They began by distributing handwritten 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," one source said.
"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," the source said.
Sonam Dekyi's mother, contacted by phone on April 26, said her daughter was fully aware of the risks involved in staging such a demonstration, six weeks after the largest and most violent anti-Chinese protests in Tibet in almost five decades.‘No regrets’
My daughter, Sonam Dekyi, fulfilled her purpose in life, she made her own decision to protest, knowing fully the risk and danger that she would face. I am not worried at all. If she doesn't survive Chinese torture, I have no regrets...As His Holiness wished, she protested peacefully and didn't resort to any kind of violence.
Sonam Dekyi's mother
"My daughter, Sonam Dekyi, fulfilled her purpose in life," her mother said. "She made her own decision to protest, knowing fully the risk and danger that she would face. I am not worried at all. If she doesn't survive Chinese torture, I have no regrets...As His Holiness wished, she protested peacefully and didn't resort to any kind of violence."
An official at the Kardze Public Security Bureau office cast doubt on the witness accounts. "No nuns were arrested," the official said, adding: "I don't know."
Another source who witnessed the protest said the two nuns "were fully prepared for the eventualities that would follow. They were dressed warmly and bundled themselves to face both beating and cold during detention. There were armed Chinese police everywhere but they couldn't see them protesting for quite some time, and then later when they came for the second round, the police saw flyers."
Tibetan Buddhist nuns walk the religious circuit outside the Labrang Monastery, which is the second largest existing Tibetan monastery, in the town of Xiahe, Gansu Province on March 12, 2008. Photo: AFP
"When police asked who had distributed the flyers, they showed themselves and shouted slogans in the presence of police."
The two women are believed to have been taken to the local Kardze detention center. Their flyers indicated that they were acting on their own and that the Drakar nunnery wasn't involved in the protest, the sources said.
A Kardze resident, contacted by phone, said anyone planning to visit the area had “better wait until next year… Troops are everywhere.”
In Lhasa, as in other Tibetan areas, residents report tight security and an oppressive police presence. The city is scheduled to reopen for tourism in May, and only the Jokhang temple remains closed, a tourist guide told RFA’s Mandarin service. “The other monasteries are open to the public. We are receiving tourist groups now,” the guide said.‘We are in hell’
"We are in hell now. When we go out to shop for groceries, we have to have two IDs: a residence permit and an ID issued by the Lhasa municipal government," one Lhasa resident said. "We have been told not to leave [Lhasa] or to move around until the end of May. We are being forced to criticize the Dalai Lama."
"Many of us who rent shops or homes have been warned that if we have links to separatists, or if protesters are found on our properties, the property owners will be detained and punished. So it is hell here in Tibet."
Chinese authorities have made numerous arrests and launched a "patriotic education" campaign aimed at Tibetans in the wake of rioting that began in Lhasa in mid-March but spread to other Tibetan areas as well.
Beijing says 19 people were killed in the rioting. Tibetan sources say scores of people were killed when Chinese paramilitary and police opened fire on crowds of demonstrators.
Chinese authorities have blamed the Dalai Lama for instigating the protests and fomenting a Tibetan independence movement. The Dalai Lama rejects the accusation, saying he wants only autonomy and human rights for Tibetans.Original reporting by Kham broadcaster Lobsang Chophel for RFA’s Tibetan service and by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Kham senior editor: Dawa Dolma. Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translation by Karma Dorjee and by Jia Yuan. Produced and edited in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.