DHARAMSALA—Three sources living in the Tibetan exile community have provided further details of protests and a shooting incident at a monastery in China’s southwestern Sichuan province. They received the information from contacts living near the area where the event occurred.
All three confirmed that the event occurred on Jan. 27, the second day of Chinese New Year, at the Gonchen monastery near Dege in the Kardze [in Chinese, Ganzi] Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.
One source, a Chicago-based Tibetan man named Tashi, who contacted friends at Dege Gonchen, said local authorities had tried to recruit monks to greet visiting Chinese officials, but none had volunteered.
“Some of the local Chinese Public Security Bureau officials then dressed as monks and greeted the officials. The Tibetan monks were angered when they heard about it, so they protested and clashed with local police,” he said.
Tashi said the clash involved shooting, but was unable to provide details of casualties.
After the clash, he said, five monks were detained in the county jail, touching off protests by Tibetans calling for their release.
"About 1,000 local Tibetans, including 300 monks, local lay Tibetans, and others who came to pray at Gonchen monastery and Dege Printing Center marched to the local police station and demanded the release of the detained monks," Tashi said.
He said that details of events following the second protest were "vague," and that he was unable to reach his contact for more information because phone lines in the area were disrupted.
New Year's performance
A Tibetan woman in California, who did not provide her name but said she had spoken with a relative in China, gave an account in which the initial scuffle was caused by monks from Dege Gonchen monastery.
She said the monks were angered over a Chinese New Year's performance by a group of Tibetans when a Tibetan boycott of celebrations was in effect. The performers refused to stop the performance when confronted.
“The local police intervened and resorted to shooting. They also detained 30 monks and took them away to the county detention center,” she said.
The woman said that a large group of Tibetans, including monks, went to the Dege county police station to demand the release of the monks.
"All 30 monks were released on the same day," she said.
'Dressed like monks'
Juchen Konchog, a member of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile in Dharamsala, India, told the Voice of Tibet that monks from the Dege Gonchen monastery and Chinese authorities clashed after Chinese government officials held a party within the compound of the monastery.
"Some [cadres], including women dressed like monks, danced in the presence of the monks. When the monks protested, they were detained," she said.
Konchog said that two hundred monks, led by an elderly monk named Lama Gala, then gathered at the county administration center, calling for the detained monks’ release.
“They even threatened officials that if the monks were not released, the protesting monks would kill themselves,” she said.
“The monks were released on Jan. 31, but were severely beaten during their detention,” she added.
A representative of the Dege county police station said that police officers had arrested more than 20 monks, but had since released them. The representative declined to provide further details.
Original reporting in Tibetan by the Kham service. Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo. Translations by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.