KATHMANDU—Small, sporadic protests against Chinese rule in Tibetan areas of China’s Sichuan province persist despite a widespread crackdown on dissent in the wake of massive anti-China unrest less than a year ago, according to sources in the region.
“On Jan. 5, a Tibetan man protested in front of police headquarters in downtown Kardze [in Chinese, Ganzi] at around 12 p.m.,” said a local Tibetan woman, who asked not to be named.
“He shouted slogans calling for the independence of Tibet and threw several thousand paper fliers into the air. The fliers included prayer flags and protest leaflets.”
The protestor was identified as Ngawang Sonam, age about 32 and a resident of Horpo village, Tsonggo township, in Kardze county in the Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (TAP), the source said.
“After he had protested for about three minutes, police and Public Security Bureau officials fired a tranquilizer gun at him, severely beat him, and took him away in a police vehicle,” she said.
Ngawang Sonam, a father of two school-age children, had been detained once before for his role in a 2000 protest against Chinese rule, the source said.
Chinese police and security officials are now “tightening control” over local Tibetans following Ngawang Sonam’s protest, the source said. “[Tibetans] are being searched and questioned, and authorities have increased their surveillance.”
Woman also detained
A Tibetan woman had protested in the same location just a week earlier, said another source, also speaking on condition of anonymity, who said that she witnessed the incident.
“On Dec. 29, a Tibetan woman named Konchok, age 29, went to the public square in front of the Kardze police headquarters. She shouted slogans for several minutes calling for Tibetan freedom and for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.”
“She also tossed flyers in the air,” the source said.
A military van and police vehicles rushed to the scene, and police appeared to fire at the woman, the source said. It was not clear whether live rounds were fired.
“No one knows whether she was hit, but she was dragged into a vehicle and taken away. Even then, she continued to shout, calling for the long life of the Dalai Lama.”
The woman comes from Kudu village in the Kara township of Kardze county, the source said. “Both of her parents have passed away, but her family is well-established.”
Reached for comment, an official of the Kardze Public Security Bureau office declined to confirm or deny the detentions but said “Oh, Ngawang Sonam!” on hearing the name of the man reportedly detained on Jan. 5. He then hung up the phone.
Kardze and other Tibetan areas of Sichuan province have seen repeated Tibetan protests following demonstrations in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, which led to violent riots on March 14.
Tibet’s government in exile said more than 200 Tibetans were killed in the subsequent region-wide Chinese crackdown. China has meanwhile reported police as having killed just one “insurgent” and blames Tibetan “rioters” for the deaths of 21 people.
“Ganzi [Kardze] is part of what Tibetans know as Kham,” Steve Marshall, senior advisor to the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China, said.
“Tibetans everywhere are devoted to their culture and self-identity, but the Khampas of Ganzi have earned a reputation for speaking up about the Chinese policies that they find most damaging for Tibetans.”
“Chinese officials respond with intensified implementation of those very policies. The statistics on political imprisonment show the result.”
Original reporting in Tibetan by Lobsang Choephel and Norbu Damdul. Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo. Translations by Karma Dorjee. Written for the Web in English with additional reporting by Richard Finney. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.