Hundreds of Chinese paramilitary forces laid siege to a Tibetan township in Sichuan province this week after detaining nine Tibetans and preempting a protest by locals against the theft of precious stones by ruling Chinese Communist Party officials, according to sources.
The Tibetans of Terlung township in Palyul (in Chinese, Baiyu) county in Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture were angry over the theft of the sacred stones from the Khanmar monastery grounds and had wanted to march to the Palyul county center to lodge a protest, the sources said.
The Chinese authorities got wind of the planned protests and early this week detained four monks and five others, including local Tibetan community leaders, believed to be linked to the planned demonstrations, they said.
"[Nine] Tibetans were detained and now several hundred paramilitary forces were deployed and have surrounded the monastery and town of Terlung," a source in Tibet told RFA's Tibetan Service.
The source explained that the security clampdown was triggered by "plans by several hundred residents of Terlung town to march to the Palyul county center to stage a protest and vow to protect their sacred stones even at the expense of their lives.”
The residents had discovered that "the Communist Party officials in Terlung township in collaboration with their counterparts in Palyul county were linked to the theft of truck loads of rare and sacred stones from Khanmar monastery in Terlung," the source said.
“The people of Terlung township appealed to the authorities of Palyul county to restore the sacred stones and wanted a verbal and written public assurance. When the authorities never responded to their request, all the residents of Terlung town planned to go to the Palyul county center to protest," the source said.
"Unfortunately the protest plan was leaked out and several hundred paramilitary were dispatched to Terlung and detained [the nine]."
"Now all lines of communication to the area are blocked," the source said.
All the nine detained Tibetans have been taken to the Palyul county center.
"The relatives and family members were not allowed to contact them and provide any food or clothing," a Tibetan based in Europe told RFA.
“The main reason for their detention was that some Chinese vehicles came to Terlung and took away sacred stones. These stones found near our monastery were believed to be very rare, precious and holy," she said.
"When the local Tibetans saw those sacred stones being carried away in trucks, they objected and stopped the vehicles. This resulted in a major confrontation,” she added.
Last month, hundreds of Tibetan monks in Palyul staged a protest march to a local police station demanding the release of a Tibetan monk detained for spreading word of a fatal police crackdown.
Kelsang Chodar, a monk of the Palyul monastery, was eventually released.
Chodar had been detained on suspicion of spreading information about deadly protests in the neighboring Tibet Autonomous Region’s Driru (Biru, in Chinese) county in Nagchu (Naqu) prefecture opposing a government campaign of forced displays of loyalty to the Chinese state.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.
A total of 123 Tibetans have also set themselves ablaze in self-immolation protests in China calling for Tibetan freedom.
Reported by Lumbum Tashi and Lobsang Choephel for RFA's Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.