Chinese police on Monday shot two Tibetans following protests calling for an end to rule by Beijing in a Tibetan-populated county in Sichuan province, adding to recent tensions that have seen Tibetans self-immolate to highlight their concerns, according to a Tibetan source living in India.
The condition of the wounded Tibetans was not immediately available and police refused to talk about the circumstances in which the incident occurred.
The shooting on Monday followed a Sunday protest in the Khekor township of Serthar (in Chinese, Seda) county of the Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) prefecture.
“On Sunday, Oct. 16, a group of seven Tibetans protested in front of the local police station,” said Tsultrim Norbu, a Tibetan living in South India and citing sources in the region.
The protesters came from three local villages and shouted slogans calling for freedom for Tibet, the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, and the release of the young man identified by the Dalai Lama as the incarnation of the Panchen Lama, Norbu said.
The Panchen Lama selected and promoted by Chinese authorities is widely rejected by Tibetans as a fake.
“Some of [the protesters] were detained,” Norbu said, “and when another group of Tibetans went on Monday to appeal for their release, the police and the Tibetans argued, leading to the shooting and wounding of two of the Tibetans, Goda and Druglo.”
Reached for comment on Sunday, an officer at the Serthar county police station confirmed the detentions, saying, “We have detained a group of Tibetan protesters, and we know how to handle them.”
Asked in a phone call on Monday if police had fired on protesters, a Serthar county police officer hung up the phone.
The weekend protests followed political leafleting and the raising of the banned Tibetan national flag in Serthar last week, and a larger protest in the same area at the beginning of the month.
On Thursday, protest leaflets “written in Tibetan and displayed on both sides of the streets,” were distributed in Khekor township, said Serthar Tsultrim Woeser, a native of Serthar now living in exile in India.
“A Tibetan flag was also hoisted at the local police station," Woeser said, citing contacts in the region.
A “huge contingent” of police had been sent to the town in response, Woeser said, adding that authorities had begun to search for the still-unidentified persons responsible for putting up the leaflets and flag.
The leafleting followed an earlier protest by over 200 Tibetans in Serthar on Oct. 1, China’s National Day, after authorities tore a Tibetan flag and large photo of the Dalai Lama from a building and threw them into the street, Tibetan sources said.
Tibetans have stepped up their protests against Chinese rule in recent weeks.
In the most recent self-immolation, a nun set herself ablaze and died in Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) prefecture on Monday in the first female self-immolation case in recent memory among Tibetans resisting Chinese rule.
Tenzin Wamgmo, about 20 years old, called for freedom for Tibet and the return of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader living in exile in India, before succumbing to her burns.
Eight Tibetan monks, mostly in Ngaba, have self-immolated this year, and four have died, saying they wanted to sacrifice their lives to protest rule by Beijing and alleged human rights abuses by Chinese security forces.
The latest protests came as Tibetans prepared for a day of fasting and prayers on Wednesday to display solidarity in the face of rising Tibetan protests against Chinese rule.
Reported by Pema Ngodup, Lobsang Choephel, and Dorjee Damdul for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translations by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.