Updated at 11:25 a.m. EST on 2012-04-27
Chinese authorities have launched a campaign requiring Tibetan nomads in southwestern China’s Sichuan province to sign a document renouncing their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and Tibetan Prime Minister in exile Lobsang Sangay, according to a Tibetan source in exile.
Atuk Tseten, a Tibetan currently living in South India, said Chinese police had been forcing nomads in Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) prefecture’s Lithang (Litang) county to sign the document and subjecting them to beatings and torture if they refused.
The campaign was launched about two months ago in Lithang’s Mola nomadic village, hometown of exiled Kalon Tripa (Prime Minister) Lobsang Sangay's parents, the former Lithang county resident told RFA.
At first, he said, authorities had told the nomads they had to sign the document if they wanted to collect an ingredient used in traditional Tibetan medicine.
“When the signature campaign was launched, the authorities explained to the public that the campaign was to preempt conflicts in the collection of Cordyceps fungus,” Atuk Tseten said.
“However, two days before the start of the campaign, the Tibetans realized that the document that they had to sign was not about the Cordyceps fungus but contained seven clauses condemning the Dalai Lama and Lobsang Sangay.”
According to Atuk Tseten, the document contained clauses which amounted to a rejection of Lobsang Sangay’s proposal to negotiate a visit to Tibet by the Dalai Lama and a criticism of the Dalai Lama for allegedly backing self-immolations by Tibetans in protest against Chinese rule in Tibet.
Chinese authorities have labeled the self-immolators as terrorists and blamed the Dalai Lama, who has lived in India since his self-imposed exile in 1959, for the tense situation. They accuse the spiritual leader of encouraging the fiery protests which, they say, run contrary to Buddhist teachings.
But the Dalai Lama has blamed China's "ruthless and illogical" policy toward Tibet for the protests.
Refusal to sign
The nomads were angered when they realized the “truth,” Atuk Tseten said, and did not want to sign the document.
“Two Tibetans in Mola … marked the document without realizing the contents of the document. The community was so mad at the two Tibetans for marking the document that they threatened to ex-communicate them,” he said.
“However, when they realized that they had been ignorant of the actual content, the two were only fined 500 yuan (U.S. $80) for signing it.”
More recently, Atuk Tseten said, some 300-400 government staffers and police in black uniforms arrived at Mola village and called the local Tibetans into a meeting, demanding that they sign the document.
“When the people were asked if anyone had any concerns, [at first] no one uttered a word,” he said.
“[But] when the police asked an old lady about her concerns, she said that the only sorrow she bears is the death of her two brothers at Chinese hands.”
Atuk Tseten said that the authorities became extremely angry when they heard this and realized that no one in the village would cooperate.
“When they refused to sign, several Tibetans of all ages and both genders were severely beaten. Many of them were even forced to shave their heads and pressured to sign the document,” he said.
“This signature campaign has generated fresh tensions in the Lithang area.”
Sichuan has been the scene of most of the 35 Tibetan self-immolation protests against Chinese rule that have taken place since February 2009.
These have resulted in a major security crackdown in the province and in other two Tibetan-populated provinces, Qinghai and Gansu, as well as in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Reported by RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.