Protests have spread across Tibetan-populated regions of western China amid calls for freedom from Chinese rule and to refrain from celebrating Losar, the traditional Tibetan New Year, next month, according to sources in the region and in exile.
On Tuesday, a group of about 10 Tibetans gathered in the Drasar township of Chigdril county in Qinghai’s Golog (in Chinese, Guoluo) prefecture to protest rule by Beijing, a local Tibetan said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The group, consisting of local laypeople, recited Buddhist mantras and carried a large white banner, the source said.
“The banner, written in Tibetan, said, ‘We should struggle for equality and freedom as human beings. We call for democracy, equality, nonviolence, and peace,’” the man said, adding that the protest lasted for about two hours.
Security officials arrived at the scene and warned the protesters that they could be arrested and sent to jail, “but the Tibetans replied [only] that Tibetans have no freedom,” the man said.
“Later, three police vehicles arrived in the town and again warned the protesters, but there were no detentions,” he said.
“The Tibetans declared that their demands are the same as those of the Tibetans who have set fire to themselves in protest, and that they share the same pain and suffering.”
Sixteen Tibetans, most of them young monks, have set fire to themselves since March last year in protest against Chinese rule with calls for Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to return from exile, resulting in a security crackdown by Beijing.
“The protesters also threw leaflets in the air” at Drasar, a second source said, also on condition he not be named.
“They called on Tibetans not to celebrate the Tibetan New Year, and to fight for Tibet’s freedom,” the man said.
Some groups have previously called on Tibetans to refrain from celebrating Losar on Feb. 22-24 out of respect for those who have perished in self-immolations.
Meanwhile, a young Tibetan who set himself ablaze in protest on Saturday in Sichuan’s Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) prefecture was identified as Lobsang Jamyang, 21, of the Gyatso family in Amdo Khepa town, a Tibetan monk living in Dharamsala, India, said, citing contacts in the region.
“His father is named Gyatso and his mother is named Lacham,” the monk, Konchog Tsultrim, said.
“On Jan. 14, Lobsang Jamyang came out of a restroom of the largest hotel in Ngaba town with his body on fire,” Konchog Tsultrim said.
“Local police appeared on the scene, threw blankets over him, and began beating him severely,” prompting a clash with over seven hundred Tibetans who gathered to protest the police attack, he said.
Lobsang Jamyang had attended school and had studied at Amdo Yanggo monastery, Konchog Tsultrim said, adding, “he was a key member of the Tibetan Vernacular Promotion group and had advocated use of the pure Tibetan language, both spoken and written.”
A protest also erupted on Sunday, when a group of “about 30 to 40” Tibetans gathered in the Pema county seat in Golog to call for the return of the Dalai Lama, a Tibetan living in Belgium said, citing contacts in Pema town.
“Large numbers of Chinese security officers were present, but no one was detained,” he said. “Instead, they took photos of the protesters.”
And on Monday in Draggo county in Sichuan’s Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) prefecture, “a truck full of Tibetans appeared at [a local] shop and called on Tibetans not to celebrate the Tibetan New Year,” a local Tibetan said.
“They snatched away items bought for the New Year festivities and threw them away in the street,” the man said.
“Local Tibetans suspect them of being Amdo Tibetans from Ngaba,” he said, adding, “no police or security officials witnessed the attack, and no police arrived at the scene, though local Tibetans later saw police vehicles patrolling the area.”
Reported by Chakmo Tso and Tenzin Wangyal for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translations by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.