KATHMANDU—Authorities in China’s southwestern province of Sichuan have forced Tibetan farmers into their fields in a bid to end a farming boycott aimed at protesting Chinese crackdowns in the region, according to Tibetan sources.
Tibetans in the Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture had refused to cultivate their land following a week of other protests and detentions during a tense and politically sensitive month, sources in the Kardze area and abroad said.
“On March 20, over 100 government workers, Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers, and soldiers came to Kara village in Kardze,” Yeshe Dorje, a former resident of Kardze now living in Australia, said, citing sources in the region.
“They went from house to house and forced Tibetans into their fields and made them till their land. The Tibetans didn’t cooperate [at first] but later tilled their fields under pressure and with the assistance of government workers and security personnel,” Dorje said.
He added that Tibetans are still boycotting in other parts of Kardze, where opposition to China runs strong.
Moves to end the boycott followed a week of detentions in the area.
On March 19, a monk named Jampa Dondrub from Tsesok monastery in Lopa village was detained after arguing with local government employees about the planned farming boycott, according to a Tibetan woman in Kardze, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“As a result, a group of Chinese PSB personnel came in five vehicles and took him away,” she said. “He is now being held in a jail in Kardze town.”
Yeshe Dorje, speaking from Australia, said authorities had detained six other Tibetans who protested at different times on March 16.
Dorje identified those detained as a second man named Jampa Dondrub, from Drowa Nyi village; a girl named Dorje Lhamo, from Kon Nyen village; and four unnamed youths from Pin Nyen Nong, Rangtha, Serchu, and Lopa Tsethok villages.
“Witnesses saw Chinese PSB personnel detaining them and beating them with iron rods and rifle butts,” he added.
After this, “several posters appeared in Tibetan villages lying in the outskirts of Kardze [town], urging farmers to refuse to cultivate their land in protest against Chinese rule,” Dorje said.
“Tibetans who did till their land were warned of ‘serious consequences,’” he said.
In response, Chinese authorities called a meeting in Lopa village in which Tibetan farmers were told that if they failed to till their land, they would be detained and their land would be confiscated.
Late on March 20—the day on which authorities forced the farmers into their fields—an explosive was placed at the door of the Tibetan head of Dotso town, a man named Gonpo, Dorje said.
A notice was also posted in the area, warning Gonpo against siding with the authorities.
Gonpo is now under police protection, and Kardze authorities and the PSB are “thoroughly investigating” the incident, Dorje said.
More recently, on March 24, two nuns from the Lamdrak nunnery were beaten and detained following a protest in front of the Kardze PSB headquarters, according to a source in Kardze.
The source identified the two as Yangkyi, from the village of Honan, and Sonam Yangchen, from the village of Gyakham.
“The two nuns threw up several hundred leaflets calling for the long life of the Dalai Lama and the independence of Tibet,” the source said.
“More than 50 security personnel arrived at the scene. Some of them detained and beat the nuns while others cordoned off the area. Even after being beaten, the nuns called out for the long life of the Dalai Lama.”
“Both nuns were placed in a military van and taken away,” the source said.
Meanwhile, in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), authorities have closed major monasteries ahead of a new state-mandated holiday on March 28.
Officials have designated March 28 “Serf Emancipation Day” to mark the 50th anniversary of a failed Tibetan national uprising against Chinese rule, after which the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled into exile in India.
Monasteries and temples in Lhasa have all been closed except for the Potala Palace and the city’s central temple, the Jokhang, a witness in Lhasa said.
“For the time being, you cannot go to any monastery but the Jokhang Temple,” the witness said. “Drepung monastery and Sera monastery were hot spots in last year’s unrest, so it is impossible to go there.”
Another Lhasa resident described China's planned celebrations on Saturday as "showings-off" against the Dalai Lama, who is regarded by China's government as a "splittist" intent on gaining independence for Tibet.
"The government will hold jubilant celebrations. However, they are irrelevant to religion in Tibet," the source said.
Numerous Tibetan sources have recently reported small protests and swift detentions in Kardze, Lithang, and Nyagrong counties, all of which fall under Kardze prefecture in China's rugged and remote Sichuan province.
Residents of Kardze, part of what Tibetans know as Kham, have earned a reputation for speaking out against Chinese rule, experts say.
Accounts of protests are difficult to confirm because so much of the region has been closed to foreigners since a peaceful demonstration last year in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, erupted into a riot that left at least 22 dead, ignited protests in three neighboring provinces, and prompted Beijing to dramatically increase its troop presence.
The Tibetan government-in-exile in India says about 220 Tibetans died and nearly 7,000 were detained in the subsequent region-wide crackdown.
Paramilitary and plainclothes police have since maintained tight security throughout the region, announcing a "strike hard" "anti-crime" campaign coinciding with the period just before and after the anniversaries.
Original reporting by RFA’s Tibetan service and RFA’s Mandarin service. Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translations by Karma Dorjee and Ping Chen. Written in English by Richard Finney. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.