KATHMANDU--Tibetans in western China staged protests this week calling on Chinese leaders to open a dialogue with their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, amid scattered reports of deaths among protesting monks and Tibetan residents.
"Chinese police killed a lama. They fired shots at the lamas and killed one," a monk who took part in a protest in Karze (in Chinese, Ganzi) prefecture in China's southwestern province of Sichuan said.
He said Monday's protest had seen about 1,000 people take to the streets, including hundreds of monks from the Jueri monastery and nuns from the Woge nunnery in Luhuo county.
"[The dead lama] was chanting 'Free Tibet!' We were marching. The troops blocked the road and fired shots. On Monday night, they detained about 30 lamas," the monk said.
Monks lead march
He said the protest was followed Tuesday by around 200 lamas from the Shouling monastery, himself included.
"We were chanting 'We want freedom!' as we marched. There were about 100 troops there, but there was no confrontation. I don't think anyone took to the streets Wednesday, because we were not allowed to go out today. The entrance to the monastery is manned by armed guards."
Separately Tibetan sources in India said an 18 year-old monk was killed in clashes with Chinese security forces in the same area. That dead monk was identified as Kunga. Another Tibetan resident, Tsewang Dondrub, 30, was seriously injured and in critical condition, but it was unclear if the reports referred to the same death.
"During the demonstrations, the Tibetans damaged doors and window panes of local police headquarters and county government buildings," one source said.
Meanwhile, two deaths were reported by a resident during clashes between armed police and Tibetan protesters in Serthar (in Chinese, Seda) county, also in Karze.
"On March 20, Chinese security forces arrived in the town of Kiku in Serthar county," a Tibetan resident of Serthar said.
"There were about 1,000 of them. They tried to pull down the Tibetan flag that had been raised by protesters at the township's government offices on the 17th, and when the protesters peacefully resisted, the security forces opened fire, killing two protesters," he told RFA's Tibetan service.
Tibetan flag raised
The protesters were identified as Kyari and Tsedo from Tseshul village. Another eight persons, including Yeshe Dorje and Tabke, were seriously injured and were taken to Serthar county hospital, the source said
"In the same county, over 1,000 Tibetans led by monks from Serthar Sera monastery began a protest march, walking about 30 miles to the point where the two Tibetans were killed. They carried Tibetan flags and pictures of the Dalai Lama and shouted slogans like 'Long Live the Dalai Lama!,' 'Human Rights for Tibet!,' and 'Tibet is Independent!'
"They also distributed leaflets calling for Tibetan independence. The security forces threatened them with 'serious consequences,' but the protesters are determined to continue with their peaceful demonstrations. So far, there have been no [additional] shootings," the source said.
A local Tibetan official said armed police had been dispatched to all 18 counties in Karze, but declined to comment further.
In neighboring Qinghai province, monks from Tsolho (in Chinese, Hainan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture marched on Sunday to call for dialogue with the Dalai Lama, who has said he advocates greater autonomy for Tibetans under Chinese rule as opposed to independence for the Himalayan region.
"We are demanding that the Chinese leadership open a dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and peacefully resolve the Tibetan issue," one marching monk told RFA from his cellphone against the background of chanting protesters.
"We are also demanding that His Holiness be allowed to visit Tibet. Our protest is peaceful and involves about 10-15 monks from Serlho monastery...Just now we are marching toward the subdistrict headquarters, and from there we plan to go to the county government offices. Hundreds of local Tibetans, mainly nomads, have joined us," the monk said.
Support from Chinese intellectuals
Also in Qinghai, monks from Palyul Darthang monastery in Amdo Golog (in Chinese, Guoluo), marched to the local county government offices, joined by local Tibetans.
"At that time, there were no armed police there, but only about 40 local police. We marched to the local government office compound, pulled down the Chinese flag, and put up the Tibetan flag. The local police didn't dare to interfere. They simply watched from a distance and took photographs," a monk from the monastery said March 22
"We then marched to the local school and hospital and pulled down the Chinese flag and replaced it with the Tibetan flag. We also stormed the local detention center and demanded that the authorities release all the prisoners, which they did," he added.
"We conducted all these protests peacefully, harmed no one, and did no damage. Then, later in the afternoon, four trucks full of armed security forces arrived ... They arrested about five to six Tibetans, and possibly more. Right now, only those monks who took no part in the protest are still in the monastery. The rest are hiding up in the mountains."
"The monastery is now surrounded by security forces. Please let others know what we did and what our condition is," the monk said.
The protests by Tibetans come amid growing calls among Chinese intellectuals for dialogue with the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing accuses of "conspiring to split the motherland by secretly" orchestrating the March 15 protests and riots in the Tibetan capital Lhasa, during which armed police opened fire on Tibetans, and where house-to-house searches and arrests are still continuing.
Sun Wenguang, a retired professor of eastern China's Shandong University said the authorities were wrong to suppress the Tibetan protests using force.
"To crack down on the protests, especially to open fire, is a crime. How can you open fire on a mass protest; how can you drive armored vehicles into urban areas? What the authorities did has repressed and restricted people's right to freedom," he told RFA's Mandarin service.
Shanghai based writer Sha Yexin, who is also a Muslim, said the Chinese authorities lack understanding when it comes to the country's ethnic minority populations.
"I am a Hui Muslim, a minority, and I understand the situation of minorities. I am very upset after watching the bloodshed in Tibet. I wish all parties would do their best to reach harmony, to reduce bloodshed," Sha said.
"This is my true intention. I also believe that the Dalai Lama has the same intention. I heard of him saying many times that he opposes violence. In the meantime, I wish the central government would begin a dialogue with the Dalai Lama."
No discussion about Tibet on China's Internet
Former top Communist Party aide Bao Tong also warned against a policy of ethnic cleansing in Tibet, calling for talks with the Dalai Lama as an urgent priority.
"All the central government has to do is sit down with the Dalai Lama and talk to him, to show a little wisdom, and with vision and determination the Lhasa incident can be resolved in an appropriate manner," he said in an essay broadcast on RFA's Mandarin service.
Other commentators slammed strict controls on media reporting of events in Tibetan areas of China.
"I don't think the Chinese government should block news about Tibet, because in the end it doesn't matter whether rumors spread out or people simply don't believe what the government said. The government should bear the consequences," according to online commentator Liu Di, who is known online as "Stainless Steel Mouse".
"Right now, no discussion about Tibet is allowed on China's Internet. They block news about Tibet and expel journalists from Tibet," she said.
Beijing-based legal scholar Teng Biao agreed, calling on Beijing to let people know the truth about what was happening.
"What the authorities did is not proper and is not enough. It is one-sided propaganda," Teng said. "Most importantly, the authorities should respect Tibetan culture and traditions and give Tibetans more autonomy. Their rights are guaranteed in China's constitution to some extent, but the authorities did not implement the law accordingly."Original reporting by RFA's Tibetan and Mandarin services. Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated, written and edited by Jia Yuan, Karma Dorjee, Luisetta Mudie and Richard Finney.