Authorities acknowledge 4,000 detentions: thousands ‘disappear’ in ongoing Lhasa crackdown; Unrest at Drepung

Monks demonstrating in Lhasa

Monks demonstrating on March 10, 2008 in Lhasa. Monks throughout Tibet now face an increased ‘patriotic education’ campaign by authorities targeting the Dalai Lama’s influence and attempting to ‘restore order’ in Tibet.

Raids on people’s houses and ‘disappearances’ are continuing every day during the ongoing crackdown in Lhasa, and there are new fears for monks at Drepung monastery after more troops were deployed following unrest there over the past few days.

Details of the incident at Drepung are unclear, although it is known that the unrest followed the arrival of a ‘patriotic education’ team at the monastery last week. There are also serious concerns of a humanitarian crisis in Lhasa’s monasteries, as food and water supplies are running low and monks prevented from leaving.

Mary Beth Markey, Vice President for Advocacy at the International Campaign for Tibet, said today: “Chinese authorities claim they are conducting political campaigns against the influence of the Dalai Lama to ‘restore order’ in Tibet, while Tibetans are risking their lives to call for the Dalai Lama’s return. This wrong-headed approach by the Chinese state creates more resentment and risks provoking further dissent and an increase in brutality from forces now surrounding many monasteries in Tibet.”

Since March 10 when Tibetan protests began in Lhasa, one or more instances of protest have been reported in each of at least 52 county-level locations in Tibetan areas of China, as well as in Chengdu (the capital of Sichuan), Lanzhou (the capital of Gansu), and Beijing, according to a report today by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (www.cecc.gov).

China’s state-run media has acknowledged the surrender or detention of nearly 4,000 “rioters” in Lhasa and in Gannan (Kanlho) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (TAP), Gansu province (Xinhua, April 9). The disclosure raises by more than 2,000 the previous total of officially acknowledged surrenders and detentions in Lhasa and Gannan. Authorities have released more than half of the nearly 4,000 persons and formally arrested more than 400 persons on undisclosed criminal charges. (www.cecc.gov).

Disappearances and intimidation in Lhasa described as ‘Second Cultural Revolution’

In Lhasa, people are sleeping in their clothes “in case of a knock on the door in the middle of the night”, according to one source. Someone has disappeared from almost every Tibetan household in the weeks since March 14, according to one reliable Tibetan source, while another described the situation as a “second Cultural Revolution”. At neighborhood committee meetings, Lhasa citizens are warned to tell people that everything is fine if they receive calls from outside Tibet.

Some Tibetans rounded up in raids are being removed from Lhasa to detention facilities elsewhere. A source reported seeing a large group of Tibetans being herded onto a train by armed police at Lhasa station bound for Qinghai. According to the eyewitness, there were several hundred Tibetans in the group, including many monks, and many of them were not wearing shoes. In an apparent further incidence of detained Tibetans being removed from Lhasa, around 300 prisoners arrived at the train station in Xining, Qinghai, last week, according to Tibetan sources, who told ICT: “Every prisoner seemed to be hurt badly and some had blood on their faces. There was an old lady in the group with heavy shackles on her feet, and no shoes. She was being beaten by the police.”

Some Tibetans detained after March 14 are known to have been released – some are believed to have been detained while they were shopping for groceries, while others appear to have been detained simply for being found or living in Tibetan areas of Lhasa. A Tibetan writer reported that at one point more than 800 people were locked up in a large warehouse area at Lhasa railway station where many of them were beaten severely and deprived of food. One report indicated that some Tibetans had been detained for speaking on the phone to relatives in exile.

ICT has received further reliable reports of Tibetans being taken from Lhasa to detention facilities in Sichuan. A young monk who was detained in Lhasa for having no identity card was taken to a local detention center and beaten severely every day over a period of several days, according to one report. “Four men beat him at the same time, each time,” ICT’s source reported. “During the torture, he had no comprehension of night and day. With one arm up over behind the neck and the other under and behind the back, they tied his wrists together behind his back. The food at the prison consisted of one small bread roll per person and about 20 ounces of water that was shared between four to five people. People were sleeping in the area where they went to the toilet and they were not allowed to wear shoes.” The source said that last week, he was taken to Mianyang Prison in Sichuan, and was released later due to fears that he might die if he remained without medical attention. He can now hardly walk or talk and his breathing is labored. The same source said that there were many Tibetans from Lhasa in the same prison.

The restrictions on movement due to the crackdown in the city mean that many families are suffering from difficulties in obtaining food, and the situation in the monasteries is particularly acute. Food supplies have been running low in the city’s major monasteries, Drepung, Sera, and Ganden, which have been under lockdown and sealed off since the wave of protests begun by Drepung monks on March 10.

The Tibetan government in exile cabinet, the Kashag, issued an urgent appeal for help from the international community on April 9, saying: “Due to very strict restriction on movements, Tibetans, particularly in the monasteries, are unable to get food supplies. Therefore, we also appeal for help to ensure that those confined in the monasteries where shortage of food is causing great suffering, and may cause death due to hunger, are supplied with timely provision of food and other required needs.” According to one report received by ICT, monks from Sera are not even permitted to fetch water from outside the gate of the monastery.

Crackdown worsens at Drepung after arrival of patriotic education team

Although details of what happened at Drepung in the past few days are unclear, reports indicate that a number of military vehicles were seen moving towards the monastery on April 10, and on April 11, the road to Drepung was closed again. The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy reported that a number of monks from Drepung were detained at the weekend following unrest in response to the arrival of a ‘patriotic education’ work team at the monastery (TCHRD, April 14, 2008). The Chinese state media reported last week that the work team had arrived at Drepung in order to “restore religious order after violence involving lamas ravaged the city last month.” (Xinhua, April 11). The report stated that progress of the work team at Drepung had been “smooth”, and that: “Similar work groups have also been sent to some other monasteries, to help maintain social stability, socialist legal institutions, the public’s fundamental interest and normal order of Buddhist activities.”

There has been increasing resentment in monasteries in Tibetan areas following the arrival of patriotic education teams in monasteries that are already under lockdown with an intimidating military presence. There is evidence that in some areas this is leading to a new wave of protests or dissent in response to the hardline implementation of ideological campaigns which generally require denunciations of the Dalai Lama. Tibet Autonomous Region Party Secretary Zhang Qingli is particularly known for his harsh rhetoric against the Dalai Lama and insistence on the intensification of patriotic education in the wider community as well as in monasteries and nunneries.

A further source said that the unrest at Drepung over the weekend may also have been linked to armed troops preventing monks from attempting to leave the monastery to obtain food. The same source said: “The news has spread to the entire Lhasa city, thus, all the Tibetans are heartsick now.”

A new campaign of political education began in Meldrogungkar county (Chinese: Mozhu Gongka) in the Lhasa Municipality on around March 19. When monks and nuns in one monastery and nunnery of the county refused to participate in denouncing the Dalai Lama, according to a report, the authorities responded by sending truckloads of soldiers to prevent monks and nuns leaving their religious institutions. According to the same report, all of the monasteries in the Meldrogungkar valley are now sealed off. At a local political meeting, Tibetans were warned that anyone with relatives in exile should encourage them to return to the area. The same source said that at meetings in the county, “Villagers are called on to make denunciations at frequent meetings, but they just sit there in silence with heads bowed.”

As a matter of urgency, ICT appeals for international support in securing:

  • Visits by independent human rights monitors to religious institutions inand around Lhasa – Sera, Drepung, Ganden, the Jokhang, Ramoche, and Chubsang nunnery – to carry out an evaluation of the welfare of monks and nuns;
  • Access by international medical corps to medical facilities in and around Lhasa in order to evaluate the conditions of care for those injured in the demonstrations;
  • An account from the Chinese authorities for all the missing and dead by name and location and assurances that detainees will be processed according to international standards of due process and rule of law.
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