You may flip through the Tibet Press Watch below or download the entire issue as a PDF.
In this issue
- Letter from the President
- In occupied Tibetan monastery, a reason for fiery deaths (By: Edward Wong, New York Times)
- Inside Tibet
- Governments Confront China at UN Human Rights Council
- New ICT Report Finds Elements of Cultural Genocide in Tibet
- ICT Mourns the Death of Adam Yauch
Letter from the President
Dear Friend of Tibet,
I want to thank so many of you who have worked with, responded to, or otherwise contacted me in recent weeks about the dire situation in Tibet. It is an encouragement to all of us at ICT to know that you are supporting our efforts and, most importantly, that you are standing with the Tibetan people. Tragically, the self-immolations in Tibet have continued, a sad reality that underscores what many of us have heard directly from the field- that Tibetans are responding to the daily hardships of life under Chinese government policies that have become increasingly intolerable.
If you have not already seen it, I urge you to watch the May 27, 2012 BBC News piece, “The Human Torches of Tibet”. We have included in this issue of Tibet Press Watch an excellent New York Times article by Edward Wong, also on the self-immolations. Both of these reports were created with the support and advice of ICT field and communications teams who worked continuously to ensure that journalists have access to the most comprehensive story.
On another front, ICT has been working to defend Congressional allocations to Tibetan issues. Thanks to your support, we have over the years helped to build up millions of dollars in funding (primarily for humanitarian and refugee services and for the sustainability of Tibetan communities) and now we can gladly report that this funding looks secure for another year. Given the current crisis in Tibet, it is a relief to know that our hard work and the hard work of our champions in the US Congress has shored up a strong base of support. Once again, the United States will provide critical funding for refugee programs. Of special note, we’re grateful to the members of Congress who helped to turn back cuts in the Voice of America Tibetan language broadcast service.
The continuing self-immolations indicate we must continue to press for solutions in Tibet, even in the midst of political tumult in China and the political transition in Dharamsala. Among the changes in Dharamsala is the May 31 resignation of Lodi Gyari as Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, part of the process initiated by His Holiness to devolve his political authority to the elected leadership. I suspect that few outside of government circles know of Lodi Gyari’s tremendous skills as the Dalai Lama’s chief diplomat-at-large. Not only has Lodi served as the chief interlocutor in the dialogue with officials from the Chinese government since 2002, but he has spent a life’s time and energy building international support for Tibet.
It has been the great privilege of everyone at ICT to observe at close range his skill and breadth of knowledge at work in earnest for the cause we share. We’re pleased and honored that Lodi will continue to serve as ICT’s Executive Chairman, helping to guide our work for the Tibetan people.
Of course public support for Tibet, expressed and resourced by ICT supporters for nearly 25 years, has been critically important, and we are, as always, deeply grateful for your continued dedication. Clearly we have more to do, and are glad to move forward confidently with you as our ally.
Mary Beth Markey
In occupied Tibetan monastery, a reason for fiery deaths
By: Edward Wong, New York Times
DHARAMSALA, India- One young Tibetan monk walked down a street kicking Chinese military vehicles, then left a suicide note condemning an official ban on a religious ceremony. Another smiled often, and preferred to talk about Buddhism rather than politics. A third man, a former monk, liked herding animals with nomads.
All had worn the crimson robes of Kirti Monastery, a venerable institution of learning ringed by mountains on the eastern edge of the Tibetan plateau. All set themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule. Two died.
At least 38 Tibetans have set fire to themselves since 2009, and 29 have died, according to the International Campaign for Tibet, an advocacy group in Washington. The 2,000 or so monks of Kirti Monastery in Sichuan Province have been at the center of the movement, one of the biggest waves of self-immolations in modern history. The acts evoke the self-immolations in the early 1960s by Buddhist monks in South Vietnam to protest the corrupt government in Saigon.
Chinese paramilitary units are now posted on every block of the town of Ngaba, and Kirti is under lockdown. Journalists are barred from entering the monastery, which has made the question of how Kirti became the volcanic heart of this eruption of self-immolations something of a mystery.
But monks and laypeople from Ngaba who have fled across the Himalayas said that Kirti had been radicalized in the last four years by an occupation of the monastery that amounted to one of the harshest crackdowns in Tibet. Chinese security measures have converted the white-walled monastery, with its temples and dormitories and rows of prayer wheels, into a de facto prison, which has fueled the anger that the measures are aimed at containing.
The Ngaba exiles here say the security measures imposed on the town and the monastery have been extreme, even by the standards of Chinese control in Tibet. In 2008, during a Tibet-wide uprising, security forces shot protestors in Ngaba with live ammunition, killing at least 10 civilians, including one monk, according to reports by advocacy groups and photographs of corpses that had been brought to Kirti. It was one of the most violent events of the uprising, and anger and alienation set in among the local Tibetans. Officials tightened security.
Chinese officials ordered the People’s Armed Police to surround the monastery; built a wall to cut off a rear entrance; banned all religious activities; smashed photographs of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader; forced monks to attend patriotic re-education sessions; cut off Internet access; and barred pilgrims from entering. They also took away 300 monks in a nighttime raid; many of them have not returned.
A Kirti monk, Lobsang, said there did not appear to be any coordination or organized plan for the self-immolation.
“I think those who self-immolated didn’t have an official agreement, but there was spiritual solidarity between people,” he said. “The energy of the Tibetan people is totally linked like a bracelet of prayer beads. You cannot find the end and the beginning because it’s a circle.”
Chinese officials have condemned some of the self-immolators as “terrorists” and blamed the Dalai Lama for inciting the acts, a charge he has denied.
As the crackdown continues in Tibet, it remains challenging to learn the truth about events. The International Campaign for Tibet works closely with the Tibet community in exile and with brave individuals inside Tibet to gather reports, accept testimony, verify accuracy, and report the results to the U.S. government and to the world. With sorrow, we note that the self-immolations in Tibet are continuing; since the last issue of Tibet Press Watch, the following people have taken this desperate step in order to attract the world’s attention and action:
January 14, 2012
Losang Jamyang, a young Tibetan in his twenties, doused himself in petrol and set him- self on fire. He walked into the street calling for the long life of the Dalai Lama and for freedom in Tibet. After police began to kick and beat him with clubs spiked with nails, local Tibetans demanded that they hand the body over to them. He was taken away by the police. WELLBEING: Deceased
February 8, 2012
Rinzin Dorje, 19, a former monk from the Kirti monastery, set himself on fire at a primary school early in the evening in Ngaba county town in Sichuan province. He was taken away by police, and two monks were also detained from the vicinity. WELLBEING: Deceased
February 9, 2012
Sonam Rabyang, a monk in his mid-thirties from Yuthung village in Qinghai Province. He was at Lab monastery, and set fire to himself in Tridu town. It is thought that he survived, but it is not clear. WELLBEING: Taken to a hospital; condition is unclear
February 11, 2012
Tenzin Choedron, 18, set herself on fire, shouting slogans against the Chinese government. She chose the same place as nun Tenzin Wangmo, the Sumdo bridge area below the nunnery. Tenzin Choedron did not die immediately, but was taken away by soldiers and police. WELLBEING: Deceased
February 13, 2012
Lobsang Gyatso, a 19 year old Kirti monk, set himself on fire at the top of the main street of Ngaba town shouting slogans of protest against the Chinese government. In the same moment, armed police and special police officers came and extinguished the fire and took him away while beating him. WELLBEING: Unknown
February 17, 2012
Damchoe Sangpo, a 38 year old monas- tic official, self-im- molated in Qinghai province. This is the first time that a monastic official has self-immolated. He set himself ablaze after monks were banned from marking a religious ceremony. Other sources reported that he had committed the act in protest of a rigorous “patriotic education” campaign at his monastery. WELLBEING: Deceased
February 19, 2012
Nangdrol, 18, set himself on fire in Dzamthang, Sichuan. Nangdrol cared passionately about Tibetan culture and language and had urged fellow Tibetans to be united, and to preserve their cultural and religious identity. WELLBEING: Deceased
March 3, 2012
Tsering Kyi, 19, a pupil at the Tibetan Middle School in Manchu, set fire to herself in the vegetable market. Authorities blockaded her school, imposed a tight military lockdown, and investigated cell phones to prevent dissemination of any images of the self-immolation. WELLBEING: Deceased
March 4, 2012
Rinchen, a Tibetan mother in her thirties, self-immolated near a military camp in the vicinity of Kirti monastery in Ngaba. According to Tibetan monks from Kirti who are now in exile, as she set herself ablaze, Rinchen shouted, “Return His Holiness to Tibet,” and, “We need freedom.” WELLBEING: Deceased
March 5, 2012
Dorjee, 18, set fire to himself and walked towards the local government office in Cha township, Sichuan province. Dorjee shouted slogans against the Chinese government’s policies on Tibet. It is believed that he died at the scene, and that authorities took away his body. WELLBEING: Deceased
March 10, 2012
Gepey, 18, self-immolated near a military camp near Kirti monastery. Chinese authorities took Gepey’s body and forced cremation of his body the same night. WELLBEING: Deceased
March 14, 2012
Jamyang Palden, a monk in his thirties from Rongpo monastery, set him- self on fire, marking the first self-immolation in Rebkong. Despite the buildup of troops, images from Rebkong today show local people gathered at the scene of his self-immolation, quietly praying for him. WELLBEING: Unknown
March 16, 2012
Losang Tsultrim, 20, set himself on fire and marched along the main road in the upper part of Ngaba county town, shouting slogans of protest against the Chinese government. The police extinguished the flames, and threw him into the back of a pickup. WELLBEING: Deceased
March 17, 2012
Sonam Thargyal, 44, in Northwestern Qinghai province. He drank kerosene and poured the fuel over his cotton-padded body before setting himself alight, dying just minutes later as his body was swiftly consumed by the flames. WELLBEING: Deceased
March 28, 2012
Lobsang Sherab, 20, at Ganden Tenpeling monastery. A monk since the age of nine, Lobsang Sherab had studied at Kirti while some 300 Chinese government officials have been stationed there, repress- ing religious freedom and human rights. His family pleaded unsuccessfully for the return of his body. WELLBEING: Deceased
March 30, 2012
Tenpa Darjey, 22, and Chimey Palden, 21, outside government offices in Ngaba. The area is now under lockdown by armed troops and no further information is known about the two monks’ survival or whereabouts. WELLBEING: Unknown
April 19, 2012
Sonam and Choepak Kyap, both in their twenties, near a government office in Ngaba. Locals managed to prevent paramilitary troops from taking away the bodies after the self-immolation, and the bodies were taken to the Jonang Dzamthang Gonchen monastery for funeral services. WELLBEING: Both deceased
May 27, 2012
Dorje Tseten, 19, and Dargye, 25 (a former monk), self-immolated outside the Jokhang Temple (one of Tibet’s holiest sites). These are the first immolations in Lhasa. The self-immolations took place during Saga Dawa, an important religious period for Tibetan Buddhists that commemorates the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death. WELLBEING: Both deceased
May 30, 2012
Rikyo, 33, from a nomadic family. A large number of Tibetans gathered to honor her sacrifice at a prayer service; although they stood in a heavy storm, the crowd did not withdraw until 3 am. WELLBEING: Deceased
Since the publication of this issue there have been six additional self-immolations inside Tibet.
For the most dependable and up-to-date information on the situation inside Tibet, please visit ICT’s Self-Immolation Fact Sheet »
Governments Confront China at UN Human Rights Council
On March 14, 2012, European governments and the United States raised strong concern about Tibet in their statements to the UN Human Rights Council. Chinese delegates imposed substantial pressure on countries not to raise the situation in Tibet, and denied that there are any human rights abuses in the PRC.
Among the countries raising serious concerns about the current crisis in Tibet at the UN Human Rights Council (19th session, February 27-March 23) were the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Denmark’s statement, on behalf of the European Union, was supported by 34 countries, including non-EU members Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Iceland, Serbia, Albania, and Liechtenstein.
In addition to voicing criticism and alarm about the violent suppression of Tibetan protests, governments called upon China to take the following actions:
- Allow all Tibetans, including monks, to exercise their cultural and religious rights without hindrance (Denmark, on behalf of the EU);
- Refrain from the use of force against peaceful protest (Denmark, on behalf of the EU);
- Improve the human rights situation in Tibet as well as in other parts of China, as a means of ensuring peace and stability (Denmark, on behalf of the EU);
- Allow for unhindered access to all areas for international monitoring (Czech Republic);
- Re-assess policies that undermine Tibetan and Uyghur linguistic, religious, and cultural traditions, creating grievances and fostering unrest (United States);
- Safeguard the civil, political and cultural rights of all its citizens, in line with its international obligations (United Kingdom); and
- Respect freedom of religion and belief for all, including Tibetans (France).
Tsering Jampa, ICT Executive Director in Europe, said: “The international community has sent a clear message to the Chinese government on Tibet at this critical global forum, and the Beijing authorities have heard this loud and clear. The human rights situation in Tibet has figured prominently in the debate at the UN, demonstrating the value of the Human Rights Council as a significant multilateral venue for confronting even the most egregious human rights violators.
New ICT Report Finds Elements of Cultural Genocide in Tibet
A new report by the International Campaign for Tibet examines the impact on Tibetan culture of Chinese Communist Party rule in Tibet and concludes that policies and practices targeting Tibetan culture and additional risk factors for serious instability in Tibet require a stronger response from the international community.
The report, entitled ’60 Years of Chinese Misrule: Arguing Cultural Genocide in Tibet’ was released on April 25, the birthday of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, Tibet’s Panchen Lama and significant religious figure, who was taken into custody by Chinese authorities in 1995 and has not been seen since.
A cultural genocide is happening in Tibet. This report argues that the Chinese state has abjectly failed in its responsibility to protect and preserve the distinct Tibetan culture, a role that it selected for itself following the invasion and occupation in the 1950s. The report further argues that saving Tibet’s culture should be a matter of concern for the international community as a matter of policy and as part of the overall trend toward the development of a more comprehensive regime for combating genocide.
This report is available online. Visit http://bit.ly/full-ict-report to download a copy at your convenience.
ICT Mourns the Death of Adam Yauch
The International Campaign for Tibet is deeply saddened by the death of Adam Yauch, a member of the ICT Board of Directors from 1996-2006 and the ICT Board of Advisors from 2006 until the time of his death. Adam died on May 4, 2012. Adam was a prominent and generous supporter of Tibet through many other manifestations, including the Tibetan Freedom Concerts and The Milarepa Fund. His passion for Tibet came from his devotion to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Buddhadharma, and from accepting that celebrity could and should be used for a greater good.
Adam’s exuberant MCA persona belied his gentle and compassionate nature, and a well-grounded wisdom – all of which together suggested an inner happiness. Adam lived in a mindful and meaningful way. He left a great and important legacy – in his music, his expert and creative activism, his heartfelt dedication to the cause of Tibet, and his beautiful family. Those who had the privilege to know Adam, even a little, were touched by his kindness. He will be deeply missed by the ICT family.