Troops open fire on Tibetans in escalating crisis in Nagchu

  • At least 60 Tibetans were injured, some seriously, on October 6 in Driru after Chinese troops opened fire on Tibetans calling for the release of a local Tibetan who had objected to orders from a ‘patriotic education’ work team prior to China’s National Day on October 1.
  • The incident followed a crackdown on September 29 in Driru (Chinese: Biru), County in Nagchu (Ch: Naqu) Prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region, after a failed attempt by the authorities to compel families and monasteries in the area to raise Chinese national flags to mark the founding anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. More than 40 people were detained and many more seriously injured as a result of severe beatings from security forces.
  • Tsering Gyaltsen, who is in his twenties, was named by sources as being one of those seriously injured after torture in detention after police apparently singled him out as a ‘ringleader’ of the peaceful expressions of dissent. Despite his serious condition, he was prevented from receiving medical treatment for several days. He is now in hospital in Lhasa in critical condition. Other Tibetans injured by beatings or torture were unable to travel for medical treatment due to restrictions on movement in the area.
  • Militarisation has been dramatically stepped up in the Driru area after resistance to work teams sent as part of an intensified drive across the Tibet Autonomous Region to enforce loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party. Tibetans in Driru are still in danger as the authorities enforce an even more intense lockdown than before, cutting communications with the area. A notice has been disseminated in Lhasa to warn people from the county not to return there at present, according to exile Tibetan sources.

It is not known if troops fired live rounds or tear-gas when they opened fire on Tibetans protesting in Driru (Chinese: Biru), County in Nagchu (Ch: Naqu) Prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region, on Sunday (October 6), but dozens of Tibetans were injured – with some Tibetan sources saying at least 60. The Tibetans had gathered to protest the detention of a Tibetan who has been named by sources as Dorje Dragtsel and who spoke out at a meeting to enforce raising the Chinese flag and loyalty to the Communist Party by a visiting work team. Dragtsel was taken away from the meeting by security personnel and his whereabouts is not known.

Tibetans gathered in Dorje Dragtsel’s home area, Dathang township, to call for his release. According to one Tibetan source, the aggressive response of the police was distressing to local people, who were “violently suppressed by about 300 security forces using guns and iron batons” according to the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy and other Tibetan sources (TCHRD, Diru under lockdown: one Tibetan sentenced; more injured by gunshots and disappeared).

A Tibetan who has spoken to sources in the area said that Dorje Dragtsel was “one of the leading local people who was concerned about the well-being of his community”.

Tibetan exile sources have named four Tibetans who were seriously injured; Tagyal (Tashi Gyaltsen) was shot in the leg, breaking his thighbone. Tsewang had both his jawbones broken, and one source said the bullet penetrated his face. They were both taken to Lhasa for medical treatment and believed to be in critical condition. Lobsang Wangchen and Pador were also named as being injured, with many more people losing consciousness after tear-gas was fired, according to the same sources.

It is the second time in the last few months that Chinese troops have fired upon a gathering of Tibetans. On July 6, police opened fire on Tibetans peacefully celebrating the Dalai Lama’s 78th birthday on July 6, injuring at least ten people, in Tawu (Chinese: Dafu) in Kandze (Chinese: Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province. Other Tibetans detained were tortured in custody. Social media networks and mobile phone connections were affected as officials seek to prevent information reaching the outside world from the area, and little is known about the current condition of those shot in Tawu. (ICT report, Shooting in Tawu on Dalai Lama’s birthday: update).

Tsering Gyaltsen, who was injured in detention together with a number of other Tibetans during the crackdown in Mowa village in Driru county on September 29, was admitted to hospital on October 6 in Lhasa, after several days without medical attention despite his critical condition. A Tibetan friend of his, Choezin, who visited him in hospital has disappeared, according to Tibetan sources.

The same sources report that many Tibetans from different villages in Driru have been unable to obtain medical treatment due to restrictions on movement and the intimidating presence of troops.

The Dharamsala-based Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy reported that a Tibetan layman called Dayang, 68, has been sentenced to two years and five months for shouting slogans for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Tibetan freedom at a cultural show in Tsachu township in Driru county on September 3. TCHRD reported: “During a cultural show organised by the Chinese authorities in Tsachu, where Tibetans were required to wave Chinese flags and appear happy, Dayang raised slogans challenging the spectacle of forced happiness on local Tibetans. The same day, Dayang who hails from Dongla Rudo Village in Tsachu Township was allowed to return home. But at around 2 am, a group of Public Security Bureau officials suddenly entered Dayang’s house and took him away as other officers put a cloth over his wife’s head. For the next few days, the whereabouts of Dayang remained unknown until it was learned that he was admitted at Driru county hospital getting treatment for injuries he sustained during his secret detention.” (TCHRD, Diru under lockdown: one Tibetan sentenced; more injured by gunshots and disappeared).

TCHRD reported that in Tsachu township, about 100 Tibetans sustained injuries after they were beaten up by security forces for protesting against police violence and the secret detention of Dayang. The protesters, from Taklha, Lahog, Kona, Baro and Bhalag villages in Tsachu Township, have been injured but they are not allowed to go outside their houses to seek medical treatment.

Radio Free Asia cited a Tibetan source saying that: “Chinese authorities have dispatched more than 200 paramilitary and police vehicles to villages [in Driru], setting up checkpoints on all the major roads. They have confiscated Tibetans’ cell phones and blocked communications by phone and the Internet. Now people have to bring their ID cards even when they go out to shop, and police are taking away all Tibetans who cannot show their ID.” (RFA, Chinese Police Fire on Unarmed Tibetan Protesters in Driru).

The current drive to enforce loyalty to the CCP through compelling the display of the Chinese flag is part of the Party’s strategy to intensify control across the TAR as the answer to political ‘instability’. (ICT report, Militarization escalates in Nagchu, Tibet, after Tibetans resist raising Chinese flag).

The peaceful dissent in Driru that led to troops firing on Tibetans this week occurred in a climate that was already oppressive. Tibetans in Driru have been subject to increasing restrictions since 2008, when there were a number of peaceful protests against Chinese rule. On China’s National Day, October 1, in 2008, the authorities announced the despatch of a ‘Safe Driru County’ work team to ensure locals were aware of the ‘anti-separatism’ law and other measures to suppress dissent. (Tibet Watch citing www.xznqnews.com, October 1, 2008). High numbers of troops were stationed in Driru from March 2008, in the build-up to the Beijing Olympics, and work teams installed to implement intensified ‘patriotic education’.

Bhuchung Tsering, Interim President of the International Campaign for Tibet, said today: “While the authorities claim to prioritise ‘safety’ and ‘stability’, the escalating crisis in Driru proves that this oppressive approach is having the opposite effect. Tibetans in the area have sought to express themselves peacefully. There is an urgent need for the authorities to pay attention to their concerns, and to end the violence and intimidation by troops in Nagchu. Tibetans who are injured must also be allowed to obtain urgent medical assistance.”

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