Wave of solo peaceful protests in Ngaba: repression and further restrictions imposed

  • There has been a wave of solo peaceful protests in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba), one of the most oppressive areas of Tibet, since an important political anniversary in August and the Dalai Lama’s birthday in July. The Tibetan monks and young women who have held their lone demonstrations have called for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet, and freedom for Tibet. Several held up images of the exiled Tibetan religious leader or clasped their hands together in prayer.
  • Ngaba is the area where the self-immolations of Tibetans began in 2009, but it is notable that in a different pattern of protests, the young monks and women who demonstrated – and who have now disappeared – did not harm themselves.
  • Images have since reached ICT of stepped-up patrols of paramilitary police in riot gear on the streets of Ngaba county town, Sichuan (the Tibetan area of Amdo). The protesters’ actions are all the more striking given the political context; they know that the consequences of even mild expressions of dissent in Ngaba are likely to involve severe torture in custody and a possible prison sentence.
  • In nine protests since July, four were carried out by young women, with a further protest by a woman in her sixties. Four young monks from Kirti monastery in Ngaba carried out lone protests, with two of them having family connections to Tibetans who are already in prison.

Adak protester

Adrak, 20, who carried out a solo protest on September 10 shouting “Freedom for Tibet! May the Dalai Lama live 10,000 years!”

On September 10, two young Kirti monks carried out separate protests against the Chinese government, following earlier protests also by young Kirti monks on September 7 and 9. Twenty-year old Kirti monk Adrak walked along the main street of Ngaba county town in the morning of September 10 shouting “Freedom for Tibet! May the Dalai Lama live 10,000 years!”

He was immediately detained by police. When they beat him severely as they took him away, many Tibetan onlookers began to shout in protest, and some of them were beaten and taken away themselves, according to two Kirti monks in exile in Dharamsala, India. Among the bystanders detained at the time for protesting about the monk’s treatment by police was a woman called Aye Gumo, aged about 64. Her present condition and whereabouts are not known. Aye Gumo is a labourer and street cleaner from Kharsar village in Ngaba county, which is in Ngaba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture.

Adrak, the Kirti monk who protested, is the youngest of nine children from a village in Choejema township, Ngaba. He joined Kirti monastery at a young age. In 2012, his nephew Losang Tsultrim was sentenced to 12 years for involvement in a self-immolation protest. Since the wave of self-immolations – now totaling more than 140 – swept across Tibet from 2009, the Chinese Communist Party has responded with an intensified wave of repression in Tibet, by punishing those allegedly “associated” with self-immolators, including friends, families and even entire communities.[1]

Also on Sept 10, at about 6 pm, 22 year old Kirti monk Losang staged a similar protest in the main street. He was taken away by police and his present whereabouts are not known.

Losang, who is from the Chukle Gabma pastoral area, joined Kirti monastery at a young age, and is studying in the logic class. The Kirti monks in exile also reported a further demonstration on September 10 by a group of laypeople, walking peacefully along the main street and shouting slogans, but no further details are available.

Both Losang and Adrak’s protests took place on the main street near Kirti monastery, which is known as ‘Heroes [or Martyr’s] Street’ due to the number of self-immolations that have occurred here. According to the Kirti monks in exile, “[Following the protests], the main streets and road junctions in the county town are under strict surveillance by security forces, and all internet connections have been cut, except for in government offices. Internet service for all private users has been cut off. Buses and cars full of police were seen in the main streets and intersections as reinforcements arrived to impose a crackdown.”

Troops on the streets of Ngaba

Troops on the streets of Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) county town following the protests in September.

On September 11, five monks studying in the logic class of Kirti monastery – the same class as one of the protesters the day before – were walking towards the boundary of the monastery’s summer retreat area when they were beaten and arrested by police, according to the same sources. They were released two or three days later, with the exception of 22-year old Losang Sonam. The reasons for his continued detention, and place of detention, are not known. Losang Sonam is the eldest of the four children, also from Kharsar village, and he became a Kirti monk at a young age.

Jampal Gyatso

(Left) Jampal Gyatso’s protest on September 9, holding up a large portrait of the Dalai Lama wrapped in a blessing scarf (khatag) and calling for freedom for Tibet.
(Right) Jampal Gyatso, who protested in the main street of Ngaba county town on September 9.


At around midday on September 9, another monk from the logic class of Kirti monastery, Jampal Gyatso, 21, protested in the main street of Ngaba county town, holding up a large portrait of the Dalai Lama wrapped in a blessing scarf (khatag) and calling for freedom for Tibet. He was arrested by police immediately and his present whereabouts are not known, according to the two Kirti monks in exile, Kanyag Tsering and Lobsang Yeshe. A short video clip of Jampal Gyatso walking down the street with the large portrait was circulated among Tibetans in exile.

Jampal Gyatso comes from the Me’uruma pastoral area, is the youngest of three children and joined Kirti monastery at a young age.

Losang Kalsang

Losang Kalsang, who protested on September 7.

Two days before Jampal Gyatso’s protest, at about 3 pm on September 7, 19-year old Kirti monk Losang Kalsang staged a protest in the county town, shouting “Freedom for Tibet! May the Dalai Lama live 10,000 years!” and other slogans of protest against the Chinese government. He was taken away by police, and his present whereabouts are not known. Remarkable footage of his protest and detention have circulated among Tibetan exiles; he is shown walking along the street with a picture of the Dalai Lama held high. As police move in, they grab the picture, that drops to the floor, and surround him, dragging him away. As he is taken away, Tibetan onlookers call and whoop in his support.

Losang Kalsang is also from the Me’uruma pastoral area in Ngaba county, and is the second of four children. He joined the monastery as a child, and in 2014 graduated fom the preliminary class to the philosophy class, according to the exile Kirti monks. Last year, his room-mate and cousin Losang Tenpa shouted protest slogans in Ngaba town, was sentenced to two years and is still in prison. The exiled Kirti monks said: “In 2008, his uncles Tsedak and Choepel were sentenced to six and four years in prison respectively, so he had direct experience of such things.”

Two young Kirti monks, Tapey and Phuntsog, were the first Tibetans inside Tibet to set fire to themselves in 2009 and 2011, beginning a wave of self-immolations.[2] While the earlier self-immolations were carried out by monks, specifically from the important monastery of Kirti, laypeople then began to dominate the self-immolations.

A Tibetan from Ngaba who attended the funeral rites for Phuntsog, who set fire to himself on March 16, 2011, said: “These young Tibetans who have protested [in recent weeks] are so determined, and courageous, and it is so good to see that they are not harming themselves [by carrying out self-immolation.]”

The head lama of Kirti monastery, Kirti Rinpoche, who lives in exile in Dharamsala, India, has said that “The self-immolations emerge from the unbearable oppression imposed by the Chinese authorities and their policies undermining Tibetan religion and culture.”[3]

Wangmo

Wangmo on her arrival at Meuruma, Ngaba County.

Wokar Kyi

Wokar Kyi, with her son, who protested on August 15, shouting “Freedom for Tibet”, “We have suffered too much repression” and “The Dalai Lama must return.”

The recent wave of solo protests in Ngaba began in July when two young Tibetan women were detained, apparently after separate demonstrations. A slight young woman called Wangmo, in her early twenties, was detained on July 15 in Me’uruma village, Ngaba, after she called for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet and freedom for Tibetans.[4] Wangmo, who has two children, Wangmo walked up the main road of Me’uruma town holding a portrait of the Dalai Lama, according to the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy. Her release from custody was reported on July 23 by exile Tibetan sources; an image of her upon release shows her draped in khatags (blessing scarves) by local people to demonstrate their respect for her actions.

Earlier in the same month, on July 2 (2015), another Tibetan girl named Tashi Kyi, 20, was arrested by Chinese authorities in the same town. The detention is believed to have been related to some activities, possibly a demonstration, that took place at the 80th birthday celebration of the Dalai Lama in Me’uruma Township.[5] Her current location and welfare are not known. Tashi Kyi grew up with her nomad parents and never attended formal schooling.[6]

A month later, another young woman in her early twenties demonstrated in the same town, Me’uruma in Ngaba county, Ngaba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture. On August 15, Wokar Kyi shouted “Freedom for Tibet”, “We have suffered too much repression” and “The Dalai Lama must return”, according to reports by two Kirti monks in exile in Dharamsala, India. She was immediately arrested by local police and taken away, and her current whereabouts is not known. Wokar Kyi is married and has a four-year old son. She grew up helping her parents look after their livestock and did not go to school.

Five days later, at around 8.30 am on August 20, a 29-year old woman named Dorje Drolma staged a protest in the main street of Ngaba county town, walking along the road and shouting slogans against Chinese government oppression. She was immediately detained by around 10 policemen, and her situation and place of detention since then are still not known, according to the Kirti monks in exile. Dorje Drolma is the second of four daughters from Me’uruma, and a mother of three.

The restrictive climate in Tibet has been particularly intense in recent months in the buildup to the anniversary of the establishment of the Tibet Autonomous Region in September, and following a major policy meeting on Tibet on August 24-25.[7]

Dorje Dolma

Dorje Dolma, 29, who staged a protest on August 20 in the main street of Ngaba county town, walking along the road and shouting slogans against Chinese government oppression.



 
Footnotes
[1] ICT report, ‘Acts of Significant Evil: The Criminalization of Self-Immolations’, July 31, 2014, http://www.savetibet.org/acts-of-significant-evil/

[2] http://www.savetibet.org/resources/fact-sheets/self-immolations-by-tibetans/

[3] ICT press release, March 19, 2013, http://www.savetibet.org/kirti-rinpoche-chief-abbot-of-kirti-monastery-in-london-this-week/

[4] Tibetan exile website, July 18, 2015, http://www.phayul.com/news/article.aspx?id=36265

[5] The Dalai Lama marked his 80th birthday on July 6, which is June 21 in the Tibetan calendar. See ICT photo report, June 29, 2015, https://www.savetibet.org/dalai-lamas-80th-birthday-celebrated-in-tibet-despite-chinese-clampdown/

[6] TCHRD report, July 12, 2015, http://www.tchrd.org/tibetan-woman-20-detained-in-connection-with-dalai-lamas-80th-birthday/

[7] ICT reports, September 8, 2015, http://www.savetibet.org/tough-warnings-on-anti-separatism-from-party-leaders-at-political-anniversary-in-tibet/ and August 28, 2015, https://www.savetibet.org/major-policy-meeting-on-tibet-in-buildup-to-sensitive-anniversary/

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