Monks, nomads protest as demonstrations spread across entire Tibetan Plateau

Photographs accompanying this story contain graphic content
Protest map

Places where demonstrations/protests are known to have taken place since March 10, 2008.
Click map for a larger view.

Protests have spread across the entire Tibetan plateau with new demonstrations yesterday and reports of more Tibetans killed by armed police. In Lhasa, hundreds of arrests were reported after intimidating house to house searches continued and reliable new reports emerged of Tibetans being threatened by Chinese residents of the city in possible attacks.

Several hundred monks from Bora monastery in Amchok Bora, a primarily Tibetan nomadic area in Gannan TAP, Gansu Province, demonstrated earlier yesterday (March 18). According to a reliable source, they broke into Chinese shops in the area and destroyed property, although they deliberately avoided violence against people in their attacks on property. According to the same source, they stopped when they were asked to do so by a respected lama and possibly other monks too. The source also said that large numbers of Tibetan nomads gathered in the area and were persuaded not to carry out protests by local monks. Casualties as a result of the protest, which was met by armed police, could not be confirmed.

Several reports reached ICT of the deaths of at least three Tibetans after armed police fired into a crowd of peaceful demonstrators yesterday in Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi) town in Kardze prefecture, Sichuan province. The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy and other sources reported that at least three Tibetan protestors were shot dead when several hundred Tibetans gathered in the main market square, calling for independence and shouting ‘Long live the Dalai Lama’. Two of the dead were identified as Gonpo Nadul and Nyiga. The name of the third victim is not known.

Troops also broke up crowds of Tibetan demonstrators in Machu (Chinese: Maqu) county town in Kanlho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu (Amdo), when a group of students began protesting and were soon joined by nomads from neighbouring counties on March 16. The protestors, some of whom carried images of the Dalai Lama, shouted pro-independence slogans, and called for the return of the Dalai Lama. A Tibetan flag was displayed and protestors wore white khatags (Tibetan blessing scarves).

According to a reliable source, like other protests in the past few days in eastern areas of Tibet, demonstrators focused on institutions of state power, such as local government offices. In Machu, protestors threw stones and burnt police cars. Photos sent by Tibetans show the local police station alight. At least 11 truckloads of Chinese security personnel arrived on the scene and suppressed the protests. The number of casualties was unclear, although one source that could not be confirmed indicated there could be as many as 19 deaths.

Images of dead protestors at Kirti monastery, Amdo

Bodies of protesters killed

Bodies of protesters killed by police placed in front of Kirti Monastery following demonstrations that have reported at least 10 dead after police opened fire. More images below.

Further reports reached ICT of a violent response by the authorities to a protest at Kirti monastery and nearby religious institutions in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) in Sichuan province (the Tibetan area of Amdo) involving hundreds of Tibetans. At least two sources referred to more than 10 deaths. One source close to individuals in the area told ICT that many “were shot under random fire, and are wounded but can’t go to the hospital because they don’t want the officials to know who they are. There are riots in the streets and cars are being burned and turned upside-down in revolt.”

The protests by monks from Kirti were joined by laypeople, and involved calls for a free Tibet, with pictures of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan flags on display. Armed police reportedly opened fire on the demonstrators.

ICT and other organizations have received graphic and disturbing images of the bodies of eight Tibetans who were killed during the protests. Known among the dead are Lobsang Tashi, a monk from Thawo village, and Tsezen, a layperson from Thachung village. A reliable source reported to ICT that the dead included three middle school students. Monks, nomads, farmers, and students are also reported to be among the dead.

At nearby Ragya monastery (Machen County, Golog TAP, Qinghai) on Sunday (March 16), local people performed a puja (Tibetan Buddhist prayer ceremony) for those killed near Kirti Monastery. According to at least one reliable report, police surrounded the monastery and asked the senior monks to stop the puja, otherwise they would use force. The lamas then asked the monks to stop.

A student protest was reported in Kanlho TAP, as well as demonstrations in Tsoe Township (Kanlho TAP), and at Achok Monastery (Sagchu County, Kanlho TAP).

Monks from a local monastery at Chabcha (Tsolho Prefecture, Qinghai Province) called for a free Tibet and placed the Tibetan national flag on the temple. Police asked senior monks and lamas to remove the flag and surrounded the monastery for three hours before leaving.

A demonstration was held at Pangsa Monastery (Lhasa municipality) on March 16, followed by a larger protest on March 17 in which thousands of protesters at Pangsa and other monasteries in Medro Gongkar took part. It is reported that seven PAP trucks full of police personnel arrived to stop the protests.

A protest was held by monks at Tsang Monastery (Yulgan County, Malho TAP, Qinghai). It is reported that over 500 monks demonstrated, raising the Tibetan national flag on the monastery rooftop while carrying around a portrait of the Dalai Lama before being confronted by PAP.

Protests have also been reported at Rongpo Monastery (Amdo) and Gaden Chokor Monastery (Phenpo Lhundrup County). At Larung Gar religious encampment in Serthar County (Kardze TAP, Sichuan Province), senior lamas were reportedly removed from the Buddhist institutes.

Lhasa protests

Mass arrests continued today as part of a rolling crackdown, with soldiers standing guard at main intersections checking the ID of passers by, and stopping and searching Tibetans in traditional clothes in particular. According to one reliable source: “Many soldiers have been storming into people’s homes to make arrests, viciously beating them with batons and firing tear gas at people standing round watching.”

The number of arrests could not be confirmed, although according to one reliable source, at least 600 people were arrested in Lhasa on Saturday (March 15), and at least 300 on Sunday. Last evening in Beijing, the Chinese official state media claimed that 105 Tibetans had handed themselves into the authorities. From Friday, March 14, onwards, the authorities canceled the prohibition on firing weapons. Despite Tibet Autonomous Region government chairman Jampa Phuntsog’s statement that no shots had been fired, numerous eyewitness reports confirmed that troops fired at will, and an unknown number of Tibetans were killed. Reports that government hospitals were refusing to treat the wounded could not be confirmed.

Protester killed

Protester killed after police opened fire on demonstrators near Kirti Monastery in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) in Sichuan province (the Tibetan area of Amdo).

Bodies of protesters killed

Bodies of protesters killed by police placed in front of Kirti Monastery following demonstrations that have reported at least 10 dead after police opened fire.

Protester killed by police

Protester killed by police during demonstrations in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) in Sichuan province (the Tibetan area of Amdo).

Protesters demonstrate in Machu

Protesters demonstrate in Machu (Chinese: Maqu) county town in Kanlho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu (Amdo). As many as 19 deaths have been reported as a result of the police crackdown on the protesters.

Police station burned

Police station burned after recent demonstrations in Machu (Chinese: Maqu) county town in Kanlho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu (Amdo).

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