Monday, August 15, 2011

Monk burned himself to death

Tibetan Monk Sets Himself Ablaze

In a self-immolation protest, he calls for freedom for Tibet and the Dalai Lama's return.
Courtesy of Free Tibet.
An undated photo of Tsewang Norbu.
In the second such case reported this year, a Tibetan Buddhist monk has set himself on fire and died in protest at Beijing’s rule in Tibetan-populated regions of China, according to a Tibetan source in exile.

The monk—identified as Tsewang Norbu, 29—set himself ablaze on Monday, said Chime Tendzin, a monk living in southern India and citing contacts in Sichuan province’s Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) prefecture, where the self-immolation took place.

“At around 12:30 p.m. on Aug. 15, a monk from Tawu [county’s] Nyatso monastery protested near a bridge in front of the county headquarters,” Chime Tendzin said.

“He shouted slogans calling for freedom for Tibet and for the return to Tibet of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and distributed leaflets calling for human rights in Tibet.”

The monk then doused himself with kerosene and set himself alight, continuing to shout slogans for about 15 minutes until he died, Chime Tendzin said.

China’s official Xinhua news agency confirmed the death on Monday, saying “It was unclear why he had burnt himself.”

Monastery surrounded

Chime Tendzin said that Chinese armed police have now surrounded Tawu Nyatso monastery and have demanded that Tsewang Norbu’s body be given to them.

“Security has been tightened in the county in the wake of this incident. The situation is very tense now in Tawu.”

“For now, the monastery has kept the body covered in a yellow scarf,” Chime Tendzin said, adding that the monastery is conducting prayers for the dead monk and have refused to hand over his body.

Chime Tendzin gave Tsewang Norbu’s father’s name as Tsoleg and mother’s name as Shogleg, and the website Tibet Express identified the dead monk’s home village as Lowa, in Tawu (in Chinese, Daofu) county.

“[In previous years], the Tibetan people in Tawu county celebrated the Dalai Lama’s birthday with great fanfare,” Chime Tendzin said.

“But this year, the Chinese government blocked this celebration in the monastery, and even cut off electricity and water for the monastery and a nunnery, which infuriated the local people.”

Repeated protests

Kardze has been the scene of repeated Tibetan protests, both by individuals and by small groups, despite the threat of detentions and violent assaults against protesters by Chinese police.

In March, Phuntsog, a monk at the Kirti monastery in Ngaba prefecture, set fire to himself in protest at rule by Beijing, leading to a security crackdown by Chinese forces and the forced removal of about 300 monks from the monastery.

The London-based Free Tibet rights group has expressed concern that the same crackdown will take place in Tawu.

“Following Phuntsog’s death, the Chinese regime deployed troops onto the streets of Ngaba, forcibly removed hundreds of monks, imposed curfews, undertook house searches, and set up military roadblocks around the town which remain six months later," Free Tibet director Stephanie Brigden said in a statement.

"We have grave concerns over what could unfold in Tawu," she added.

“In the last few hours, telephone lines have been cut and Internet cafes closed in an effort to control news spreading across Tibet and to prevent news being shared with the outside world," Brigden said.

"We have received reports that the army has surrounded the monastery. We call on the Chinese authorities to act proportionately.”

Reported by Soepa Gyaltso for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translations by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Voice of dissent

Tibetan Mine Protesters Detained

Local people fear environmental damage, harm to sacred sites.
Authorities have detained Tibetans protesting mines in Dzogang county during the last three months.
Chinese authorities have taken into custody two men identified as the “ringleaders” of Tibetan protests against mining in China’s Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), according to Tibetan sources.

The detentions follow a wave of roundups of other protesters who have sought to block mine operations in the TAR’s Chamdo prefecture during the last three months, sources said.

A local Tibetan, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that authorities detained the two—identified as a lama named Tendzin and a layman named Tashi—“around July 20.”

“With this, the number of people held in connection with the mining protest is estimated to be around 50,” the source said.

Reached for comment, a police official in Chamdo prefecture’s Dzogang (in Chinese, Zuogang) county confirmed on Friday that “two local people” had been detained, but hung up when asked for additional information.

Beaten, detained

Protests in Dzogang began in May, when local Tibetans learned that “around 200” Chinese laborers had been deployed to work at mines in “several locations” in the county, according to another source.

“Dzogang county authorities, in order to quash the protest, warned the local people that any demonstrations against the mining would be construed as politically motivated, and urged them to refrain from such actions,” the man said.

Police beat Tibetans in Dzogang county’s Bethong township when they appealed for a halt to mine operations, another source said, adding that county officials said the land on which the mines were located had already been sold to a Chinese company.

“The local people were told that the land belongs to local and county government, and that the people have no say in how the land is used,” he said.

On June 30, nine unidentified Tibetans were detained for protesting Chinese mining on a sacred mountain near the villages of Topa and Sapa in Bethong township, the same source said.

“A convoy of official cars and four military trucks descended on the villages and detained nine local people at around 9:30 p.m.,” the source said. “The detentions were in connection with earlier protests against the mining.”

Chinese military personnel were then deployed at four mining sites, and the movements of local villagers were restricted, the source added.

Delegates held

Then, on July 2, three village officials—Arsong, 56, Tashi Namgyal, 60, and Jamyang Thinley, 62—who had traveled as delegates to the Tibetan capital Lhasa to protest the mining and detentions, were taken into custody by Dzogang county police and brought back to Dzogang.

Two other groups of villagers were detained on July 6 and 7, the source said, naming some of those held as Ga Tashi, Tsesong, Buti, Lobsang Tsultrim, Delob, Butob, Gendun, Jamyang Nyima, and Bu Tashi.

On July 14, a lama named Nyima was also detained, the source continued.

Mining operations in Tibetan regions have led to frequent standoffs with Tibetans who accuse Chinese firms of disrupting sites of spiritual significance and polluting the environment as they extract local wealth.

Reported by Soepa Gyaltso, Dawa Dolma, and Dhondub Dorjee for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translations by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.