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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Images of heavy troop presence at annual Tibetan horse festival

August 19, 2013

August 16, 2013 - There was a strong presence of armed forces at the Machu (Chinese: Maqu) horse festival held from August 13 to 16. These images received by the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) depict intimidating ranks of armed troops – some with riot shields and helmets – present at the festival, a traditional event that draws thousands of Tibetans as well as Chinese.

This year’s race included more than 800 riders on horseback from across the region and the PRC. The Tibetan source who provided the images said that the troops were much more visible this year than last, and that they were deployed strategically in four separate areas.

The annual Gesar horse race in Machu county in Kanlho (Chinese: Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province, is one of the most popular events in the Tibetan area of Amdo. It was cancelled in 2008 following the protests that swept Tibet, but continued in 2012, when a strong military presence was also deployed.

Last year, the Chinese authorities, concerned about the possibility of a self-immolation at the event, issued an 11-point notice calling upon Tibetans to refrain from using the Machu horse festival to express their grievances in public. The Dharamsala-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, reported: “The notice, issued in both Tibetan and Chinese language, barred anyone from carrying ‘flammable’ and ‘poisonous’ objects and engaging in protest activities at the event venue, and added that violating the rules listed in the notice would attract punishment ranging from ‘detention’ to prosecution in the courts.” (TCHRD report, August 20, 2012).

The Machu festival is named in honor of the legendary epic hero, King Ling Gesar, who fought against forces of evil.

The images can be viewed at

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