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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."

China's Opressive Rule in Tibet Intensifies Apace

June 12, 2008

Tibet Custom
June 8, 2008

China despite having trouble in the Tibet / China border area's due
to the current crisis caused by the recent earthquake have continued
to rain sorrow on the heads of Tibetan's,

Popular Tibetan Folk singer Drolmakyi is the last of seven Folk
singers who have been arrested without charge and detained without
any kind of detail as to their condition or whereabouts.

The 31-year-old single mother, a singer, a member of the local
government council and a well-known figure around town, had grown up
tending yak in the mountains and hadn't forgotten her nomadic roots.
At the nightclub, she and her friends would put on swirling robes and
coral beads as fat as grapes and belt out ballads aching with
nostalgia for the old Tibetan ways.

"She sang from the heart," said her mother, Caito, who insists that
Drolmakyi's music wasn't political. "My daughter always said we must
keep Tibetan culture and language. That's all."

On March 30, Chinese authorities arrested Drolmakyi as she was
hanging laundry from the balcony of her apartment. She didn't even
get to say goodbye to her three children, ages 9 to 13, who were
playing outside. They came back and found their mother gone.

At least six other Tibetan cultural figures were arrested in recent
months under similar circumstances with no warning or formal charges.
Friends and family say they eventually secured their releases by
paying large fees and promising to keep quiet.

What made the arrests especially odd was that Dawu, which lies in the
Golog prefecture, about 150 miles outside the Tibetan Autonomous
Region, saw none of the protests against Chinese rule that swept
through other ethnic Tibetan areas beginning in mid-March. The
cultural figures who were arrested had no direct involvement in protests.

The Golog prefecture is an enclave of 120,000 ethnic Tibetans and
fewer than 10,000 ethnic Chinese in China's Qinghai province.
Tibetans call this region Amdo and consider it part of their historic
homeland. The remote location, at least 12 hours up a partially
unpaved road from the nearest train station, has kept Chinese
influence to a minimum.

Until March, Golog's Tibetans enjoyed relative freedom. Behind the
cash register at most restaurants hung portraits of the Dalai Lama,
the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader whose image is banned in many
other parts of China. Shops openly sold posters and lockets with the
Dalai Lama's photo, even copies of his speeches.


Tibetan folk music was enjoying a revival, particularly a relatively
recent style that started in Amdo in the 1980s, known as dunglen. The
songs are slow, sad, hypnotic and invariably about lost love or some
tragedy. The exile of the Dalai Lama and the loss of Tibetan identity
under Chinese communist rule were perfect subjects for the style of music.

"More and more in recent years, people were singing about the Dalai
Lama. I guess because the Tibetans are just not happy together with
the Chinese," said a 25-year-old vendor who sells video and audio CDs
at a kiosk at Dawu's main market.

Donzhub, a ponytailed young man who occasionally played in
Drolmakyi's nightclub, a place painted with colorful murals of lotus
blossoms and other Buddhist symbols, said, "We used to sing about
things we couldn't talk about."

The nightclub opened in the fall. Drolmakyi was eager to provide some
culture in a town where night life consisted of playing pool at the
market. She also used the club as a training center for illiterate
Tibetan women, teaching them to sing in order to gain financial independence.

Drolmakyi, who is separated from her husband, lived in the mountains
until five years ago, when she bought an apartment in Dawu for her
mother and children so the children could enroll in school. Drolmakyi
had little formal education and taught herself to read and write.

It remains unclear what led to Drolmakyi's arrest because the family
was never informed of any charges.

"Nothing, nothing, nothing. They told us nothing," her mother said in
an interview in the family's living room, dominated by a huge picture
of Lhasa, the Tibetan region's capital. "It is like she disappeared."

The mother said she'd heard that Drolmakyi had sketched a Tibetan
flag to use in one of her nightclub acts. Under Article 105 of
China's criminal code, people can be charged with "incitement to
subversion of state power" for criticizing Chinese rule.

According to family and friends, Drolmakyi was permitted to return
home in late May after nearly two months in custody. One friend said
she believed that a condition of the release was that Drolmakyi
cannot appear in public or discuss her arrest.

"She's been basically told she has to shut up for a while," said the
friend, who asked not to be quoted by name.

Public security officials did not respond to repeated telephone calls
and faxes seeking comment.

Tsering Shayka, a Tibetan historian based in Canada who knows many of
those arrested, said the detainees were not subversives. "If
anything, they were the people the Chinese could have worked with. .
. . The Chinese are misreading the desire for autonomy and cultural
identity as asserting independence."

Others who were arrested about the same time as Drolmakyi include
Jamyangkyi, a well-known singer and anchorwoman from Xining who had
been a visiting scholar at Columbia University. Dabe, a comedian
famous for his shoulder-length hair and beard, was held for about a
month before being released in late April with a shaved head.

Palchenkyab, the head of a literacy project for nomads, and a teacher
at one of his schools were arrested. Also arrested was Lhundrup, a
musician who recorded a popular music video that refers obliquely to
the Dalai Lama's flight from Tibet to India. The sun and the moon
have departed through the mountain pass. The person who gave hope is
gone. He looks at the Tibetans and sees that this is the Tibetans' fate.

The only news of the arrests to come out of China was in a blog
written by Woeser, a Tibetan poet, who was under house arrest for a
week in March and whose blog has been repeatedly attacked by hackers.

Robbie Barnett, a Tibet scholar at Columbia, believes that Chinese
authorities picked on local celebrities to intimidate other Tibetans.
Most of those arrested were believed to have been released under
conditions similar to those for Drolmakyi, meaning that they have
been effectively silenced, he said.

"The Chinese have had a consistent focus on people who have ideas,
people who think and who might inspire others to think about what it
means to be Tibetan," Barnett said.


Protests and the crackdown have continued despite the May 12
earthquake in Sichuan province that has left 70,000 people dead.
According to Tibetan exile groups, 80 nuns were arrested in late May
in Ganzi, in Sichuan. Chinese state media announced Thursday that 16
Buddhist monks had been arrested and had confessed to planning
bombings in Tibet.

In Dawu, it was easy to see examples of changed behavior after the
arrests. The music shops lining the main market stopped displaying
the videos and CDs of arrested singers. Shopkeepers no longer sold
photos of the Dalai Lama. Even in homes, many Tibetans said, they
have stashed away such photos. Some people were afraid to speak to
the first foreign journalist to visit since the trouble began in March.

"You never know when the police will come," said Cebu, a 50-year-old
Tibetan herder.
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