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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."

Patriotism? You're Killing Me

October 3, 2008

Agam's Gecko Blog
Mourning at Kirti
October 1, 2008

n a preliminary report from FTC London on a recent incident in Ngaba Prefecture, it's clear that the ugly, unjustifiable repression suffered by the monks of Kirti Monastery in Ngaba town (site of one of the earliest massacres of unarmed demonstrators after peaceful resistance began on March 10) is continuing to the present day.

On September 24, a monk (later identified as Jimpa Ladja) had asked and received permission to leave the monastery confines. Upon his return he was accosted by police and beaten bloody. Fifty of the monks then went to the police station located next to the monastery and demanded an explanation for severe beating. Police told them they would call the local authorities for a discussion.

The source reported that shortly after the call was made, two truckloads of armed police arrived at the police station. The police immediately started to beat the monks at the police station, even though the monks had refrained from becoming violent on the arrival of the police, according to the source. Four of the monks were beaten so badly that they had to be hospitalised. Free Tibet Campaign has not been able to confirm where the monks are hospitalised. The four who were hospitalised are high-ranking monks at Kirti monastery and, according to the source, one of them could be the abbot of Kirti, although this could not be confirmed immediately.

It is estimated that around 10,000 Chinese troops have been stationed in Ngaba town since August. That month, two Tibetan women were reportedly wounded by Chinese troops taking potshots from inside their station. Further information from FTC sources have filled in the events of this latest incident with more detail.

It appears that the monk had needed to leave the monastery buildings for a very mundane reason, and in the current state of military occupation of religious institutions he was obliged to ask permission to go to the toilet. Couldn't the Chinese find a few more ways to humiliate people? (I'm sure they can.)

The monastery is ringed by nine separate police checkpoints, each one fenced and containing 10-15 police. Beyond this ring is an outer perimeter which is forbidden to cross. As Jimpa Ladja was returning past one of these armed checkpoints he was accused of transgressing the inviolable outer perimeter, which he strongly denied. Then they beat him bloody.

Following the beating Ladja was able to walk to a restaurant which is owned by Kirti monastery. Approximately 50 monks were eating at the restaurant when Ladja arrived. Ladja was bleeding and told the monks that he had been beaten, even though he had not crossed the monastery perimeter. According to the source, two of the monks at the restaurant immediately went to the police station situated to the north of Kirti to demand to know why Ladja had been beaten. Chinese armed personnel at the station threatened the monks, firing live rounds into the sky and into the ground in front of the monks. The monks ran back to the restaurant, chased by Chinese armed police who demanded that Ladja leave the restaurant immediately.

Entirely reasonably, several monks at this restaurant felt it was unreasonable to punish monks for having to go to the toilet, and they asked the pursuing monk-beaters to please call their superiors to settle the problem. The call went out, two truckloads of paramilitary police arrived in response, armed with rifles, spades and meat cleavers.

When the police arrived the monks lay on the ground, and even removed their garments to show the police that they were not armed, according to the source. Despite the absence of violence from the monks, the police beat the monks severely, using the butts of their rifles, spades and even the meat choppers. Five of the 50 monks had to be hospitalized due to the severity of their injuries. The hospitalized monks are: Lama Sotse; Rabgye; Tsang Chopel; Labchoek and Lophel. According to the source, Rabgye and Tsang Chopel had suffered particularly severe injuries after being attacked with spades and meat choppers.

Of the five monks hospitalized, four have since gone missing. Only Lama Sotse was known to have been receiving hospital treatment two days later; the others have vanished.

Hello, Red Cross? Aren't you allowed into Tibet? Oh.

Alright, United Nations? Hello? What about that "Responsibility to Protect" thing, yes that's the one. That new doctrine which you cleverly abbreviate to "R2P" in all those new high-minded documents you have now. That's right, it has been nearly seven months of this already.... what's that? Yes, I'll continue to hold. [tap-tap-tap-tap-tap]

Hello? Yes I'm still here thanks. Yes I do get it; that if hundreds of thousands of lives at stake in Burma last May wasn't enough to trigger your R2P response unit, why should I imagine that a handful of chopped up monks would do the trick for you? Thank you for thanking me for calling.

Times of London, alone among our esteemed media, comes forth with some reporting.

A local source told The Times that as many as seven monks may have been taken to hospital for treatment, but added that it was difficult to confirm the numbers...

The beatings were carried out by the paramilitary People’s Armed Police, which is responsible for maintaining order and suppressing riots. At least four 15-member teams of the paramilitary have been posted at the police station since March and it was these, not the five or six police manning the office, who were responsible, according to a local source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

That's about all the new info from ToL, which manages to give some background story while completely ignoring the March 16 massacre of at least two dozen non-violent protestors in that town. Or they mixed it up with another incident. Or just re-wrote it as 8 deaths in a violent arsonists' riot, or something. Bah.

There actually might be some decent reporting out of Tibet, were Tibetans actually allowed to practice journalism. Loyal readers (by the way, apologies to my loyal readers) will recall the arrest in April of television presenter Jamyang Kyi, snatched out of her own office at state-run Qinghai television. Another Tibetan who worked for Serthar television (in northern Kardze Prefecture, now subsumed by Sichuan province) was arrested around midnight on September 11, reports Voice of Tibet radio. Rangjhung worked as a news reporter and news reader, and was apprehended from his home. It is not known where he is detained.

"I heard that the officials who arrested him were not local but from the Kardze Prefecture or Sichuan. No one knows where he has been held at the moment", Tsultrim told the VOT.

Rangjhung is 25 years old, and worked as a teacher for a year before becoming a TV journalist. He is man of many talents, says Tsuiltrim. "He composed 2 books, and also wrote a book of lyrics".

Ahh, a culturally aware journalist. That was Jamayang Kyi's apparent crime as well. Radio Free Asia spoke to people in the area, who confirmed that his family were not told the reason for his detention.

"After he was taken away, officials came again and searched his house. They took away his laptop that contained, according to Chinese officials, some political documents. His wife and two children were left behind in Serthar county," one source said.

According to the RFA source, Rangjhung's family were informed that he is held at the Kardze prefectural detention centre, which would be in Dartsedo (the Chinese call it Kangding). Calls made during office hours by both RFA's Tibetan and Mandarin services went unanswered, and an official at the provincial capital had never heard of the case. Rangjhung graduated from Dartsedo Normal College, and has published several books on the Himalayan region.

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy reports nearly two weeks after his arrest that it is not clear where he is being held, but provides a few more details on his background. Born to a nomadic family in Palshul Rogsa in Serthar County, Kardze, he had his early schooling in Nyitoe township, Kardze, where he returned to teach after graduating from the Dartsedo Teacher Training College. He had composed articles and books on Tibetan history, culture, literature and arts, and also composed and edited a Tibetan song CD titled "Tsenpoe Boe." A likely candidate for Chinese imperialistic arrest warrants, to be sure.

We return momentarily to the earlier Voice of Tibet link, which contains an update to events previously reported here. On June 8, a single nun from Samtenling Nunnery in Drango County, Kardze called out freedom slogans in the town centre, put up posters and handed out leaflets. Tsering Tsomo, 27, was then beaten with iron rods, punched and kicked by security forces, and taken for detention. Later in the day, more than 200 of her sisters gathered together for a march to county headquarters. They were stopped along the way and beaten viciously, including the use of iron rods and electric cattle prods. Many needed hospitalization, and injuries were particularly serious - including stab wounds.

The same evening, 500-600 townspeople gathered to demand the nuns' release from detention. Some were released that night, some others the following morning. Families could be seen taking some of the nuns home, strapped to their backs due to serious injuries like broken ribs. Others went to Chengdu for hospital treatment. Now, nearly 4 months later, Voice of Tibet provides a small update that at least one of those abused nuns was actually killed that day. Tsering and her sister have now been sent to prison.

"One nun named Guru was hit on the head with iron baton. Her hands tied, she was thrown from a moving vehicle which caused her head to hit the hard surface of the ground. She was taken to the hospital but succumbed to her injuries. "The Chinese authorities told her family that she committed suicide but her family later found out that the cause of her death was not suicide but head injury." [Geshe Monlam Tharchin] also said that 2 other nuns, Tsering Tso, 27 and her sister Ugen Lhamo, 32, were sentenced to 2 years’ imprisonment."

No one can provide an accurate account of the number of missing Tibetans (arrested or not) resulting from events this year. People simply disappear, or to put in into another tense, have been disappeared. Included in this category are five monks from Lhasa's Ramoche Temple who have been missing for nearly six months. Among these is the former Chanzoe (the temple's manager and treasurer) Sonam Rabgyal.

During the raid, valuables such as ornaments spiritually adorned on the ancient statues of the temple and religious objects made of gold and silver were known to have disappeared. Severe restrictions still continue to be put on the movement of the monks of major monasteries since the major protest broke out in March. Even today major monasteries around Lhasa remain virtually sealed off despite officially declaring them reopened to tourists and pilgrims.

The thefts described here are typical of these raids. Many similar incidents took place across Tibet, with valuables stolen and items of purely religious significance wantonly destroyed.

Ramoche is not a monastery but a very important Lhasa temple, and the government restricts the number of monks in attendance there to 115. But the clampdown was no less severe than that experienced at the large institutions of Drepung and Sera. One of the Ramoche monks, Tsangpa Thokmey, committed suicide on March 22.

While the numbers of the disappeared are imprecise, TCHRD estimates the figure to exceed one thousand. At least 80 monks from Drepung have vanished. Many disappearanced following the Lhasa chaos of March 14, and of course some of those may in fact be dead. Chinese authorities are assuredly uninterested in identifying any of those, merely to reduce the number of "missing." Remember -- just as in Rangoon five months earlier, the outlying crematoria were reportedly running full-tilt boogie.

Some of the monks at Labrang, who had spoken their consciences in front of foreign journalists and cameras in early April, have never been seen again. Queries to authorities only gets them playing the ignorance card. "We know nothing!" Until by some coincident sentencing, as in the case of poor Guru mentioned above. The 25 year old nun gets off the missing list and onto the dead list only as a result of her two colleagues' prison sentence announcements.

It must be wonderful to be taught patriotism for the same occupying imperial power that is killing us if we don't learn it well enough for their liking. I mean, I'm surmising here without direct personal experience of this phenomenon, but it stands to reason that the nuance cannot be fully appreciated by anyone who hasn't been there. The inspirational courage which goes by the name Woeser has provided some background into this neurotic process, enough to perhaps give us the slightest glimpse into its grotesque reality. Appearing on her book publisher's site, Ragged Banner Press, and translated with care by A.E. Clark, she endeavours to enlighten us what "teaching patriotism" (with Chinese characteristics) is all about.

Of note here is a terminology adjustment. The campaign to aggressively mold minds into a state-acceptable form is often dubbed "patriotic education" by foreign media writers. For some, the term insufficiently conveyed the rigidly intolerant aspect of the campaign, which as Woeser reminds us, has "washed over the minds and spirits of at least three generations of Tibetans." Some observers, this one included, refashioned it with a nod to the laogai system in use across the Chinese empire, which is normally rendered as "re-education through labour." And so the Tibet pogrom -- oops, program, sorry -- has also been called "patriotic re-education."

Translator A.E. Clark, as any translator should, is going for accuracy of original meaning and settles on "patriotism education" -- "a program whose sole aim is to instill patriotism." Which does, I'm sure, convey more accurately the original Chinese term. And we must keep in mind that it is most definitely a Chinese term. Tibetans most definitely have strong love for their country. Not that one, the other one, their own.

As Woeser points out in this excellent piece, 'patriotism education' has always been aimed at 'enemies.' Since the invasion, and as time passed, it settled upon new 'enemies,' from "imperialist forces" to "old Tibet" to the "elite clique of reactionaries" and eventually the "Dalai Clique" (which includes all believers in Tibetan Buddhism - virtually every single Tibetan person). The trend seems to be toward an ever-broadening scope. And toward an ever-broadening resistance in response. Read.

But danger on the plateau comes not only from what one says out loud, nor only from what one thinks inside, but even from what one eats -- or more accurately, drinks. Tibetans love to drink tea, and of course their fortifying yak-butter tea is famous for its ubiquity all across the highlands (and for upsetting foreigners' stomachs). But Lhasans are evidently addicted to another more common brew. No, not Chinese tea, but something that sounds very much like the sweet milky tea which Indians drink at every opportunity, chai (I can attest, it's fantastic on those chilly high mountain bus-trip tea stops).

The problem? In Lhasa, it's nearly always made with Chinese milk powder, and Tibetans are getting sick just like tens of thousands of Chinese infants. Woeser has an article on this serious problem, also at Ragged Banner Press (originally written for RFA's Tibetan service).

By the way, RFA has a fine new article about Woeser herself, with good information about her ordeals and her works. A must-read for everyone with an interest in this marvelous lady.

The epidemic of melamine poisoning in Tibet may be far more widespread (relatively speaking) than that in China. The problem there likely predates the revelations from Sanlu and the other affected companies, reports RFA. One wonders how long this might have been allowed to continue, were it not for Chinese infants being affected. Even with that being the case, the scandal was hushed up at high levels as early as June (that article is a little outdated, and I've since read that the alert may have been first raised in December 2007). Nothing could be allowed to blemish the face of the Chinese Communist Party (?) in the Olympic season of harmonious wonderment.

Producers of consumer food products can make it cheaper, while also getting a higher apparent protein content (and consequently, a higher sale price to consumers, or to producers of other products), by putting poison in it. The very same poison other companies used to falsely increase the apparent protein content of dog and cat food, what -- a year ago or more? Killing hundreds (thousands?) of beloved family members of people all over the world. What is it -- "How many other products can we dump this poisonous stuff into and get rich, gloriously?" (Even chocolate bars aren't safe anymore, Cadbury's is recalling some.)

What a source of pride! How could anyone be less than literally bubbling with over-enthusiasm to learn 'patriotism education' for such a Great Motherland, with the diligent Communist Party as its vanguard, heart and soul? (Do I need to colour that text in taupe to mark it as sarcasm?) Why, three heroes of the Motherland recently returned from space, for goodness' sake! Mere days after Premier Wen visited the UN and assured the world that his nation was still one of those developing countries and still required plenty of foreign aid. It's a miracle, I tell ya! /taupe

Yes, so advanced is this harmonious society, its news media can report events that haven't even happened yet! Why, they can even quote people saying things before they actually say them! From a Xinhua news story posted hours before liftoff, describing the space flight:

"After this order, signal lights all were switched on, various data show up on rows of screens, hundreds of technicians staring at the screens, without missing any slightest changes ...

'One minute to go!'

'Changjiang No.1 found the target!'...

"The firm voice of the controller broke the silence of the whole ship. Now, the target is captured 12 seconds ahead of the predicted time ...

'The air pressure in the cabin is normal!'

"Ten minutes later, the ship disappears below the horizon. Warm clapping and excited cheering breaks the night sky, echoing across the silent Pacific Ocean."

I'm clapping warmly across the silent Pacific Ocean, because of the sheer AUDACITY OF TAUPE. And because Xinhua uses exclamation points more frequently than I do! 111eleven hundred and eleventy-eleven111!! (The article was quickly pulled down, to avoid embarrassment. Heh.)

After my long unannounced absence, I couldn't possibly leave you with a downer today. I'm feeling much better now. No patriotism classes for me today. Yay.
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