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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

New Tibetan Protests Erupt

February 19, 2009

RFA 2009-02-18

Tibetans stage protests as key anniversaries approach.

DHARAMSALA—New protests have erupted in a Tibetan-populated region of
China, with armed police using force to disperse demonstrators and
detaining at least 13 people, according to Tibetan activists and exiles.

These are the first significant protests reported in the run-up to two
politically sensitive anniversaries next month in the Himalayan
region—of a failed 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule and of
protests in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, in 2008 that quickly spread
throughout several provinces in western China.

On Feb. 16, according to one Tibetan source, police cracked down on a
group of Tibetans after the detention a day earlier of a solitary
protester named Lobsang Lundrub in Lithang, in the Kardze [in Chinese,
Ganzi] Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of China’s Sichuan province.

“He began his protest at 12 p.m. at the vegetable market and reached a
place called Trung Trung Ki in Lithang, where he was detained by Chinese
Public Security Bureau officials,” Lundrub’s brother Lobsang Choekyab
said from Dharamsala, India.

“Some old Tibetan women in the area saw him detained,” he said. “They
said that he was severely beaten and was taken away in a vehicle. I was
told that he is now detained in the Lithang County Jail.”

Calls to Lithang County Jail during business hours rang unanswered. An
officer on duty at the local Public Security Bureau declined to comment,
saying, "Without approval from higher up, we are not allowed to disclose
any information."

Calls for independence

A group of lay Tibetans and monks led by Lobsang Lundrub’s brother Sonam
Tenpa, 29, then gathered next day to demand Lundrub’s release, according
to Choekyab and other exiled Tibetans, citing contacts in Lithang.

The protesters carried a photo of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the
Dalai Lama, said South India-based Tibetan monks Serme Loga and Andruk
Tseten, speaking in separate interviews.

“They marched on the morning of Feb. 16 in protest in downtown Lithang,”
Serme Loga said.

“They called for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and for
Tibetan independence … Many residents of Dekyi town in Lithang also
joined the protests, including Tibetan officials in the Chinese
administration,” he said.

Chinese police then attacked the demonstrators, including “elderly
Tibetans who were walking around a nearby temple,” Loga said.

Sonam Tenpa and three other brothers of Lobsang Lundrub were treated
with particular severity, Andruk Tseten said, speaking from South India.

“My contact in Lithang told me that the four brothers who protested
today [Feb. 16] were so badly beaten that they appeared to be dead when
they were put into the vans,” Tseten said.

“Two protesters are thought by the local people to have been beaten to
death,” he added. “They are feared to be Lobsang Tenzin and Jampa
Thogme, two of the brothers of Lobsang Lundrub.”

Sources identified other Tibetans detained after the protest as Lobsang
Yonten, 37; Yonten, 30; Sangye, 29; Jampa Tsering, 28; Lobsang Wangchuk,
30; Lobsang Tashi, 21; Gendun Choephel, 30; Thargyal, 37; Gendun Jampel,
40; and Ando Gyaltsen.

Three women—Dolma, 26; Yangmo, 34; and an unnamed sister of Lobsang
Lundrub—were detained and later released, Loga said, adding that Chinese
police have now placed roadblocks on Lithang’s major roads to restrict
the movements of Tibetans.

Site of protests

Lithang was also the site of large-scale unrest in 2007 after a nomad
named Ronggyal Adrak called publicly at a horse festival for Beijing to
allow the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet.

He was arrested, and hundreds of Tibetan protested for his release.
Thousands of troops descended on the region in the aftermath of the
protest, and Ronggyal Adrak was convicted on charges of "seeking to
split the country and subvert state power."

Authorities sealed off Tibetan areas last year following a riot in
Tibet's capital Lhasa on March 14 that sparked the largest anti-China
protests among Tibetans in decades.

Local officials last week confirmed that Western parts of Gansu,
Sichuan, and Qinghai provinces, which have large Tibetan communities,
are again closed to foreign travelers.

Original reporting in Tibetan by Dolkar, Tsewang Norbu, and Lobsang
Choephel for RFA's Tibetan service and by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin
service. Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo. Mandarin service
director: Jennifer Chou. Translations by Karma Dorjee. Written in
English for the Web by Richard Finney. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.
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