(TibetanReview.net, Mar 24, 2009) — Contradicting its own report just the other day, that only about 20 monks protested and they dispersed peacefully after being explained the real situation (namely the alleged suicide by a young arrested monk claimed to have run away from police custody), China said Mar 23 that several hundred Tibetans, including nearly 100 monks of La’gyab (Tibetan: Ragya) Monastery, attacked the La’gyab Township police station in Golog prefecture in Qinghai Province on Mar 21 afternoon. They assaulted policemen and government staff and some government staff were slightly injured, said the official Chinese media Mar 23, including CCTV.com and Xinhua. It claimed that police arrested six and 89 others surrendered after the riot.
Most of the people dispersed by 5 pm on Mar 21 and some 30 others were persuaded to leave in the early hours of Mar 22, by the 9 am of which police arrested “six participants in the attack” and 89 surrendered, said the Xinhua report.
But Thubten Samphel, a spokesman for the Tibetan government-in-exile, Dharamsala, has told Al Jazeera.net Mar 23 that the protest was entirely peaceful.
Earlier, on Mar 21, the exile Tibetan government’s Tibet.net said that around 4,000 Tibetans staged a protest and clashed with police at the township police station in Machen county, in the afternoon of Mar 21 over the alleged suicide death of a 28-year-old monk named Tashi Sangpo (Chinese: Zhaxi Sangwu) of Golog Ragya monastery. It said the protesters carried Tibetan national flags and banners and shouted slogans such as “Independence for Tibet” and “Long Live His Holiness the Dalai Lama.”
However, China’s official Xinhua news agency Mar 22 claimed that only about 20 protesters were involved in the alleged attack on the police station and that they dispersed after being convinced that no death had taken place.
The Tibet.net report said the monk tried to escape arrest by jumping into the nearby Machu (Yellow) River after Chinese police found a Tibetan national flag and political leaflets in his living room in the monastery. It said Tashi’s body was not found and the situation in the area was tense.
On the other hand, the Xinhua report of Mar 22 claimed that Zhaxi had run away from police station on Mar 21 afternoon and went missing. It cited police as saying the monk was under investigation on Mar 20 for being involved in advocating “Tibet independence” and that he ran away from police station the next day on the pretext of using the bathroom.
The Chinese report cited an alleged eyewitness, a Tibetan-named Restaurant owner, as saying she saw a man swim to the other side of the Yellow River and that the police found Zhaxi’s clothes on the riverside. It claimed the monk was still missing. A Xinhua report posted on the official CCTV.com Mar 24 said the monk originally hailed from Hebei Township in Tongde (Tibetan: Thunte/Gepasumdo) County in Hainan (Tibetan: Tsolho) Prefecture, Qinghai.
Ragya monastery had been under lockdown ever since Mar 10 this year when free Tibet leaflets were circulated and a huge Tibetan national flag planted atop the monastery’s main prayer hall. The Tibet.net report said Tashi was among the monks who had removed the Chinese flag to replace it with the Tibetan flag that day.
AP Mar 23, citing Xinhua, described the six arrested Tibetans as well as all but two of the 95 being investigated as monks. It also cited a man who answered the phone at Qinghai’s public security department said he had not heard about the attack or the arrests. This report cited a Tibetan in Dharamsala with contact in Ragya as saying the protest initially involved 500 monks from the monastery but later swelled to about 2,000 as others from the nearby village joined.
Security tightened with more troops rushed from provincial capital:
Additional troops were rushed to Ragya Town from the provincial capital Xining after the incident and were patrolling there, said major international news agencies and Tibet groups abroad Mar 23.
The Dharamsala-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) said Mar 23 that Ragya Monastery had been sealed off since Mar 10, after 93 monks, including Tashi, and 2 laymen were arrested in connection with the hoisting of a Tibetan National flag there. It said Tashi had been traumatised by constant “harsh beatings, inhumane torture and long interrogation” ever since his arrest on Mar 10. It said the other detained monks were undergoing similar treatment.
TCHRD said the monastery itself also was “reeling under unprecedented restriction and vigilance” following the latest incident. It said protest pamphlets had been pasted and distributed in Ragya and Tashi’s Gartse villages of Machen County. “It is better to die for Tibet and her people than being duped by the monetary rewards of the Chinese government,” one of the pamphlets was quoted as saying, referring to Chinese offer of money to the Tibetans to celebrate their New Year on Feb 25. This was because the prevailing mood was to boycott it to mourn for those killed in last year’s Chinese crackdown on the Tibetan uprising protests.
Xinhua Mar 24 maintained that the situation in Ragya county was back to normal. “Shops are open as usual, vehicles are moving freely, monks and residents are walking on the bustling streets, ” it claimed. However, the AFP Mar 24 quoted a woman-resident as saying by phone, “Security patrols continue today and there are still very few people in the streets.” Also, AP Mar 24 quoted a man who answered a phone at a private school in Ragya as saying, “There are still police patrolling but everything is quiet and nothing is happening today.” It cited a resident, surnamed Huang, as saying 400 to 500 troops began patrolling the city on Feb 21.