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Photos of crackdown on 2008 Lhasa protests, smuggled out of China in 2022, exhibited in Washington

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(TibetanReview.net, Jan30’23) – While the world knows what happened across the Tibetan Plateau in the spring of 2008 as much from the sudden upsurge of hundreds of Tibetan protests as from the overwhelming brutality of the Chinese armed repression, there has never been a full accounting of the most significant upheaval to engulf Tibet since the Mar 1959 uprising there or after the Chinese Cultural Revolution of 1966-76. Yu Chi, a Chinese engineer and enthusiastic amateur photographer, who happened to be in Tibet’s capital Lhasa just days after the initial outbreak of the protests there, has held an exhibition of hitherto unseen photos he took on that momentous occasion in Washington, DC, on Jan 13.

Yu entered Lhasa with a group of fellow-visitors on Mar 15, days after protests had erupted. He saw “military police at every turn of every intersection, checking vehicles in every direction” and photographed the Chinese government’s crackdown, said rfa.org Jan 29.

He later sneaked the memory card containing protest and crackdown images past the police roadblocks on his return home. In 2022, Yu smuggled the developed photos out of China when he and his family immigrated to the United States, the report continued.

Photos of crackdown on 2008 Lhasa protests, smuggled out of China in 2022, exhibited in Washington D.C. (Photo courtesy: RFA/ Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Yu has said his family left China because “We can’t bear the Chinese Communist Party’s political tyranny or their unrestrained control over freedom of speech.

“We don’t want our children to continue their education under this kind of slavery.”

On Jan 13, Yu has publicly displayed his Lhasa images for the first time at an art exhibition titled “A Chinese Engineer’s View of China’s Colonization of Tibet”. The event was hosted by the Washington, DC, Office of Tibet of the India-based Central Tibetan Administration.

Speaking at the exhibition, Yu has said, “Younger Tibetans are taking fewer classes in their own language, Tibetan culture is not reflected in their textbooks, and Communist Party education is emphasized at every turn. To me, that’s a school system meant to make Tibet less Tibetan. That’s colonization.”

Pointing to a photo he had taken of an armored car packed with soldiers escorting arrested Tibetan protesters, Yu has said there were five or six such cars in that incident, and “we observed that each of these cars had ten people on it, each of whom was held down by two armed police officers with batons crushing their heads against the side of the car.”

Photos of crackdown on 2008 Lhasa protests, smuggled out of China in 2022, exhibited in Washington D.C. (Photo courtesy: RFA/ Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Another photo taken by him was stated to show the license plate of an armored car covered by newspapers.

“I think it was likely a military vehicle. It’s understood that the military should defend a country, not conduct internal repression. They covered the vehicle’s license plate to try and hide its connection to the military,” Yu has said.

Yu has said he took the photos “just to show everybody how the Chinese government dealt with those peaceful civilian protests. I think that sending police to watch a peaceful protest is fine. But in our country, what do you see? Armored cars and troops on the streets.”

No one knows how many were killed, arrested, disappeared, or tried in the Chinese crackdown in a locked down Tibet to deal with the generally and mostly peaceful protests of 2008.

In its aftermath, a new form of protests took place in Tibet since Feb 2009, in which hundreds of Tibetans – young and old, lay and monastic, rural and urban, men and women – have carried out self-immolations with shouts or testamentary messages of calls for freedom and independence.


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