Repression, plunder, and deception mark Chinese crackdown in Tibet

12, July 06’08

Police and the paramilitary People’s Armed Police (PAP) not only beat up monks; confiscated computers, cameras, mobile phones and money, and desecrated religious objects, but also plunder priceless religious and cultural objects from the living quarters of the monks during searches carried out with great thoroughness, reported the online Tibet information service TibetInfoNet Jun 30.

The report said that on Apr 14, as dusk fell, troops surrounded and filled the Labrang monastery complex in Sangchu County of Gansu Province. And as the troops entered buildings, they tore up altars, smashed or burned pictures of the Dalai Lama in front of monks, and confiscated computers, mobile phones and money. The systematic raid lasted until daybreak the next day, targeting each and every monk’s cell. And when the security forces left, they had also taken away old thangkas (religious scroll paintings) and antique statuettes that the monks had managed to preserve even during the worst excesses of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76). The head lama of the monastery, Jamyang Zhepa, informed senior, national-level cadres about it, but no action was taken.

The report said that seizures of personal belongings, especially antique religious objects, were common during the recent raids in monasteries. For example, at Tsandrok monastery, in Gansu province, Chinese troops searched the monks’ quarters, monastic halls and temples on Apr 18 ostensibly to look for weapons, including guns that were allegedly hidden there. But what they took away were statuettes, thangkas, other religious objects, as well as antique porcelain bowls and jewellery. The long list of stolen goods from the monastery included that of the monastery’s monastic protector deity, Tha Og Chogyal, a gift from the Seventh Panchen Lama (1782-1853) to Shatha Palgyal. The report said the cherished gold-and-copper statue is seen as the ‘very spiritual soul of the local people’, and the monastery itself was built in 1819 to honour it.

Thefts were also reported to have taken place in rural communities. While setting out to seize pictures of the Dalai Lama, the 20,000 troops stationed in Machu County of Gansu Province also took away family jewellery made of gold, turquoise and coral, as well as other valuable possessions such as old religious statues and money.

Traffic police in Machu county were reported to mint money from arbitrary seizure of motorbikes from Tibetan nomads. Each nomad is told to cough up 1,500 yuan for each bike’s release. The report said confiscated motorbikes filled the traffic police compound and spilled into the streets outside.

Many victims of arbitrary arrest during the recent uprising in Machu, Golok, Ngaba, and Luchu were being ordered to pay 5,000-20,000 yuan to secure their release. Prominent local monk Lodoe Sangpo in Ngora township of Machu county had to pay 60,000 yuan before he was released on May 27. And he was forced to close down the school he was running for the local nomads.

The report said arbitrary fines and seizures of personal possessions that include non-political material, such as religious artefacts, were also reported from different parts of Tibetan regions, including Ngaba, Machu, Rebkong, Labrang and Kardze.

Repression at the monasteries where patriotic education meetings are being held so intense that monks do not know about the arrests of fellow monks. For example, at Labrang, monks, who had to attend political meetings at least twice a day, were divided into nine groups that were not allowed to contact one another. As a result, no one knew yet what happened to the monks who had staged a bold protest there during the Apr 4 visit by a group of foreign and Chinese reporters. And Tibetan students at Lanzhou University were being made to attend daily political classes that were reminiscent of the ‘struggle sessions’ of the Cultural Revolution.

The report said torture was rampant, especially in the case of Tibetans refusing to cooperate with their police interrogators, resulting serious limb fractures, long term health impairments and even deaths. Police sometimes returned barely conscious or even dead prisoners to their homes, claiming they had become sick even though marks of beating and torture were clearly visible on their bodies.

Communication and access restrictions remain as tight as ever. Tibetan cadres in cities such as Siling (Chinese: Xining), Lanzhou and Lhasa have been instructed that they cannot get any leave until after the Olympics, the report said. It said that the heavy military presence, de facto curfews in towns and the barring of foreign press from the entire region of the Tibetan plateau ensure a rigid grip over the Tibetan populace. The authorities were reported to go to ridiculous lengths to present a picture of normality to the outside world. For example, in Machu, local police put on Tibetan costumes and disguised themselves as ordinary nomads, with some of them forming a crowd around the visiting journalists. Monks get briefed, the day, on how to answer questions from the visitors.


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