www.TibetanReview.net, March 31’08
TAR governor Qiangba Puncog was quoted by Xinhua Mar 14 as suggesting no violence was used against the monks. “To prevent unnecessary disturbances from happening, we did some persuasion and they all left in peace,” it quoted him as saying in Beijing, referring to the march to Lhasa on Mar 10 by monks of Drepung Monastery. But a BBC reportage Mar 14 of an eyewitness account of a repression at Sera Monastery on Mar 12 revealed an entirely different picture. It cited the witness, a Westerner, as saying police were grabbing, kicking and hitting monks as at least 300 of them poured into the debating compound. “One monk was kicked in the stomach right in front of us and then beaten on the ground.”
The monks were then made to sit in neat rows on the ground, surrounded by a phalanx of armed police. That was the beginning of the monastery’s lockdown and beginning of its “patriotic education” campaign. All the three major monasteries in Lhasa were thus sealed from the outside world by Mar 12, surrounded by hundreds of armed PAP troops.
The Chinese cracked down on the Lhasa protests on Mar 14 with massive deployment of troops who fired on the protesters. All tourists and western journalists were ordered and “escorted” out while communication lines were disrupted so as to ensure no leakage of information about the harsh crackdown that followed. The violent quelling of the protests and riots were followed by surrender orders, wanted notices and door-to-door searches and seizures.
As the violence that began in front of Ramoche Temple at around 10 am on Mar 14 spread and government buildings and Chinese properties became targets of attack by angry crowds of flag wielding, independence shouting Tibetans, China sent in the troops and tanks.
“The Chinese authorities deployed all military in the Lhasa area and sent tanks. There could be several hundred tanks and they were shooting into the crowds,” Radio Free Asia (RFA) Mar 15 quoted a witness as saying. This contradicted Qiangba’s contention, quoted by AFP Mar 17, “Throughout the process (security forces) did not carry or use any lethal weapons.” AFP also said Qiangba vowed to deal harshly with those involved in serious crimes during the unrest.
A curfew took effect around 1 pm and the protests tailed off around 3:30 pm in the face of massive paramilitary mobilization. By early evening the authorities had blocked all roads leading into or out of Lhasa city, leaving many people stranded at their workplaces. By the early morning of Mar 15, soldiers on foot and in armoured carriers swarmed Lhasa, reported AP Mar 16. It cited witnesses as speaking of hearing occasional bursts of gunfire, with one Westerner seeing troops with automatic rifles moving through the streets, firing, though not seeing anyone getting shot.
On Mar 15 morning, the TAR People’s Higher Court, the Regional People’s Procuratorate and the regional Public Security Bureau issued a public notice, calling on those who had taken part in the riots to surrender by the mid-night of Mar 17 if they wished to be treated with leniency. The notice said: “Those who on their own volition submit themselves to police or judicial offices prior to midnight on March 17 shall be punished lightly or dealt mitigated punishment; those who surrender themselves and report on other criminal elements will be performing meritorious acts and may escape punishment. Criminal elements who do not submit themselves in time shall be punished severely according to law.”
But even as the surrender deadline remained in force, the PAP rounded up “hundreds” of suspects, while municipal prosecutors issued 150 arrest warrants for “escapees” still at large, reported RFA Mar 17. Youths were invariably taken away for questioning, often accompanied by beating, as mothers and elderlies first pleaded with the troops and then looked on helplessly. All former political prisoners were also thrown into prisons, reported TCHRD Mar 16.
On Mar 21, the same regional law enforcement trio put out a list of 21 “Most Wanted” Tibetans, including with photos of some of them. The grainy photos were apparently taken from surveillances video camera shots of the Mar 14 disturbance in Lhasa. The photos were posted on major Internet portals, including Yahoo.com and Sina.com, on Mar 21 and also carried in the local Lhasa media.
Xinhua reported Mar 22 that two of the suspects in the list had been apprehended by police while a third had surrendered. The authorities were offering rewards and guaranteeing anonymity for informers. A notice accompanying the most wanted list said that the alleged rioters had set fire to schools, hospitals, childcare centres, shops and residences, confronted government departments, assaulted law enforcement officers, and also killed innocent people.
Xinhua reported Mar 25 that Lhasa prosecutors had so far issued arrest warrants for 29 people alleged to have been involved in the riots. “The 29 are accused of endangering national security and committing severe criminal offences in the riots on March 14,” it quoted a circular from the department as saying. It also cited the circular as saying that a list of 53 people wanted in connection with the riots has been published by the city’s public security bureau, with four having turned themselves in and three having been arrested.
Also, 24 had been detained on charges of “endangering national security as well as beating, smashing, looting, arson and other grave crimes”, according to the official Tibet Daily newspaper Mar 20, cited by the Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) Mar 21. It quoted State-controlled Tibet TV as saying those in detention should be “seriously punished” to ensure others respected the law. It said authorities paraded alleged rioters on television on Mar 19 night.
TCHRD Mar 26 said over 1200 Tibetans had so far been arrested while more than 100 Tibetans had disappeared. It said these figures were mounting each day. It was not clear whether the TCHRD figures related only to Lhasa. Earlier, Tibet.net Mar 18 reported that over 500 people had been arrested in Lhasa alone. And Tibet.net Mar 21 said many young Tibetans in Lhasa had been taken into custody on March 20 and 21.
On Mar 26, the authorities in Lhasa told a group of chosen western journalists brought for a tightly supervised three-day visit that there had been a total of 661 surrenders so far, including 280 in Lhasa and 381 in Ngaba in Qinghai. Earlier, Xinhua reported Mar 23 that more than 200 people who were involved in the Mar 14 riot in Lhasa had surrendered to police. It was not clear whether this included the 94 people which the Web site of the official Tibet Daily newspaper said had surrendered in Phenpo Lhundrub County on Lhasa’s outskirts, reported the AP Mar 19.
Reports of arrests in specific incidents of riots appeared likely to be announced in the coming days. For example, Xinhua said Mar 24 that three Tibetan women, aged 20-23, had been arrested over an arson attack in which five female sales assistants at a clothing shop were burnt to death. It also said two had been detained over an arson attack in a motorbike shop at around 10 pm March 15, which caused the deaths of five victims, including an eight-month old boy and his parents.
Protest outside Lhasa city in TAR appeared to have been put down more swiftly. In Phenpo County, 30 army trucks arrived at Shar Bumpa nunnery on the evening of Mar 15, reported TibetInfoNet Mar 17, noting that homes were searched in the township, where a boy was reportedly shot dead, as well as in surrounding villages. It said gunfire was reported by several sources in Shigatse in the same night. Additional troops were deployed even in Dingri County at the base of Mt Everest even though there were no protests there.
AP Mar 25 cited Tibet Daily as saying Meng Jianzhu, China’s minister of public security, had ordered Tibet’s security forces to remain on alert for further unrest while calling for the strengthening of “patriotic education” campaigns in monasteries. Meng, a State Councillor, led a central government Work Team to Lhasa.
Thousands of troops converged on foot, in trucks and helicopters in Tibetan areas incorporated into western Chinese provinces, said an AP report Mar 21. It cited a Qinghai resident – a Chinese woman – as saying that about 300 troops were in the town of Zeku (Tibetan: Tsekhog) in Huangnan (Tibetan: Malho) Prefecture after monks protested on Mar 20 outside the county government office.
Also, on Mar 21, several hundred PAP troops surrounded Tarthang monastery in Jiuzhi (Tibetan: Chigdril) country of Guoluo (Tibetan: Golog) Prefecture. TibetinfoNet reported Mar 21 that on Mar 20, at around 11am, some 300 soldiers equipped with automatic weapons completely surrounded Chigtril Tathang monastery and imposed a total curfew over the town. They gave 24 hours for all the protest organizers to be turned in. It said six Tibetans were reported to be already in custody.
RFA reported Mar 17 that about 200 armed police were stationed in Tongren (Tibetan: Rebkong) County of Malho Prefecture as pre-emptive measure.
An AP report Mar 21 said hundreds of paramilitary troops aboard at least 80 trucks were seen travelling along the main road winding through the mountains into southeastern Tibet. It said paramilitary troops also set up camp and patrolled streets in riot gear, helmets and rifles in the town of Tiger Leaping Gorge, a tourist attraction in the province bordering TAR. It said that further north, in the largely Tibetan town of Zhongdian (Tibetan: Gyalthang), renamed some years ago as Shangri-la, was swarmed by 400 armed police. Many were reported to be carrying rifles and what appeared to be tear gas launchers.
The Financial Times (UK) Mar 21 reported that a main square of the town was filled with at least 40 military trucks that had brought several hundred troops into the city. It said Contingents of PAP conducted loud marching drills in the square while smaller groups of police with machineguns were stationed at visible places around the town.
There were no known protests in Gyalthang, except rumours.
ICT Mar 16 cited sources as saying more than 30 troop carriers of the PAP arrived in Labrang late on Mar 14 – the day the Lhasa protests dramatically escalated – after a march involving hundreds of monks and laypeople was staged from the monastery to local government offices. The AFP Mar 16 reported that on Mar 15, a massive police presence could be seen blanketing Xiahe.
The 50-room Xilin Hotel In Xiahe (Tibetan: Sangchu/Labrang) County in Gannan (Tibetan: Kanlho) Prefecture, scene of two days of protests the week before, was “completely occupied by police with guns and batons,” AP Mar 21 quoted a man who picked up the phone there as saying. “There may be hundreds in our county right now. No tourists are allowed here,” he was further quoted as saying. Foreign journalists working in the area were expelled after they filmed footage of the demonstrations, said RFA Mar 17.
Following the tightening of military control, the Kanlho prefectural authorities issued a notice Mar 21 for protesters to surrender by the midnight of Mar 25 or face severe consequences. The notice mentioned protests in Sangchu, Luchu, Machu, Chone, Tewo (Chinese: Diebu) Counties and in Hezuo city.
In Labrang, at least 11 Tibetans were rounded up over a single night on Mar 17, following a protest, reported TibetInfoNet Mar 21.
In Machu County, scene of protests involving several thousand Tibetans, 25 trucks carrying troopsarmed with guns had arrived along with several tanks, reported the AFP Mar 19, citing London-based Free Tibet Campaign. The TibetInfoNet report Mar 21 cited sources as saying that 1,000 soldiers assisted by PAP and PSB officers put Machu town under strict military control and that at least 70 had been arrested.
RFA reported Mar 17 that following small scale protests, about 1,000 PAP troops were station in each of Machu and Luchu counties.
The official Xinhua news agency reported Mar 23 that a total of 19 rioters had surrendered to police in Gannan by Mar 23. Later the official CCTV.com reported Mar 24 that a total of 167 people had surrendered to police in the prefecture by Mar 23, while “nine more” had been arrested. It said a total of 94 people were injured in the prefecture while the economic loss was 230 million yuan (US $ 32.6 million). The Xinhua report said the injured included 64 police, 27 armed police, two government officials and one civilian. It said six police and four armed police were in dangerous conditions.
AFP report Mar 19 cited a witness as saying troop movements seemed to be particularly big in Sichuan province, home to several mainly Tibetan areas.
In Ngaba Prefecture, thousands of security forces were on the streets following a series of monk-led marches and protests in which rocks were thrown at government buildings, reported RFA Mar 17. RFA Mar 20 said police were conducting door-to-door searches of all Tibetan homes in the area. “Pictures of the Dalai Lama or any articles, objects, or documents that are politically sensitive in nature are being confiscated,” with those found in possession of them being taken into detention, it quoted one source as saying. The Tibetans were reportedly being told that they would be detained until the end of the Olympics, when court proceedings would begin.
Xinhua Mar 25 reported that in Ngaba County, a total of 381 people involved in the riots had surrendered to the police by Mar 24 noon. This followed a notice issued on Mar 19, ordering those who had taken part in the protests on Mar 16 to surrender within 10 days. “Most are common people or monks deceived or coerced,” Shu Tao, party chief of a village which saw 40 a surrenders on Mar 24 was quoted as saying.
Following the deadly clash between protesters and Chinese police on Mar 16 at Ngaba, announcements were made from loudspeaker vans, demanding that leaders of the recent protests surrender, with promises of leniency and even forgiveness. Ngaba County also sought the surrender of those who had taken part in the Mar 15 to 17 disturbances with promises of leniency. However, homes of those suspected to have taken part in the demonstrations were still being raided and ransacked, reported the TCHRD Mar 21.
Xinhua reported Mar 23 that about 90 percent of the shops on major streets in Aba County had opened on Mar 23. It said middle and elementary schools, which were suspended after the riot, were to resume classes on Mar 24.
Tibet.net Mar 23 said there was a huge number of arrests in Dzoege (Chinese: Ruo’ergai) County of Ngaba Prefecture. It gave a list of known names and descriptions of 31 people detained since Mar 18.
AP Mar 21 cited residents in Karze County as saying they saw troops, trucks and helicopters on patrol.
RFA reported Mar 18 that at least two Tibetans were shot dead that day when police fired on crowds of protesters that included both monks and laypeople in Karze (Chinese: Ganzi) town. One of the dead was named as Ngoga, a leader of the protest. Nine others, including protest co-organizer Pema Dechen, were dragged away, most, if not all, of them looking injured. Six others of them have been named as Gonpo, Tseten Phuntsog, Lobsang, Zangpo, Palden, Gonpo. The report cited witnesses as saying a monk was also killed in another incident at the same venue. He was in a group of monks of the local Dargye monastery that was marching toward the central area of Karze but was stopped by policy.
The PAP was sent into the Tibetan town in Sichuan’s capital Chengdu, with the Epoch Times (NY) reporting Mar 20 that the town was in a state of martial law. The office of the Tibet Autonomous Region, the office of Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Chengdu, and Southwest University for Nationalities are all located in the city whose Wuhou Temple along the Sichuan-Tibet railroad has around 100 Tibetan shops. The report said there were many unidentified vehicles parking in open areas where the general public and their cars are not being allowed.
There were no big rallies in Lithang County as the area was already under intense crackdown and “patriotic education” since the arrest of Runggye Adak on Aug 1, 2007 and the subsequent massive protests. The McClatchy Newspapers (US) Mar 19 reported that an eerie quiet had settled on the bustling city of Lithang with only police vehicles and packs of dogs roaming the streets. It said that since Mar 17, private vehicles had been banned from the streets and stores under order to close.
ICT Mar 16 said the PAP had surrounded Lithang Monastery and there were at least two detentions from two demonstrations.
Xinhua reported Mar 23 that the spread of protests in the Tibetan areas in Qinghai, Gansu and Sichuan had been contained. But the exile Tibetan government and others continued to maintain that despite the pouring in of thousands of troops and massive security operations, sporadic demonstrations and smaller scale acts of defiance were continuing.
The TCHRD reported Mar 21 that over 1,000 Tibetan protestors had been detained across the Tibetan Plateau while hundreds had disappeared, with their numbers continuing to rise. ICT Mar 19 cited a “reliable” local source as saying 600 people were arrested in Lhasa on Mar 15 and at least 300 on Mar 16. The authorities, on the other hand, made no mention of any such detentions.