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By Woeser, translated by High Peaks Pure Earth

Losar is almost upon us and, as we all know, Tibetans have very different feelings towards this year’s Losar. The concerned authorities took notice of this very early on. Party Secretary Zhang Qingli has repeatedly given the orders, saying “playing the first move of the chess well, and wage a war on one’s initiative well”. Various state media have attributed this “Not celebrating Losar” to the Tibetan Government in Exile and the Tibetan Youth Congress. In reality, “Not celebrating Losar” was first proposed by Tibetans in Tibet and originated out of spontaneous wishes. Nobody organized Tibetans “Not celebrating Losar”; nobody called on Tibetans “not to celebrate Losar”, no, no. However, the impact is tremendous, everyone is aware of this great ‘civil disobedience’ all over Tibet.

Some say that this kind of “civil disobedience” is only at a low-level, that it is merely not celebrating and nothing more. They maintain that it is a safe action which ends on the individual level, is short-term and does not entail much great risk. In fact, this is not true. Over the past year, the military might all over Tibet has been so great that all Tibetan areas have become prison-like. In today when you could even be arrested for listening to music, “not to celebrate Losar” has been regarded as a serious “separatist” activity, so much so that some Tibetans have been accused of spreading “not to celebrate Losar” rumours and been arrested. In fact, ‘civil disobedience’ in Tibetan areas is even more difficult to carry out than in other places, therefore any kind of result obtained is worth paying attention to.

The way this government treats Tibetans is inhuman. Any kind of Tibetan demands have been trampled on contemptuously. All Tibetan hopes have been shattered contemptuously. The Dalai Lama has not been able to return to his own homeland for fifty years. The Panchen Lama has been missing from the world for thirteen years. It has been ten years since the Karmapa left his home…there is also the wrongly imprisoned Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, how many elderly people in Kham called out his name as they breathed their last words, and they all died with the injustice unaddressed. Those locals haven’t been celebrating any festivals or holidays for the last few years…Many predictions have become an alarming reality, the thirteenth Dalai Lama once said: “Tibetan people will be stripped of their rights and property, and we will become the slaves of the invaders…” One of my monk friend’s 70 year old mother took to the streets last year to protest. Later, a working group went from door to door to investigate why they had participated in protest, were they not demanding “Tibetan Independence”? The old woman said: “Independence or no independence, I don’t know, neither do I understand it, but I know very well that we don’t have freedom, we don’t have rights, I took to the streets, and what I want is freedom and rights.”

And Tibetans have never stopped voicing their demands and protesting: major episodes of dissent occurred in 1959, 1969, 1979, 1989, 1999… and right up until last year when the scale of demonstrations shocked the world. Of course, the inhumanness of the authorities once again became reality: its response is still heavily armed military police, armoured vehicles and jails. It has always been nothing but “strike hard” campaigns. People who live under such state violence usually fear the violence, and they have to be silent because of their fear. It is a long-term silence and a silence in which people are leading a befuddled life. It is also a silence in which “people are deeply grateful”; and it is a silence in which they can only prostrate, hang up prayer flags and distribute lungtas (wind-horses)… This is not something one can not understand. But this time it is different.

A Tibetan went back to Lhasa from the west and after spending a short time very cautiously, he returned to the free world. He sent me a letter and said that when he went back before, he was always disappointed with what he found. He said people only talked about money or having fun. But this time when he went back he felt there was hope because it was totally different. I also have a Tibetan friend who went back to Amdo from a Chinese area. This friend visited cities and towns and villages and he was encouraged by everyone he met: everyone from government officials to herdsmen from his hometown. So he told me: “I have been surprised again. Last year Tibetans surprised everyone, and this year it’s the same. This is so great, we are of one mind. It gives people hope.”

What’s striking here is that these two friends independently expressed to me their hope. And this struck me as unusual. It reminded of a Czech intellectual who once commented on the relationship between the citizens and the unjust authorities: The more one acts like a slave and a servant, and is full of fear, the less seriously the authorities will take you. Only if you have them understand that injustice and despotism can not proceed without obstruction, will you have some hope that they will restrain themselves to some extent. People must forever keep their dignity, not to be scared of threat, not to servilely beg others, and only to tell the truth. In doing so, people can create a kind of pressure because all these are acutely set against the actions of the authorities.”

19th February, 2009, Beijing

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China has ordered government and security forces in Tibet to crush any signs of support for the Dalai Lama, AFP reported a Chinese state media in Tibet as saying Thursday.

A conference of Chinese Communist leaders ordered authorities to “mobilise and fully deploy” to maintain stability, the Tibet Daily reportedly said.

The move has been descibed by AFP as “a possible indication China fears unrest ahead of the March 10 anniversary”.

The warning also comes amid a widespread movement to boycott festivities during the coming Tibetan New Year next week. The movement aims to use the occasion as a silent protest to mourn Tibetans who were killed during the government crackdown last March and express concern for those arrested or tortured.

“The meeting called on the party, government, military, police and public in all areas… to firmly crush the savage aggression of the Dalai clique, defeat separatism, and wage people’s war to maintain stability,” the paper said of the meeting in Lhasa.

The report, however, reportedly gave no details on any security measures.

It said the order was aimed at ensuring stability for the 50th anniversary of social reforms introduced to supplant the Dalai Lama-led Buddhist system. However, those reforms followed the failed uprising that began on March 10, 1959, and forced the Dalai Lama to flee into exile.

China is maintaining ultra-tight security on the Himalayan region ahead of the anniversary of the uprising, which was crushed by Chinese forces. The Tibetan government-in-exile says the Chinese army killed 87,000 people in the crackdown. China has ruled Tibet since 1951, a year after sending troops in to invade the region.

The security meeting in Tibet said the overarching task for Tibetan authorities this year was to “resolutely go toe-to-toe in a battle against all destructive separatist activities to maintain stability.”

A separate editorial by the Tibet Daily, the ruling Communist Party’s main mouthpiece in Tibet, also called for a toughened stance, according to the AFP report.

“We must maintain heavy pressure on criminal violators from start to finish,” said the editorial, which focused on the “separatist” threat.

Exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama this month warned of a possible uprising in his homeland amid anger over a Chinese crackdown put in place after widespread anti-China riots erupted across Tibet on last year’s anniversary.

“It is so tense that the Chinese military have their hands on the trigger when they carry weapons… So long as there is a Chinese military presence, there will be tension,” the Tibetan leader said in Germany while accepting a media prize.

Dharamsala, February 19: A communist Party in Official in Tibet has warned Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns against political activity in the run-up to the first anniversary of last year’s massive unrest against Beijing’s rule in Tibet, according to a report by AP Thursday.

The warning also comes just little less than three weeks before the 50th anniversary of the abortive Tibetan uprising against China’s rule which forced Tibetan leader Dalai Lama to flee into exile in India in 1959.

The warning from Lobsang Gyaincain, published in the China’s official Tibet Daily on Thursday, followed a reported crackdown earlier this week on Tibetan protesters in Lithang, a volatile traditionally Tibetan region of Sichuan province.

Lobsang Gyaincain, who is a member of the standing committee of the regional Communist Party, also demanded that monks and nuns recognize what he called the “reactionary nature” of the Dalai Lama clique, as well as plots to use temples and clergy to carry out “infiltration and disturbances,” Tibet Daily reported.

Clergy must “refuse to take part in activities aimed at splitting the motherland, and not take part in illegal marches, demonstrations and other activities that disrupt social order,” it quoted Lobsang as telling a meeting of clergy on Wednesday.

The official also heads the regional party committee’s United Front Work Department, which is in charge of directly supervising Buddhist temples and clergy.

Chinese authorities in Tibet have also come with a fresh order calling on local nuns and monks to reject the Dalai Lama and separatist activities at an annual meet this week, Chinese state news agency Xinhua said on Thursday.

Monks and nuns should “safeguard social stability, the socialist legal system and fundamental interests of the people”, and should “consciously keep themselves away” from separatist activities and illegal demonstrations that impair social order, Xinhua quoted the new order as saying.

It asked Tibetan Buddhist monks to “see clearly that the 14th Dalai Lama is the ringleader of the separatist political association which seeks ‘Tibet independence’, a loyal tool of anti-China Western forces, the very root that causes social unrest in Tibet and the biggest obstacle for Tibetan Buddhism to build up its order”, the agency said.

The authorities had also awarded 36 monks and nuns and 10 monasteries with the title of “patriotic and law-abiding” models,Xinhua said.

China, which sent military troops to forcefully occupy Tibet in late 1949, regularly vilifies the 73-year-old Dalai Lama, who remains widely popular among Tibetans 50 years after fleeing to India and is revered by them as their supreme leader.

Beijing accuses elements of the Dalai Lama’s self-proclaimed government in exile of organizing last year’s anti-China unrest in Tibet, and claimed they “clear evidence” to prove the allegations.

Dalai Lama and the Tibet’s Government in exile rejected the accusations as baseless and unfounded, and openly challenged Beijing to produce evidence, if any. The Tibetan government also repeatedly urged Beijing to allow international monitoring body to independently assess the situation in Tibet and the nature of the unrest.

However, Beijing did not show any response to such calls, despite some international insistence also.

Wednesday’s meeting is a further sign of official nervousness ahead of the protest anniversary, particularly as next month also marks 50 years since the Dalai Lama’s flight abroad, AP said in its report.

Chinese security forces on Sunday and Monday swiftly broke up the protests in Lithang. At least 21 people were detained and troops were reportedly searching for others who might have joined in the demonstrations in which protesters shouted slogans calling for Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet and demanded “independence for Tibet.”

According to media reports, Lithang, like other Tibetan regions, has been practically sealed off from the rest of China by road blocks and travel bans.

According to additional information received by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) from reliable sources regarding the protest demonstration by 15 Tibetans in Lithang County yesterday, Sonam Tenpa, 29 years old and Lobsang Tenzin, 23, in particularly sustained severe injuries from the brutal beating at the site of the demonstration and the whereabouts of Gelek Kunga, still remains unknown.

According to sources, “following a peaceful protest by fifteen Tibetans in the streets of Lithang main market, they were later joined by few Tibetan onlookers in the street. The Lithang County Public Security Bureau (PSB) and People’s Armed Police (PAP) detained five more Tibetans along with 15 other known Tibetans who staged a peaceful protest demonstration in Lithang on 16 February 2009 and were brutally beaten, manhandled at the site of the demonstration before being forcibly loaded into military trucks. They are, Damdul (only one name) the head of Dekyi Village, Lithang County, two other Tibetans whose identities could not be ascertained at the moment, and two Tibetan nomad ladies of Sako Village in Lithang County, Yanglo and Dolma.” The latter two were known to have been released last evening.

The total number of Tibetans known to have been detained, since 15 February solo protest by Lobsang Lhundup of Nekhor Monastery and subsequent peaceful on 16 February, has reached 21.

According to some close associates, “Lobsang Lhundup is currently detained at Lithang County PSB Detention Centre whereas other Tibetan detainees are currently held in Lithang Tsagha PSB Detention Centre.” According to sources, on learning about their detention at Tsagha PSB Detention Centre, the family members and relatives went to visit the detainees, however, to their shock, Gelek Kunga who was detained along with other Tibetans was nowhere to be seen in the detention centre. Many fear for the safety and the well being of Gelek Kunga since his detention and disappearance.

“The Shops and restaurants remain closed yesterday following the peaceful protest in Lithang town. The vehicular traffic movement between Lithang and Bathang, which is around 6-7 hours journey distant, was brought to a grinding halt after the protest and subsequent deployment of massive troops into the areas to check further Tibetan protest,” sources added.

TCHRD calls upon the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to immediately locate the whereabouts and safety of Gelek Kunga and in all circumstances guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of all the detainees, and should guarantee immediate and unconditional access to legal representation, their families and any medical attention required for the injured detainees. The Centre deems the case as an outright clampdown on the freedom of opinion and expression in Tibet.

The Chinese government has banned foreigners from entering Tibet and large swathes of its surrounding provinces ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s flight into exile.

China has tightened its grip on Tibet ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s exile on March 10 (Photo: AP)
China has tightened its grip on Tibet ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s exile on March 10 (Photo: AP)
Tourist agencies were contacted on Wednesday by officials and told to cancel all trips for the foreseeable future. “We had a meeting with the tourist bureau and were asked to stop all groups from entering Tibet for at least the next couple of months,” said Wan Feng, at Tibet Yak Travel.

Foreigners require a permit to enter Tibet, but Youth Travel Service, one of the largest travel agencies, said few, if any, permits were being issued.

“It is very very difficult to get a permit at the moment. We will have to wait and see when they become available again,” said a spokesman.

Another company, Tsedang China Travel, said it was unsure whether travel would even be possible in April. Mr Wan said the ban on foreigners was for “sensitive, political, reasons”.

The ban extends into some parts of the three provinces surrounding Tibet where ethnic Tibetans live. Officials in Gansu confirmed that tourists are now being turned away from Tibetan areas until further notice, while officials in Sichuan said tourists travelling along the road to Tibet were being stopped. In Qinghai, officials said foreigners have always been banned from areas where Tibetans live, including Qilian mountain, one of China’s most beautiful landmarks.

China has tightened its grip on Tibet ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s exile on March 10. Last year, a peaceful protest by around 200 monks to mark the anniversary spiralled into violent riots. The Chinese government says 22 people died during the protests, but human rights activists believe many more were killed by police.

Tensions this year are already high. Chinese security forces have already allegedly beaten and arrested up to 24 Tibetans for protesting in Lithang County, a Tibetan area of Sichuan. The protests started last Sunday when Lobsang Lhundup, 39, a monk from Nekhor monastery, held up a picture of the Dalai Lama in the main market and shouted “Free Tibet!”

Many Tibetans also refused to take part in Chinese New Year celebrations this year, adding to the tension with the Han Chinese living in Tibet. There have also been several reports of Chinese soldiers being posted to monasteries and one witness said snipers had been placed on the roofs of important temples in Lhasa.

Previously, the Chinese government said that foreign journalists would be welcome in Tibet in March in order to cover the event that it has dubbed “Serf Liberation Day”. The government said the exile of the Dalai Lama marked the moment when Tibet entered the modern era, abolishing feudalism and leading to millions of slaves being freed. However, attempts by journalists to arrange trips to Tibet over the anniversary period were firmly rebuffed.

This year no Losar.

Last year was washed by blood.

In Lhasa countless compatriots

were fallen under a piercing arrow.

This year no Losar for us.

In Szechuan, countless people buried

under the earth.

This year no Losar for us.

There is only the word “No” on your lips,

We are speechless.

You are filled with anger.

We have no bitterness.

For the sake of the deceased,

valiant heroes,

Let us offer our regrets.

For the deceased people,

Let us make offerings.

– By an anonymous Tibetan blogger (heard on Students for a Free Tibet “Our Nation”).

Students for a Free Tibet: Our Nation Episode 4

The release last week of a human rights manifesto signed by hundreds of mainland scholars, lawyers and ex-officials has prompted a stern response from Chinese authorities who have jailed one signer and contacted dozens.

Charter 08, which takes its title and inspiration from the “Charter 77” document that demanded rights for Czechoslovakia in 1977, called for an extensive list of rights in China, including free speech, freedom to form political parties, an independent legal system and direct elections. The 4,000-word document was released during a time of several sensitive anniversaries, including 100 years after the promulgation of China’s first constitution, 60 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and 30 years after Beijing’s “Democracy Wall” movement. The charter was first signed by 303 intellectuals living in China, a number that has since grown to more than 3,000.

On December 8, the day before Charter 08 was posted on a U.S.-based Chinese web site, Beijing police arrested Liu Xiaobo, a dissident and one of the document’s authors and signers. His lawyer, Mo Shaoping, says Liu is still being held incommunicado over a week later, and police have not revealed his whereabouts. Liu’s supporters fear he could be charged with the offense of “inciting subversion of state power.” Beijing-based activist Hu Jia was convicted of the same in April and sentenced to three and a half years in prison.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said last week that Washington was “deeply concerned by reports that Chinese citizens have been detained, interrogated and harassed” since the document’s publishing, and was “particularly concerned about the well being of Liu Xiaobo.” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told journalists on Dec. 16 that the U.S. position was another example of an unwelcome “interference of other nations in China’s internal affairs.”

At least 39 signatories in Beijing, Shanghai and eight provinces have been questioned, trailed or had their movements restricted by police, says the Chinese Human Rights Defenders, an activist group. “This is a big thing, if only measuring by the reaction of the authorities,” says Nicholas Bequelin, a Hong Kong-based researcher for the group Human Rights Watch. “One thing the [Communist] Party is very worried about is to have the loyalty of the intellectuals and the academics.”

The document has reignited a debate that has recently bubbled through the commentary pages of Chinese newspapers over the nature of “universal values.” Opinion writers have argued whether pluralism is a western creation with limited application to China, or a political ideal for all nations. Columnist Sima Nan wrote on his blog that the charter was a dangerous attempt to promote a Chinese “color revolution,” referring to pro-democracy movements in Ukraine and Georgia.

Bao Tong, a former assistant to purged Communist Party Secretary Zhao Ziyang and one of the charter’s signers, acknowledged that it backed western values, but said that China had relied on similar ideas for reform in the past. “If studying the West is illegal, then we should arrest the people talking about the market economy, because that comes from the West,” he says. “We should arrest the Communist Party, because political parties come from the West.”

Bao, who is now retired and lives under close state scrutiny, says the charter had been compiled over several months with the input of several people who offered suggestions and revisions. It was still being revised when the arrest of Liu prompted its early release. Bao accused the authorities of arresting Liu to intimidate others who might encourage political reform. “If signing the charter is illegal, then all us 300 plus have broken the law,” he says. “It’s nonsense.”

The timing of the charter’s release is sensitive not just because of the significant anniversaries this year, but because the global economic slowdown has increased the potential for political unrest in China. Thousands of factories in the south have closed, and demonstrations by workers over unpaid wages have become a frequent scene in the regions of the country that have been driving China’s double-digit growth. China’s exports dropped last month for the first time in seven years, and as many as 9 million migrant workers are estimated to be returning home due to the slowdown. The World Bank and others say growth next year could drop to below 8%, a number that the government needs to maintain to prevent a destabilizing level of unemployment. Economists warn that even if China makes its 2009 targets, the first half of the year could see much slower growth than the second. And while this year’s sensitive anniversaries will be past, next June will mark another, the 20th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.

The United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-moon called on China to continue its dialogue with the envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, AFP reported.

“I hope the Chinese authorities will continue to resolve this issue through dialogue,” Ban told journalists yesterday.

China said last month that talks with Dharamsala had failed to produce any result and blamed the Tibetan side for it. It said the demands for autonomy were disguised call for independence saying it would not compromise on the status of the Himalayan region.

“Our contacts and talks failed to make progress and they (the Dalai Lama’s representatives) should assume full responsibility for it,” said Zhu Weiqun, executive vice minister of the Community Party’s United Front Department.

The use of torture in the restless Chinese region of Tibet is widespread and routine and officials regularly ignore legal safeguards supposed to be in place to prevent it, a new report said on Wednesday.

Courier Mail)
This photo, taken in the second week of November, shows Chinese soldiers patrolling the area around the Jokhang Temple in central Lhasa. Recent reports indicate China has intensified its military presence in Tibet amid fears of recurring protests in the restive Himalayan region. (Phayul/Photo: Courier Mail)

Even when detainees are released, they may die of their injuries, be scarred for life mentally or physically and not be able to afford medical treatment or be denied it completely, the Free Tibet group said.

“Despite claims by the Chinese government that there are ‘extremely few cases of torture’, the evidence tells a different story,” Free Tibet director Stephanie Brigden said. “There is no doubt that the Chinese government is permitting the use of torture as a weapon to suppress the Tibetan people.”

China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment and calls to the spokesman’s office of the Chinese-run Tibetan government in Lhasa went unanswered.

Chinese troops marched into Tibet in 1950 and the region’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama fled into exile in 1959 after a failed uprising against Beijing’s rule.

Mountainous and remote Tibet was rocked by anti-Chinese protests earlier this year, which China blamed on the Dalai Lama, whom it brands a separatist. He has repeatedly denied the claims.

Free Tibet said it had profiled numerous cases of torture carried out against people detained following the demonstrations, which spilled over into other ethnically Tibetan parts of China such as Gansu, Qinghai and Sichuan provinces.

It said that one monk at the Labrang monastery in Gansu, Jigme Gyatso, had to be hospitalised for almost a month after his injuries received in detention.

“They would hang me up for several hours with my hands tied to a rope … hanging from the ceiling and my feet above the ground. Then they would beat me on my face, chest, and back, with the full force of their fists,” he said in the report.

“Finally, on one occasion, I lost consciousness and was taken to hospital. After I regained consciousness at the hospital, I was once again taken back to prison where they continued the practice of hanging me from the ceiling and beating me.”

China has vowed to stamp out torture in its judicial system, described as widespread by some critics, in the face of international and domestic pressure.

Last month, the U.N. Committee Against Torture, in a rare public review of China’s record, expressed dissatisfaction with a “very serious information gap” about abuses in the country where criminal justice information is often considered a state secret. Free Tibet, in the report issued to coincide with International Human Rights Day, said Chinese laws aimed at protecting detainees were regularly ignored in Tibet.

“The international community can no longer hide behind sound bites condemning China’s human rights track record in Tibet and must now take specific actions to reverse the worsening crisis in Tibet,” Brigden added.

China and envoys of the Dalai Lama have been meeting on and off for the past few years, but with little to show for their talks.

Beijing has rejected the Dalai Lama’s calls for greater autonomy as being part of a plot for covert independence.

On Wednesday, the semi-official China News Service quoted Si Ta, a deputy head of the United Front Work Department which handles relations with non-Communists and ethnic and religious minorities, as repeating that the door to talks was always open.

“The Party still has expectations of the Dalai Lama and plenty of patience, but ‘Tibet independence’, ‘half independence’ or ‘covert independence’ are unacceptable,” it paraphrased him as saying in Washington.