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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.

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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.

Dharamsala, Feb. 13: The US Wednesday expressed its concern on situation in Tibet, but did not specify if the issue would definitely be taken up by the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her visit to China later this month, according to a media report.

“You know, the situation in Tibet is something the US government has been concerned about for some time. We’ve raised that issue with the Chinese in the past,” PTI reported the State Department spokesperson, Robert Wood, as saying.

“The Secretary (of State) will be having a wide-ranging discussion with the Chinese when she is in China. I am not going to get beyond what we have said publicly about our engagement with China,” he said.

“But human rights issues are something that will be at the top of the Secretary’s agenda, no matter where she goes,” Wood said.

Wood was reportedly responding to a question about the latest statement from the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama that the situation in Tibet is very tense and there could be a popular uprising any moment.

“The issue could very well come up. I just don’t want to get into specific subject areas at this point. But you can expect that the Secretary is going to be bringing up human rights issues throughout the trip, where she deems it necessary to do so”, he said when asked about whether the issue would come up or not.

Mrs. Clinton, only a month into the job, as announced by the State Department last week, would be travelling on her first overseas trip in this position to Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China during her week-long trip beginning February 15.

Meanwhile, seven prominent organizations, mostly based in US, Tuesday issued a joint press statement asking Mrs Clinton to put Human Rights on top of the agenda in her visit to Beijing next week.

In the statement, Amnesty International USA, Freedom House, Human Rights First, Human Rights in China, Human Rights Watch, the International Campaign for Tibet, and Reporters Without Borders urged Secretary Clinton to speak publicly about Tibet and Xinjiang, torture in police custody, domestic press censorship, extrajudicial detention, and abuses of human rights defenders.

The statement recalls the secretary’s own past comments on human rights in China, in which she stressed: “not taking citizens away from their loved ones and jailing them, mistreating them, or denying them their freedom or dignity because of the peaceful expression of their ideas and opinions.”

“If Secretary Clinton remains silent on these issues – as the US did earlier this week during China’s review at the Human Rights Council in Geneva – the Chinese government is likely to get the wrong message,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

“We ask the secretary to stress human rights, the rule of law, and protections for civil society as a centerpiece of US policy going forward,” she said.

Students for a Free Tibet: Our Nation Episode 4