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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.

From (Mechak Center for Contemporary Tibetan Art)

What is this? Let that Moment Become Eternal!
New Works by the Tibetan Artist Losang Gyatso

by Woeser

Likely they had known that that moment would appear not only on televisions in many countries but also through the omnipresent internet connections. Let alone other venues, the first ten pages of a YouTube search for “Jokhang” can lead to at least nearly a score of videos that were from the footage recorded that moment. They must have known it. They must have been told in advance that reporters from foreign media (a couple dozen of them) would arrive in Jokhang that morning – for the first time in seventeen days since the temple was closed on March 10th. Everyone was ready. Authorities had assigned some of the most obedient Tibetans to cooperate. Yet, “Those worshippers, they are all cadres in disguise; it’s a cheat….,” they, those monks in Jokhang, told the truth at that moment. Apparently, they had been preparing to speak out. Nevertheless, it is impossible that they had not thought of the unpredictable price they would have to pay by doing so. As a result, their participation disclosed the episode which was orchestrated to give the impression that Tibetans are fortunate and free. While rushing out to surround reporters, they desperately yelled: “No, we don’t have freedom! The Dalai Lama is innocent….” The reporters who had been invited to tour the tightly controlled Lhasa finally saw the act which had the most shocking journalistic effect; in a matter of minutes, the authorities were left no place to hide the intention behind the show they had wanted to stage. That shocking moment was said to have lasted about fifteen minutes. I remember clearly the indescribable pain which I felt that evening when watching the short segment of that moment on the internet. I was reminded of this line by Anna Akhmatova – “The heart gives up its blood.”

Nevertheless, most likely they have not known that, months later, that moment had been recreated by an artist. Although art should be unbounded by boundaries of nation and artists are often not tied to their native place — as deities are not confined by their sex, I would still rather refer to this artist in a more restrictive and somehow assertive manner. He, Losang Gyatso (la – according to the formality of our tradition) is a Tibetan artist. The point here is “Tibet.” Although he now lives Washington, DC, although he has not returned to his native place in the Snow Lands for the past forth-nine (and soon fifty) years, he is the Tibetan artist who has through his work of art transformed that moment into six images. In the meantime, he has also created another six images to note another moment in the Labrang Monastery in Amdo, which was as crucial as the one in Jokhang. These twelve images are all modeled after monks who are recognizably Tibetan and native, and they are a great deal similar to each other. Yet, they are also apparently different. One image is more so than the other in overwhelming their beholders. I can nearly hear their voiceless cries piercing through the internet; my ears hurt.

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{This post is long, but I did not want to hide it away behind a “read the rest of this…” link. It’s important that information like this is disseminated as far and wide as possible…}

A rare testimony in detail of a Tibetan youth who was arrested in the aftermath of Lhasa unrest in March‭ ‬2008‭ ‬is obtained by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy‭ (‬TCHRD‭)‬.‭ ‬The interviewee describes the use of extreme torture in prison,‭ ‬cries of pain in the corridors of the prison,‭ ‬harrowing stories that he constantly hears,‭ ‬unwavering hope of support from the outside world,‭ ‬and perception of life post imprisonment.‭ ‬The interview which is reproduced below has been dictated to a third party and edited by TCHRD in order to protect the identity of the youth.‭ ‬While (*) denotes information withheld, further details,‭ ‬comments or explanations are provided in square brackets.

“On‭ (*) ‬March,‭ around‭ ‬one‭ ‬hundred soldiers entered my house,‭ ‬broke down five doors,‭ ‬checked everything and threw it all on the floor and hit everyone present there.‭ ‬It was like a robbery or burglary.‭ ‬There were a lot of firearms and they were very rough with us.‭ ‬I was arrested.‭ ‬They took me with them,‭ ‬with my thumbs tied behind my back,‭ ‬very tightly,‭ ‬resulting in the whole area being numb for the last two or three months‭ [‬all of his left thumb‭]‬.‭ ‬They treated us very harshly.‭ ‬Talking to each other,‭ ‬they said,‭ “‬This is our chance‭”‬,‭ ‬and they beat us.‭ ‬At first I thought that they were going to kill me,‭ ‬they hit my head a lot,‭ ‬and skull can be broken easily.‭ ‬It is not like the rest of the body.‭ ‬They took me to prison.‭ ‬For four days they didn’t ask me anything,‭ ‬they just threw me in.‭ ‬They gave us half a steamed bun a day.‭ ‬That’s very small.‭ ‬Everyone were very thirsty and a lot of people drank their urine‭ [‬the detainees were not provided with water‭]‬.‭ ‬We had no clothes,‭ ‬no blankets,‭ ‬nothing to lie down on,‭ ‬nothing‭ [‬just cement floors]‬ and it was very cold.‭ ‬For four days nobody spoke to us,‭ ‬they just left us there.”

“During the day it’s quiet,‭ ‬there’s nothing in Lhasa during the day.‭ ‬Between‭ ‬11:00‭ ‬at night and‭ ‬5-6:00‭ [‬in the morning‭] ‬they arrest thousands of people. In that room,‭ ‬after four or five days,‭ ‬they gave us two steamed buns with hot water.‭ ‬We were‭ ‬(*) ‬people in that room.‭ ‬Very bad.‭ ‬We heard a lot of things.‭ ‬Many people had their arms or legs broken or gunshot wounds but they weren’t taken to hospital.‭ ‬They were there with us.‭ ‬It was really terrible.‭ ‬I can’t believe that we are in the‭ ‬21st century.‭ ‬For instance,‭ ‬one boy who was shot four times,‭ ‬one from here to there‭ [‬the bullet entered from the left side of his back and exited from the left side of his chest,‭ ‬near his heart‭]‬,‭ ‬one from here to here‭ [‬from inner left elbow to inner left wrist‭]‬,‭ ‬and one here‭ [‬a horizontal wound on his upper right arm‭]‬.‭ ‬Some people had their ribs broken.‭ ‬One man was punched in his‭ [‬right‭] ‬eye,‭ ‬and it was all swollen and black and blue,‭ ‬very bad.‭ ‬People had their teeth broken,‭ ‬these are just examples.‭ ‬A lot of terrible things were done.”

“One of the problems is that people have no food,‭ ‬they are very hungry,‭ ‬they are just falling over.‭ ‬One boy fell into the toilet,‭ ‬all in the same room,‭ ‬and he was cut right across his face‭ [‬under his chin along the jaw‭]‬.‭ ‬For instance,‭ ‬a lot of people have psychological problems,‭ ‬and they’re the first to collapse.‭ ‬A boy from Tse-Tang ,‭ ‬he has a problem of the‭ “‬heart‭”‬,‭ ‬a psychological problem,‭ ‬and he was very thin.‭ ‬At first he fell two or three times every day but they didn’t care.”

“The worst thing‭ – ‬this is Gondzhe‭ [‬the name of the prison‭]‬,‭ ‬in Lhasa there are nineteen prisons,‭ ‬the biggest is Drapchi and there is one in Chushul‭ [‬Ch:‭ ‬Qushu County‭]‬,‭ ‬they are empty,‭ ‬they showed the visitors that nobody is in prison,‭ ‬it’s just for show.‭ ‬Usually there is no prison at the train station,‭ ‬but they rented a very big building and they put people there and in Du-Long‭ [‬Toelung Dechen County‭] ‬and at the train station,‭ ‬and in Gondzhe‭; ‬they put people in these three places.‭ ‬At night they bring a big bus,‭ ‬and many soldiers come,‭ ‬and one hundred to one hundred and fifteen go to Du-Long.‭ ‬They say it’s time to go home,‭ “‬You haven’t done anything wrong,‭ ‬you’re going home,‭” ‬but they put them in a huge bus to Du-Long or to the train station.‭ ‬They’ve mixed up the people and transferred people from here to there‭ [‬from prison to prison‭]‬.‭ ‬I didn’t see this myself,‭ ‬but friends told me what they saw at Du-Long.‭ ‬Some monks had sacks put over their heads and they were taken away and didn’t come back,‭ ‬so maybe they were killed.”

“I met an old man,‭ ‬65‭ ‬years old,‭ ‬who had two ribs broken and he was all bent over‭ [‬demonstrates a bent man‭]‬,‭ ‬and he couldn’t stand up straight,‭ ‬he was dying,‭ ‬so the police took him to People’s Hospital,‭ ‬where one or two people die every day‭ [‬due to police violence‭]‬.‭ ‬The people who are taken to hospital are usually people who have been shot or beaten,‭ ‬and they usually die there.‭ ‬A brother and sister from (*‭)‬,‭ ‬the brother was younger,‭ ‬were sleeping in the same room and all of a sudden soldiers came and threw them out of the window from a high floor to the ground,‭ ‬the brother was killed on the spot.‭ ‬Yes,‭ ‬right outside the building.‭ ‬The sister didn’t die,‭ ‬but she can’t lie down,‭ ‬she has to remain in a sitting position all the time.‭ ‬They took the body away and told her that she is forbidden to tell anyone.‭ ‬(*).These are just a few examples.‭ ‬There are many problems like this.”

“Many questions were asked of people who were not guilty of anything.‭ ‬They are just‭ [‬guilty of being] Tibetans.‭ ‬There are many counties in Tibet,‭ ‬they call the police from each county,‭ ‬and the people from the counties aren’t in Lhasa so they show them that the prisons are empty,‭ ‬but they were taken to all kinds of places,‭ ‬because in Lhasa there are so many people watching so they keep everyone away.‭ ‬Now the monks from‭ (*)monastery‬,‭ ‬friends and relatives,‭ ‬we don’t know where they are.”

“You know that they say that there are no soldiers in Lhasa,‭ ‬but they’re in civilian dress and they check identity papers.”

“I want to talk and that people should know what’s happening in Tibet.‭ ‬If they beat me that’s okay‭ [‬he means that his family may be hurt as well‭]‬,‭ ‬I didn’t do anything bad in Lhasa.‭ ”

“Many young people in Lhasa,‭ ‬for example,‭ ‬if we were together on the‭ ‬14th‭ [‬of March‭]‬,‭ ‬I was beaten,‭ ‬so I was‭ “‬sold‭” ‬and then you’re with me‭ [‬with the prison warden doing the beating‭]‬.‭ ‬But I have friends in‭ (*) monastery,‭ ‬I would rather die than give them away.‭ ‬I saw a lot of things that they did in prison.‭ ‬A guy from Dhadezhe [possibly Dartsedo County]‭ ‬had a new jacket,‭ ‬so they beat him and he died,‭ ‬because of the jacket,‭ ‬because it was very new,‭ ‬so they said he stole it,‭ ‬so because of his new coat he was killed.”

“There are a lot of high school students from Sauko‭ .‭ ‬A seventeen-year-old who had not participated in the events of the‭ ‬14th‭ [‬of March‭]‬,‭ ‬all his clothes were taken away,‭ ‬they tied his hands and they pushed a wagon at him until he fell,‭ ‬there are all kinds of torture methods.‭ ‬This kid was very young and he didn’t even do anything.‭ ‬Afterwards he said that he’d done all kinds of things,‭ ‬that happens to a lot of people,‭ ‬they pressure people to admit things they never did. I didn’t see the dead people,‭ ‬but in prison people called out to the police or soldiers,‭ “‬Someone’s dead‭!”‬,‭ ‬every day people shout that.‭ ‬At Gondzhe there are nine buildings,‭ ‬and each building has eleven rooms and in each room there are twenty or thirty people.‭ ‬And one day,‭ ‬a Chinese man was asked some questions,‭ ‬someone called and asked how many people had been arrested and he said less than ten thousand,‭ ‬and that doesn’t include Drepung,‭ ‬Sera,‭ ‬Ramoche,‭ ‬Jokhang.‭ ‬After they let us out they arrested the monks.‭ ‬When I got out‭ [‬of prison‭]‬ I heard that many were arrested at Drepung Monastery.‭ ‬I was released on‭ (*) ‬April‭ ‬.”

“I met a monk from Ramoche before I was released.‭ ‬I am very worried about the monks.‭ ‬The soldiers regard the monks as something very different,‭ ‬because a monk from Dezhe‬ [possibly Derge County],‭ ‬his finger was bent over‭ [‬shows a completely bent finger‭] ‬and he’d been blinded in one eye,‭ ‬he couldn’t see out of it at all,‭ ‬he was beaten more than us but luckily‭ … ‬Really I can’t understand why they do terrible things to monks,‭ ‬very,‭ ‬very painful.”

“I met a boy from (*) [County] in the same prison,‭ ‬and he had two friends in Lhasa who lived near Ramoche and they were shot,‭ ‬and his two friends,‭ ‬one,‭ ‬there’s a hospital near Anichenko‭ ,‭ ‬he was taken to a nunnery and he died there,‭ ‬21‭ ‬years old,‭ ‬I’ve forgotten his name‭; ‬the other was‭ ‬20‭ ‬years old,‭ ‬he was shot and he’s in hospital,‭ ‬maybe he’ll die too.‭ ‬He was shot on Gangsu Street.”

“A boy named (*),‭ ‬aged‭ ‬(*),‭ ‬from Anishim‭ ‬ near Lhasa,‭ ‬is in prison,‭ ‬and two of his friends were shot to death.‭ ‬He and his‭ ‬18‭ ‬year-old brother were from Phenpo.‭ ‬In the prison at Gondzhe there are a lot of people from Phenpo.”

“During the day it’s very quiet,‭ ‬everything happens at night,‭ ‬everything’s very secret.‭ ‬There is no telephone contact with Drepung,‭ ‬Sera or the train station.‭ ‬Sometimes we can get in touch with the train station,‭ ‬but not most of the time,‭ ‬so they can’t be reached.”

“I have a relative in India,‭ ‬I wrote just what I heard and saw to send over the internet.‭ ‬I wrote a little and I saved it on Word,‭ ‬and all of a sudden it disappeared,‭ ‬so I was very frightened.‭ ‬So I haven’t checked my e-mail,‭ ‬I have a lot of friends abroad and they send many e-mails but I haven’t opened them.(*).”

“Outwardly they show people that everything is very nice but inside it’s really terrible.‭ ‬People did really bad things and forced us to make this problem.‭ ‬At Ramoche they didn’t do anything,‭ ‬but thousands of soldiers surrounded the monastery and all the temples,‭ ‬and many vehicles closed off the gates like a prison.‭ ‬We can’t be tolerant anymore,‭ ‬we should be tolerant but we can’t be tolerant anymore.‭ ‬There are no human rights and cultural genocide is the reality,‭ ‬that’s the big part,‭ ‬but the small part we see,‭ ‬for instance in Lhasa,‭ ‬on a main street like Beijing Lu‭ [‬Lu means street in Chinese‭]‬,‭ ‬or Gengshu Lu,‭ ‬how many Tibetans have businesses on streets like those‭? ‬This is Lhasa,‭ ‬Tibet,‭ ‬not China.‭ ‬Don’t the Tibetans have to live‭? ‬The Chinese are more talented because they study in big cities.‭ ‬They have experience or enough money to do business,‭ ‬but Tibetans come from villages,‭ ‬they are farmers or nomads,‭ ‬they don’t have money,‭ ‬so how can they do business in Lhasa‭? ‬What is more necessary‭? ‬That the local people do business in Lhasa or the Chinese‭? ‬Why don’t the Chinese police allow Tibetans to do business on one side of the street and the Chinese on the other side‭ – ‬so things will be more balanced‭? ‬There are many Tibetans who are very talented and intelligent,‭ ‬but they don’t have enough money to make it.‭ ‬They have money because they live in Beijing or Shanghai.‭ ‬That’s the small part.‭ ”

“I see a lot of things,‭ ‬I’m okay,‭ ‬I can do many things.‭ ‬But I see many Tibetans,‭ ‬the way they live,‭ ‬and the way the Chinese live,‭ ‬and this is Tibet.‭ ‬The local people shouldn’t be superior to the Chinese,‭ ‬but there should be balance.‭ ‬There are some very old Tibetans who have pensions from the government,‭ ‬you can see them on TV.‭ ‬They said bad things to the Tibetans.‭ ‬I watch them and I just laugh.‭ ‬There are many westerners who are fighting for Tibetan civil rights.‭ ‬I’m very happy that these people are doing this.‭ ‬I want to study more at home every day but I can’t.‭ ‬When I watch TV,‭ ‬everything is lies,‭ ‬so it pains my heart‭ [‬points to his heart‭] ‬and it’s very bad.‭ ‬So I walk in the streets and I see the soldiers asking me for my identity papers,‭ ‬they look at my card and ask me,‭ “‬When were you born‭?” ‬and if there’s the smallest mistake you’re finished.‭ ‬They check the picture and your face,‭ ‬but a Chinese person can pass right by‭ [‬without identity papers‭]‬,‭ ‬that’s okay.”

‎(*). “Before this was the best place, but now it’s like a prison, it’s not like Lhasa. When I was in prison,‭ ‬a Tibetan policeman told me‭ “‬Kneel down here‭!”‬,‭ ‬I had my thumbs tied behind my back.‭ ‬He sat down‭ [‬on a chair in front of me‭]‬,‭ ‬put his foot on my head and kicked my forehead with his foot,‭ ‬pushed my head back and slapped my face over and over again,‭ ‬and I saw this man and I was very sad.‭ ‬He’s Tibetan and now I see him every day,‭ ‬I’ve seen him many times‭ [‬since then‭]‬.‭ ‬‬A lot of Chinese and Tibetans jumped on my back and kicked me and beat me over the head,‭ ‬they twisted my head back so I couldn’t see their faces,‭ ‬but to show me your face and to do those bad things‭ – ‬that’s the worst thing.”

“This is just an experience,‭ ‬I could learn a lot from it.‭ ‬In prison sometimes I dreamed about food and I remembered the food we cook at home,‭ ‬my mother and my sister’s cooking and I could smell it,‭ ‬and then I really appreciated how tasty the food is at home.‭ ‬I usually eat everything and then I say‭ “‬That wasn’t so good,‭” ‬and now I’ve learnt that it’s very,‭ ‬very good.‭ ‬These are the worst things that I’ve ever seen in my life,‭ ‬but you learn how to be a good person.‭ ‬Sometimes,‭ ‬when my (*)’s children are here,‭ ‬and they don’t do their schoolwork,‭ ‬I yell at them and hit them.‭ ‬But now if I yell at them it pains me sometimes.‭ ‬I’ve learned a lot.”

“I’m worried about the small Tibetan population.‭ ‬Many people are dying today or being crippled with broken arms and legs,‭ ‬and that’s very bad.‭ ‬And people are in prison,‭ ‬like me,‭ ‬and I think about the people in prison all the time.‭ ‬I think about the terrible state they are in.‭ ‬Young people,‭ ‬16‭ ‬or‭ ‬17‭ ‬years old,‭ ‬crying all the time‭ – ‬it makes me really sad.‭ ‬I saw people with broken limbs and people who’d been shot‭ – ‬seeing their pale faces is very,‭ ‬very sad.”

In April last year, I was lucky enough to be granted an audience with H.H. the 17th Karmapa, Ugyen Trinley Dorje. I remember his pure radiance and his calm, assertive energy. He seemed so different from anyone I’d ever met before. I asked him a question based around forgiveness–and even though my memory of his actual words has faded, the message has not.

I was surprised when I found out he is visiting the U.S. Part of me wishes that I was able to fly up to NY, WA or somewhere and see him. Yet, another part is glad I cannot. I have a special memory of the meeting that was held near Dharamsala, in Himachal Pradesh at his “home”. I’ll never forget that meeting and I still have the red cord with the blessing knot tied around my wrist.

For some reading regarding his U.S. visit so far:

The 22-year-old living Buddha seemed joyfully aware to feel no jet lag whatsoever. So far. “Maybe tonight,” he said in English on Thursday. “But not yet.” He had just arrived at a Midtown hotel with his security detail after a 14-hour flight from New Delhi to Newark.

“It is the first time I’ve ever visited the United States, and it’s a bit like a dream,” said His Holiness, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa Ugyen Trinley Dorje, one of the most important leaders in Tibetan Buddhism.

Despite his youth, he is revered by followers as a master teacher, and on Thursday he began his whirlwind tour of the United States, an 18-day visit to New York, New Jersey, Boulder, Colo., and Seattle.

Yes, he is that Karmapa: the young master who made headlines across the world at age 14 with his daring escape from China to India across the Himalayas in 1999.

His followers regard him not only as the reincarnation of his predecessor, the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, who died in 1981, but also as the 17th incarnation of the first Karmapa in the 12th century, in an unbroken lineage going back 900 years. They revere him as leader of the Kagyu sect — called the black hat or black crown sect — one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

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YI BUI KHAW, Myanmar – The saffron-robed monks who spearheaded a bloody uprising last fall against Myanmar‘s military rulers are back on the front lines, this time providing food, shelter and spiritual solace to cyclone victims.

The military regime has moved to curb the Buddhist clerics’ efforts, even as it fails to deliver adequate aid itself. Authorities have given some monasteries deadlines to clear out refugees, many of whom have no homes to return to, monks and survivors say.

“There is no aid. We haven’t seen anyone from the government,” said U Pinyatale, the 45-year-old abbot of the Kyi Bui Kha monastery sharing almost depleted rice stocks and precious rainwater with some 100 homeless villagers huddled within its battered compound.

Similar scenes are being repeated in other areas of the Irrawaddy delta and Yangon, the country’s largest city, where monasteries became safe havens after Cyclone Nargis struck May 3 — and the regime did little.

“In the past I used to give donations to the monks. But now it’s the other way around. It’s the monks helping us,” said Aung Khaw, a 38-year-old construction worker who took his wife and young daughter to a monastery in the Yangon suburb of Hlaingtharyar after the roof of his flimsy house was blown away and its bamboo walls collapsed.

One of the monastery’s senior monks said he tried to argue with military officials who ordered the more than 100 refugees to leave.

“I don’t know where they will go. But that was the order,” he said, asking for anonymity for fear of reprisals.

The government has not announced such an order, which appeared to be applied selectively. Other monasteries in Yangon have been told to clear out cyclone victims in coming days, the monk said, but in the delta, refugees were being allowed to remain or told they could come to monasteries for supplies but not shelter.

“They don’t want too many people gathering in small towns,” said Hla Khay, a delta boat operator. The regime “is concerned about security. With lots of frustrated people together, there may be another uprising.”

Larger monasteries were being closely watched by troops and plainclothes security men — “invisible spies” as one monk called them.

Such diversion of manpower at a time when some 1.5 million people are at risk from disease and starvation reflects the regime’s fear of a replay of last September, when monks led pro-democracy demonstrations that were brutally suppressed.

Monks were shot, beaten and imprisoned, igniting anger among ordinary citizens in this devoutly Buddhist country. An unknown number remain behind bars, and others have yet to return to their monasteries after fleeing for fear of arrest.

“I think after the September protests, the government is afraid that if people live with the monks in the monasteries, the monks might persuade them to participate in demonstrations again,” said a dentist in Yangon, who also asked that his name not be used for fear of reprisals.

Newspapers have been ordered not to publish stories about monks aiding the people, and at least one monastery and one nunnery in Yangon were prohibited from accepting any supplies from relief organizations.

“The government is very controlling,” said U Pinyatale, the abbot at the Kyi Bui Kha monastery. “Those who want to give directly to the victims get into trouble. They have to give to the government or do it secretly. (The military) follows international aid trucks everywhere. They don’t want others to take credit.”

It appears unlikely that foreign aid organizations seeking to enter Myanmar will be allowed to use monks as conduits for relief supplies as many had hoped.

“One of the best networks already in place in the country are the monks,” said Gary Walker of PLAN, a British-based international children’s group, speaking from Bangkok. “So we’ll be exploring ways in which we can see whether the monks can start distributing supplies throughout the country.”

At the Kyi Bui Kha monastery, located on the banks of the Pyapon River deep in the delta, U Pinyatale glanced anxiously at the remaining 10 bags of rice.

“At most, we have enough for the week. We will have to find a way to get more food,” he said as monks and villagers worked together to try to dry the sodden rice, even as rain clouds gathered above the largely roofless monastery.

In Yangon, monks have been able to go out on their traditional morning rounds to accept food donations from the faithful and then share these with refugees at their monasteries. But in devastated areas of the delta that is not an option.

About 90 of the 120 houses in Kyi Bui Kha have been totally destroyed. Gaps in the monastery’s storm-riddled wooden walls revealed a 360-degree view of ravaged rice fields.

U Pinyatale said the sanctuary’s two dozen monks and nuns were also trying to offer spiritual comfort to the traumatized villagers.

“We pray with them. We pray for the dead to go to the peaceful land of the dead and for the living to rebuild their lives,” he said.

“When the cyclone came, all of us hid in the rice warehouse. I saw one person holding tightly onto a tree but he did not make it,” the abbot added. “After the storm, there were dead bodies floating everywhere. Some people get nightmares. Some hear voices at night that their dead children are calling for help. Some haven’t spoken since.”

China’s state media today morning announced that 17 Tibetans have been sentenced between three years to life imprisonment in connection with the Lhasa revolt in March 2008. It is the first instance of a group of Tibetans handed down with harsh prison terms since protests broke out in Lhasa and various Tibetan areas under Chinese administration beginning from 10 March 2008. The state media did not reveal whether the current group of Tibetans sentenced to harsh terms were part of those who gave in before the official surrender deadline issued by the authorities.

The Xinhua report stated, “Two men, including a Buddhist monk identified as Basang (Passang), received life sentences… Basang was accused of leading 10 people, including five other monks, to destroy local government offices, burn down shops and attack policemen… Of the five monks, two were sentenced to 20 years, and the other three to 15 years in jail.” “The other man who received a life sentence was identified as Soi’nam Norbu (Sonam Norbu), a driver for a Lhasa real estate company”. No details were given on the 10 other people sentenced.

The Chinese authorities have arbitrarily arrested thousands of Tibetans following the pan-Tibet protests in March 2008. While the official media claims 2300 Tibetan protesters were arrested, The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) fears the actual number of arrests can be manifold.

On several occasions, the “Tibet Autonomous Region” (“TAR”) Communist Party and Government officials have called for a swift and quick judicial process to strike back at the “separatists” and the “Dalai clique”. On 4 April 2008, Lhasa City Deputy Party Secretary said that amongst the protesters arrested in Lhasa, 800 Tibetans would be brought before the court. During a conference of “TAR” court officials in the evening of 2 April 2008, “TAR” government Vice-Chairman, Pema Thinley, urged “the usage of law as a tool to strike back at the enemies”. He called for a “swift and quick judicial proceedings” for those involved in March protest. Jampa Phuntsok, during his briefing at the Foreign Ministry of the People’s Republic of China on 9 April told reporters “953 have been arrested out of which 328 have been released where as 403 will be carried forward for sentencing by the court.”

There are currently thousands of Tibetan protesters under detention in Tibetan areas outside the “TAR”. In the aftermath of the mass uprising by the Tibetan people, Chinese People’s Armed Police and Public Security Bureau officials arrested thousands of Tibetans particularly from Kardze (Ch: Ganzi), Ngaba (Ch: Aba), Sangchu (Ch: Xiahe) and Kanlho (Ch: Gansu).

In the absence of any independent media and monitoring agencies in Tibet and the use of judicial proceedings as an official reprisal instead of protection of fundamental human rights of the Tibetans, TCHRD expresses its concern at the sub-standard legal proceedings in Chinese occupied Tibet and fears the worst scenarios for the Tibetan protesters last month who exercised their fundamental human rights of freedom of opinion and expression.

Click Image for Larger View:

^ An image taken by a British photographer that surfaced in France.

Interesting to say the least, n’est-ce pas?

AP [Sunday, April 27, 2008 16:21]
SEOUL, South Korea, April 27 – A North Korean defector tried to set himself on fire to halt the Olympic torch relay through Seoul, while thousands of police guarded the flame Sunday from protesters blasting China’s treatment of North Korean refugees.

Hundreds of China supporters waving the Chinese flag greeted the torch, throwing rocks at anti-Beijing demonstrators. Police ran alongside the flame and rode horses and bicycles on the relay across the city, which hosted the 1988 Olympics.

The torch relay has become a lightning rod for anti-China demonstrations. At other stops, protesters have focused their ire on Beijing’s recent crackdown on anti-government riots in Tibet. But in South Korea, China’s treatment of North Korean defectors has taken center stage.

One of two North Korean defectors Son Jong Hoon, left, pours gasoline as police officers try to detain them during the Beijing Olympic torch run in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, April 27, 2008. Son tried to set himself on fire to halt the Olympic torch relay Sunday in Seoul, where thousands of police guarded the flame from protesters blasting China’s treatment of North Korean refugees.
Thousands of North Koreans, fleeing lives of hardship in a country that restricts all civil liberties, have escaped across the loosely controlled Chinese border, rather than attempt the heavily fortified frontier with the South. Many live in hiding in China, where if caught, they are deported back home to face imprisonment in life-threatening conditions.

The man who tried to immolate himself, 45-year-old Son Jong Hoon, had led an unsuccessful public campaign to save his brother from execution in the North, where he was accused of spying after the two met secretly in China. About an hour into the relay, Son poured gasoline on himself and tried to light himself on fire, but police stopped him.

At the start of the relay, a protester rushed toward the Olympic flame and tried to unfurl a banner calling for China to respect the rights of North Korean refugees. Dozens of police surrounding the torch quickly whisked him away. As it approached the city center, another North Korean defector also tried to impede the run and was arrested
There were no further attempts to stop the torch on its 4 1/2-hour trip through Seoul to City Hall, where it was met by some 5,000 supporters.

Some 8,000 police were deployed across the South Korean capital to guard the torch on its 15-mile run from Olympic Park.

The first runner, the South’s Korean Olympic Committee head Kim Jung-kil, jogged out of the park surrounded by police on horseback, on bicycles, in buses and on foot.

Thousands of Chinese also paced the torch. They carried a large red Chinese flag, chanting “Go China, go Olympics!”

Scuffles broke out near the park between a group of 500 Chinese supporters and about 50 demonstrators. The Chinese side threw stones and water bottles at the others as some 2,500 police tried to keep the two groups apart.

A rock hit a journalist in the head, but there were apparently no other injuries.

“The Olympics are not a political issue,” said Sun Cheng, 22, a Chinese student studying the Korean language in Seoul. “I can’t understand why the Korean activist groups are protesting human rights or other diplomatic issues.”

Seoul is one of the last stops on the torch’s international tour, which ends when the flame arrives in Hong Kong on Wednesday. On Sunday, three human rights activists who planned to protest the relay in Hong Kong were barred from entering the Chinese-ruled territory, local media and the one of the activists said.

The torch heads next to North Korea for its first-ever run in the communist country on Monday. Disruptions were not expected in the North, an authoritarian state that tolerates no dissent.

Reporters Without Borders called today for the foreign news media to be allowed back immediately into Tibet and nearby provinces with a Tibetan population, where the Chinese authorities have maintained a news blackout and have been conducting a massive propaganda campaign for the past six weeks.

“What is the Chinese government hiding behind Tibet’s closed doors?” the press freedom organisation asked. “Things are clearly far from being back to normal, as the authorities claim. The few reports emerging suggest a very different situation, one of arrests and a climate of fear in the cities and around the monasteries.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “The news blackout facilitates the work of the government’s propaganda machine but also the spread of rumours encouraged by certain groups abroad. We appeal to the European Union and the United Nations to try to get the government to allow foreign reporters to travel freely in Tibet and the neighbouring regions.”

The organisers of the Beijing Olympic Games yesterday announced that a press trip to cover an attempt to take the Olympic torch to the top of Everest was being postponed indefinitely. Reporters were supposed to have gone to the Tibetan capital of Lhasa first to get adjusted to the altitude, but the Lhasa stage of the trip has been cancelled altogether because of “meteorological” problems, the authorities said. “Only coverage of the torch relay will be allowed,” an official said.

No journalist has been allowed to move about freely in Tibet and the regions with a Tibetan population since 14 March. Two press trips were organised by the authorities to Lhasa and to Labrang monastery in Gansu province. Tourists have been banned from visiting the Himalayan region until further notice.

Reporters Without Borders has learned of about 50 violations of the right of foreign journalists to move about freely in the Tibetan regions since mid-March.

The authorities have waged a massive propaganda campaign designed to portray Tibetans as “rioters” and “terrorists.” The official news agency Xinhua’s dispatches talk above all of a return to normal and the discovery of weapons in Buddhist temples. Xinhua announced that the authorities have found firearms, dynamite and satellite dishes in 11 monasteries in Gansu.

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From the Associated Press
6:20 AM PDT, April 16, 2008

NEW DELHI — Thousands of police patrolled New Delhi today before the arrival of the Beijing Olympic torch in the heart of the Tibetan exile community, highlighting India’s strong interest in its relationship with China.

After decades of frosty relations, India is trying to forge closer ties with powerful China and officials are desperate to avoid the chaos that has plagued the torch runs in London, Paris and other Western cities.

But many in India’s 100,000-strong Tibetan exile community — the world’s largest — have been threatening more of the protests that they have held nearly every day since demonstrations first broke out in Tibet in March.

Thousands of Tibetans have reportedly been heading to New Delhi to protest and will take part in their own torch run to highlight the Tibetan struggle against Chinese rule.

Even before the Indian leg of the torch relay Thursday, protests have caused New Delhi political trouble with Beijing.

More than a dozen exiles scaled the wall of the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi in March and The Chinese Foreign Ministry summoned India’s ambassador at 2 a.m., a diplomatic slap in the face and something India is eager to avoid repeating.

In recent weeks Tibetan exiles here have stormed the Chinese Embassy, which is now surrounded by barricades and barbed wire. They have gone on hunger strikes to protest China’s crackdown on riots in Tibet.

Today about 100 Tibetan exiles again tried to breach the security cordon around the Chinese Embassy. Police dragged away about 50 of them, loading them into police vans — but not before they managed to spray paint “No Olympics in China” on a street near the embassy.

Many exiles say that Thursday’s torch run through New Delhi is a perfect opportunity to make their point, despite the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, saying he supports China hosting this summer’s Olympic games.

Exiles have also called on Indian athletes to boycott the torch relay and asked local residents to wear “Free Tibet” T-shirts and fly Tibetan flags.

“By speaking out when the Chinese government brings the Olympic torch to India you will send a strong message to Tibetans, to the Chinese government, and to the world, that Indians support the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people’s nonviolent struggle for freedom and justice,” a statement from Students for a Free Tibet, among the more strident of exile groups, said.

Some exiles have said they plan to make a more dramatic statement, possibly trying to douse or steal the Olympic flame, although activists were sketchy about their plans.

A prominent Tibetan activist with a reputation for publicity stunts, Tenzin Tsundue, declined to reveal his specific plans, claiming his phone was tapped. He said he would go Thursday to the Indian Gate, referring to a Central New Delhi landmark the torch will pass.

Activists disrupted torch relays in Paris, London and San Francisco. However, recent stops in Argentina, Tanzania, Oman and Pakistan have been trouble-free.

For India, a Paris-style disruption — in which officials were forced to douse the flame amid protests — would be a political disaster.

India does not want to provoke Beijing. The two countries have been forging their closest ties since they fought a 1962 border war. Last year, two-way trade reached US$37 billion.

Both countries, with their billion-plus populations, have been seeking a greater role on the global stage, spurred by their rapidly growing economies. But India is still wary of China, which has massively expanded its economic, diplomatic and military clout in recent years.

Much public sympathy in India lies with the Tibetans, who have sought refuge in the country since the Dalai Lama fled Tibet after a failed uprising against Beijing in 1959 and set up his government-in-exile in the northern Indian hill-town of Dharmsala.

Analysts say that while India needs to bow to popular sentiment and allow some Tibetan protests, it has to make sure it does not let this jeopardize relations with China.

“This is a fine balance that is being maintained,” said New Delhi-based political analyst C. Uday Bhaskar.

Others believe that as the world’s largest democracy and home to the Tibetan exiles, India should take a moral stand.

“All they are fighting for is cultural freedom in Tibet. If they can’t have that, then India, as a democratic country, should at least give them freedom of expression in India,” opposition lawmaker Jaya Jaitly told the CNN-IBN news channel today, declaring that she would join the protests.