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The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) received confirmed information that, Geshe Sonam Phuntsok, a former political prisoner who spent five years in prison for his religious activities and for conducting a long life prayer ceremony for the Dalai Lama in October 1999, passed away on 5 April 2008 in Kardze after a prolong battle with multiple illnesses following a lengthy imprisonment and maltreatment in the prison.

As per the earlier information received by the TCHRD, Geshe Sonam Phuntsok, popularly known as Kardze Geshe, was in poor health for the long period of time since his release from Chuandong no. 3 Prison in Tazhu County in October 2004. Geshe Sonam Phuntsok, 57 year-old, was a hugely popular religious figure particularly in Kardze. Since his release from prison in October 2004, Geshe Sonam Phuntsok was put under virtual house arrest as movements outside his residence were severely restricted that Geshe has to seek official permission even for any medical treatment. His activities particularly in religious spheres were under constant surveillance from the authorities.

TCHRD mourns the death of Geshe Sonam Phuntsok, a popular religious figure of Kardze and considers his untimely demise as a direct result of the lengthy imprisonment, maltreatment in the prison and lack of timely medical attention after release along with constant mental harassment that he has to undergone till his last breath.

[From Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy]

A number of monks of Drepung Monastery in Tibet were detained by the Chinese security officials in and around 12 April 2008 following the monks’ protest against Chinese “Work Team” who paid a visit to the monastery to conduct “Patriotic Education” Campaign, according to confirmed information received from reliable sources by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD).

The “Tibet Autonomous Region” (“TAR” ) authorities sent the “Legal Information Education” “Work Team” as a part of the “patriotic education” campaign to Drepung Monastery in and around 12 April 2008, according to the official mouthpiece, Xinhua, dated 13 April 2008.

According to reliable sources, a new “Work Team” on “Legal and Information Education” arrived in Drepung Monastery to start “Patriotic Education” campaign to the Drepung monks, however, the monks protested in unison against the campaign. Later security forces were called into the monastery by the “Work Team” to control the protesting monks. Number of Tibetan monks were immediately detained and taken away to unknown location by the security forces for interrupting and protesting the campaign. There is no information on the condition and whereabouts of those detainees.

The “Patriotic Education” campaign which was reinvigorated across various monastic institutions in Tibet requires monks to denounce the Dalai Lama and to oppose the ongoing protests in addition to usual political indoctrination sessions. The new ‘work team’ of “legal and information education” was primarily aimed at informing the monastic institution about the legal and other consequences of taking part in political activities as most of recent protests across Tibet were led by the monastic community.

Although, the official Chinese mouthpiece, Xinhua, dated 13 April covered the incident of visit by “Work Team” to Drepung Monastery, however, it suppressed the protest and detention of monks in its report.

All roads leading towards Drepung Monastery were known to have been sealed off with extra deployment of armed police forces. The movements of the monks in the monastery were severely restricted with security personnel curbing access to outside visitors to the monastery including devotees.

China has arrested nine Tibetan Buddhist monks who have been accused of a bomb attack, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Chinese officials said the monks’ homemade bomb exploded in a government building in eastern Tibet on 23 March.

Xinhua news agency did not explain why the alleged bomb incident was not reported at the time.

News of the arrests came as Beijing continued to attack overseas critics of its crackdown in the Himalayan region.

Xinhua said the monks confessed to planting the explosive in Gyanbe township.

Beijing’s claims that the recent Tibetan protests were part of a violent campaign by the Dalai Lama, the region’s exiled spiritual leader, to disrupt Chinese rule in Tibet and sabotage the Beijing Olympics in August.

Bombing unreported

The alleged bombing is the first to be reported in Tibet since the anti-China protests began 10 March in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.

After China’s crackdown, demonstrations by pro-Tibet activists – and other groups critical of Beijing’s human rights record – have haunted the Olympic torch relay in London, Paris and San Francisco this month, stirring anger in China.

Chinese President Hu Jintao took a hard line Saturday, saying the problems in Tibet were a purely internal affair directly threatening Chinese sovereignty.

An onslaught of disparaging e-mail, text and telephone messages has plagued a Tibetan shopkeeper in San Rafael following the Olympic torch run in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Jamyang Nordup, 50, a former monk and owner of Tibetan Culture House, a retail shop at 1223 Fourth St., said he has received hundreds of harassing messages since Tuesday night. None has been a death threat, he said.

The sources are unknown, although Nordup said he suspects the messages are coming from overseas via the Chinese government.

“I feel like the whole thing is a set-up of the government,” he said. “This is not individuals.”

Police are investigating the matter as a harassment complaint, spokeswoman Margo Rohrbacher said.

“At this point that’s what we’re calling this case and were it to become more involved or escalate, that could change,” she said. “There’s no death threat. It’s more hate mail, what he represents, his country. There’s not been a specific threat.”

Nordup, vice president of the Tibetan Association of Northern California and a member of Team Tibet, an activist group, said he believes he is being targeted because his contact information is available on the groups’ Web sites. He said his Northern California colleagues are receiving similar messages.

“KILL TIBET TERRORIST! TIBET WILL ALWAYS BE A PART OF CHINA!! DALAI LAMA GO TO HELL!” read one message via e-mail.

Several text messages read: “Enslave Tibet!” Another said: “Dalai Lama is an a–hole.”

“After watching what jerks you people were to the little girl in the wheelchair in Paris carrying the torch, I have NO longer sympathetic to your cause,” another e-mail read from someone apparently not completely familiar with English.

Nordup, a father of three who lives in the East Bay, said he is not afraid, although he is fearful for those still in Tibet. Still, some things, such as a van parked for hours in front of his house on a cul-de-sac street, make him nervous.

“I believe it is safe in this country, but the stories I’m hearing are scary,” he said.

With his background as a monk, Nordup said he is able to turn the other cheek, as the Dalai Lama has encouraged Tibetans to do.

“It is sad, but we’re handling it OK because of our practice,” he said. “The Dalai Lama is telling us, don’t be mad.

“Everyone has to be treated equally with compassion.”

Along with growing unease surrounding the Olympic torch relay underway in the U.S and continuing in other parts of the world, the Chinese authorities are stifling the source of the original unrest.  In contrary to what the Chinese authorities are proclaiming about the calm and normalcy restored in Lhasa city, the reality in the area underlines that severe restriction and mass detention are continuing especially in monasteries which were proactive in the recent series of demonstration in Lhasa and other parts of Eastern Tibet. In the latest series of major clampdowns on monastic institutions, around 70 Tibetan monks from Ramoche Temple were known to have been detained on the night of 7 April 2008, according to confirmed information received by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD).

On 7 April 2008, around 70 monks from Ramoche Temple were detained by the People’s Armed Police (PAP) and Public Security Bureau (PSB) officials during the midnight raid carried out in the monks’ residences. The detained monks were taken away to an unknown location, according to reliable sources. At present only a few monks are left in the Ramoche Temple, which previously housed around a hundred monks, with scores detained and taken away in the midnight raid. There is no immediate information on the condition and whereabouts of those detained. The Chairman of the “Tibet Autonomous Region” government, Qiangba Puncog, said at a press briefing of the State Council information office this morning, that police have detained 953 suspects involved in the ’14 March violence’ in Lhasa.

Severe restrictions have been imposed on the movement of the monks of Ramoche Temple since 14 March protest in Lhasa. Credible sources confirmed a case of one monk, Thokmey, committing suicide in Ramoche temple following massive crackdowns by the PAP and PSB on 22 March 2008.

A similar restriction was imposed on all the major monasteries of Tibet including Drepung, Gaden and Sera, with all access to these monasteries severely restricted with 24X7 monitoring by a heavy presence of PAP and PSB officials since the demonstration broke out on 10 March in Lhasa and other parts of Tibet.

As reported in China’s official mouthpiece, Xinhua, on 1 April 2008, to the question raised by one visiting foreign journalist on a state-sponsored media tour on 27 March, Lhasa City Mayor, Duoji Cizhu, defended the deployment of the PAP and PSB into three major monasteries around Lhasa, by stating that the authorities had undertaken this measure in order to investigate the suspects involved in the recent ‘unrest’ and to avoid further protest by the agitated monks.

On similar showing of official support, on 8 April 2008, Zhu Wei Qun, Vice Minister of the United Work Front Department (UWFD) of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee accompanied by Lobsang Gyaltsen, the head of the “TAR” United Work Front Department paid a visit to PAP and PSB personnel stationed at Gaden Monastery to boost their morale and appreciate their good work. According to reliable sources, all three major monasteries around Lhasa were virtually sealed off with a heavy presence of PAP and PSB personnel.

In correlation with the protests in San Francisco, a small group of monks at a major Tibetan Buddhist monastery in northwest China defied authorities and staged a protest in front of foreign reporters, a witness and state media said.

About 15 monks from the Labrang monastery in Gansu province approached the journalists carrying banners and voicing support for exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama, said the witness, who was on a government-controlled media tour.

“They said in Chinese, ‘We want more freedom, more human rights and we want to see the Dalai Lama’,” said Caroline Puel, a journalist with France’s Le Point magazine.

The protest lasted about 10 minutes and ended when government officials conducting the tour urged the foreign journalists to leave.

China’s official Xinhua news agency also confirmed that a group of monks had “interrupted” the media tour, but gave few other details.

The incident marks the second time that protesting monks upstaged a media tour organised by the government through areas hit by recent Tibetan rioting.

On March 27, monks at the Jokhang temple in Lhasa interrupted a similar tightly-controlled media tour aimed at showing calm had returned to the Tibetan capital.

The Jokhang monks called for the return of the Dalai Lama and denounced official Chinese versions of the Tibetan unrest as “lies”.

Four activists in London, UK, were detained this morning for abseiling off Westminster bridge and unfurling a 74 square meter protest banner reading, “One World, One Dream: Free Tibet 2008,” mocking China’s Olympics slogan “One World, One Dream.”

The action took place on the eve of the controversial arrival of China’s Olympic torch relay in London, amidst mounting pressure on the International Olympic Committee to remove all Tibetan areas from the relay route.

Pema Yoko (25) of Greenwich, Conall Hon (26) originally from Belfast, Peter Speller (23) of Cambridge, and Dan Burston (22) of Birmingham were detained for their involvement in the action.

Over a thousand Tibetans and supporters are expected in the streets of London on Sunday to condemn China’s ongoing crackdown on freedom protests inside Tibet.

The action by Tibet activists comes as reports of violent crackdown by Chinese authorities on Tibetan demonstrators emerge out of Tibet. Chinese paramilitary forces opened fire on a crowd of unarmed monks and laypeople in southeastern Tibet On April 3, killing at least 8 people.

“The Chinese government wants the British public to celebrate China at a moment when Tibetans are being gunned down by Chinese forces for doing nothing more than speaking out for freedom,” said Pema Yoko, National Coordinator of Students for a Free Tibet UK, a British born Tibetan and one of the activists detained.

“With Tibetans being rounded up, brutalized and killed, it is unconscionable for the International Olympic Committee to allow China to take the Olympic torch through Tibet,” she said.

Chinese authorities in Tibet have stated their intention to ensure stability during the torch relay ‘at all costs,’ which means increased militarization of Tibetan areas. According to the Chinese authorities’ own figures, thousands of people have been detained in recent weeks, with speedy show trials promised before May 1.

“China’s attempt to politicize the London leg of the torch relay was heightened this week when China’s ambassador to Britain, Fu Ying announced her participation in the relay. Also, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is scheduled to officially receive the torch at 10 Downing Street,” the free Tibet group said in a statement.

“It is appalling that Gordon Brown plans to receive the Olympic torch tomorrow. As someone with Chinese and British roots, I feel strongly that Britain must take a firm stance against China’s abuses in Tibet,” said Conall Hon (26), member of Students for a Free Tibet to abseil off the bridge. “If the Chinese government wants acceptance from the international community, it must immediately stop its baseless attacks on the Dalai Lama and start working toward a meaningful solution to the Tibetan issue.”

China’s deadly attack on Tibetans in Tongkor Township (Karze County) in southeastern Tibet on April 3rd came after Chinese authorities detained two monks for possessing photos of the Dalai Lama following a raid by over 3,000 armed police at Tongkor monastery. The police opened fire on the crowd of over 700 people, nearly half of whom were monks, gathered to protest the arrests. All Tibetan areas remain closed off to independent media, but eyewitness reports from all across Tibet describe horrific beatings, suicide attempts by monks locked inside their monasteries, house-to-house searches, and large groups of Tibetans being boarded onto trains at Lhasa’s new railway station. As the situation inside Tibet remains critical, several peaceful protests and actions are planned for tomorrow’s relay here in London.

Renewed violence has broken out in a Tibetan area of western China, with reports of several injuries.

Xinhua news agency said rioters attacked government offices in Garze, Sichuan province, on Thursday evening, leaving one official seriously hurt.

Tibetan exile groups say security forces fired on crowds of civilians, killing at least eight people.

The violence comes weeks after unrest swept through Tibetan areas and Beijing responded with a security crackdown.

Protests were peaceful initially, but later turned violent and ethnic Chinese were targeted.

Tibetan exile groups say Chinese security forces killed dozens of protesters. Beijing says about 19 people were killed in rioting.

Foreign media organisations cannot report freely from Tibetan areas, so it is difficult to confirm facts from the area.

“Local officials exercised restraint during the riot and repeatedly told the rioters to abide by the law,” Xinhua quoted an official with the prefectural government as saying.

“Police were forced to fire warning shots and put down the violence,” the official added.

A UK-based activist group said eight people had been killed in the incident – including at least three women and one monk.

Matt Whitticase of the Free Tibet Campaign said Tibetan exiles in India confirmed that monks had marched on government buildings after two of them were arrested for having pictures of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

More than 350 monks demanded their release and were joined by about 400 lay people, he said.

Security forces opened fire after the demonstration had begun to disperse, he said.

Chinese authorities have repeatedly blamed the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, for stirring up unrest. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate denies the accusations.

You’ve seen the images on YouTube and in the news papers…

… Chinese security forces brutally attacking unarmed, non-violent protestors, including Buddhist monks, in Tibet.

But, you don’t have to sit idly by and just watch. You can take action right now to help secure the freedom of 15 Tibetan monks who were arrested on March 10 for staging a peaceful protest in Barkhor, Lhasa, the capital of the Tibetan Autonomous Region.

Sign the Amnesty Petition to the President of China, Hu Jintao, demanding the release of 15 Tibetan monks who were detained on March 10 for staging a peaceful demonstration in Barkhor, Lhasa, the capital of the Tibetan Autonomous Region. There is no information on their current whereabouts or of any charges brought against them. They are at high risk of torture and other ill treatment.

What we do know, is that by acting together we can place enormous pressure on the Chinese Government at a moment when they are trying to put their best face forward in the run up to the 2008 Olympic Games. By acting now, we can secure the immediate release of the 15 monks and the other peaceful protestors that were detained with them.

In recent days, Amnesty International has met with Congressional leaders, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and with senior White House officials. We are placing enormous pressure on the Chinese Government to stop the violence, open up the region to foreign reporters and to free peaceful protestors.

But, we need your immediate help to keep the pressure on.

Sincerely,

Larry Cox
Executive Director
Amnesty International USA

The communist government’s leading newspaper called Saturday to “resolutely crush” Tibetan demonstrations against Chinese rule.

The statement came as international criticism against the crackdown on Tibetan protesters swelled.

Monks protest in Dharamsala

Going through the photos coming out of Dharamsala, I intake a breath sharply as I recognize some of the people I met this time last year when I was there. It seems so strange to me now. Only one year later. I feel so USELESS over here. What can I do? It seems so hard to be here and so white.

Faces in the crowd stand out to me. My heart leaps. I remember their kindness and their assuredness that Tibet would once again be home.