News - February 2009

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Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009

Message of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Tibetan People on the Occasion of the Earth-Ox Tibetan New Year

The Dalai Lama

On the occasion of the Earth-Ox New Year of the 17th Rabjung cycle in the Tibetan Royal Year 2136, I would like to greet all Tibetans, both inside and outside of Tibet. I pray that there be peace and prosperity, and that our just cause may see gradual resolution.

Although there is no old or new phase in the continuous cycle of planetary movements, which results in the days, nights, months and years, there is a tradition throughout the world to observe the beginning of a new year upon the completion of the previous one. Likewise, in the snow land of Tibet, we have the tradition to observe the New Year in the first lunar month with elaborate celebrations incorporating both spiritual and temporal elements. However, last year in Tibet we witnessed hundreds of Tibetans losing their lives, and several thousands facing detention and torture, in response to the widespread display by Tibetans all over Tibet of their discontentment with the Chinese authorities' policies.

Therefore, since they faced immense difficulties and sufferings, the occasion of this New Year is certainly not a period when we can have the usual celebrations and gaiety. I admire the determined move by Tibetans, inside and outside of Tibet, not to indulge in celebratory activities during this New Year. Instead, everyone should utilize this period in abandoning non-virtuous acts and engaging in positive actions, thereby cultivating virtuous merits so that all those who sacrificed their lives for the cause of Tibet, including those who lost their lives in the tragic events of the past year, may have quick realization of Buddhahood through successive rebirth in higher realms. The dedication should also go to those currently undergoing suffering so that they may immediately be able to enjoy the happiness of freedom. Through such an accumulation of collective merits we should all strive for an early solution to the just cause of Tibet.

Just as we had suspected, the strike-hard campaign has been re-launched in Tibet and there is a heavy presence of armed security and military forces in most of the cities all over Tibet. In all the places those who dare to come out even with a slight hint of their aspirations have to face torture and detention. In particular, special restrictions have been imposed in the monasteries, patriotic re-education has been launched, and restrictions have been imposed on the visit of foreign tourists. Provocative orders have been passed for special celebrations of the Tibetan New Year. Looking at all these developments it becomes clear that the intention and aim behind them are to subject the Tibetan people to such a level of cruelty and harassment that they will not be able to tolerate and thus be forced to remonstrate. When this happens the authorities can then indulge in unprecedented and unimaginable forceful clampdown. Therefore, I would like to make a strong appeal to the Tibetan people to exercise patience and not to give in to these provocations so that the precious lives of many Tibetans are not wasted, and they do not have to undergo torture and suffering.

It goes without saying how much admiration I have for the enthusiasm, determination, and sacrifice of the Tibetans in Tibet. However, it is difficult to achieve a meaningful outcome by sacrificing lives. Above all, the path of non-violence is our irrevocable commitment and it is important that there be no departure at all from this path.

Once again, I pray that the Tibetan people are freed from oppression and torture, and enjoy the happiness of freedom. May all sentient beings enjoy happiness at all times.

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Tibetans Cancel Traditional New Year Festivities, Defy Chinese Orders to Celebrate

Hong Kong

Tibetans and their supporters around the world are holding candlelight vigils, prayer ceremonies and protests today, the first day of the Tibetan New Year, to show solidarity with Tibetans inside Tibet who have canceled traditional celebrations in order to mourn the more than 200 Tibetans killed and thousands imprisoned by the Chinese government over the past year. Chinese authorities have responded to the widespread civil disobedience campaign by moving thousands of troops into Tibet, banning foreigners, cutting phone and internet connections and vowing to “crush” supporters of the Dalai Lama.

“The Chinese government is flooding Tibet with troops and attempting to force Tibetans to celebrate the New Year against their will but, in spite of incredible risks to themselves, Tibetans remain defiant,”

said Lhadon Tethong, Executive Director of Students for a Free Tibet.

“The Chinese authorities will make some Tibetans go to official New Year’s celebrations, but it is widely understood that these individuals are not attending by choice. Few will be fooled by this ridiculous charade.”

A Lhasa resident called Radio Free Asia on January 20th and reported that Lhasa was deserted compared to previous years, and instead of pilgrims, armed soldiers and police lined the front of the Jokhang and Ramoche temples, the flashpoints of protests last March. “It is impossible to walk down the street without being afraid,” he said on the phone.

Even remote Tibetan towns and villages are under military lockdown as Chinese authorities intimidate Tibetans from carrying out protests or other acts of resistance. On February 15th and 16th, hundreds of Tibetans protested in Lithang, eastern Tibet (Chinese: Lithang County, Karze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province) in the largest demonstrations against Chinese rule since last spring. Eyewitnesses reported seeing soldiers beat the protesters with batons and rifle butts, and at least 24 Tibetans were detained.

“China has its finger on the trigger in Tibet, with thousands of troops and armed police ready to launch a bloody suppression against even the slightest sign of dissent,” said Tenzin Dorjee, Deputy Director of Students for a Free Tibet. “People of conscience worldwide are standing in solidarity with Tibetans at this critical time and taking political action to demand a resolution to the occupation in the lead up to March 10th, which marks the 50th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan national uprising.”

Solidarity vigils are being held in dozens of cities around the world today and tomorrow, including San Francisco, Santa Fe, Toronto, Boston, New York, London, Lisbon, New Delhi, Dharamsala and Sydney.

SFT has obtained a photo taken on February 20th, 2009 of Chinese troops in Ngaba town (Ch: Aba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province):

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Thursday, Feb 19, 2009

A Great Civil Disobedience Spreading Throughout All of Tibet

High Peaks Pure Earth, Beijing

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser that was originally written for Radio Free Asia on 29th January 2009 and posted on her blog on 4th February 2009. As already documented by High Peaks Pure Earth, Tibetans not celebrating Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) or Tibetan New Year (Losar) this year has been the subject of much debate in the Tibetan blogosphere.

Woeser was an early observer of this phenomenon and was calling the No Losar movement an act of civil disobedience before Time Magazine or the McClatchy Group. The New York Times is calling the movement a boycott and quotes Woeser as saying "It's deeply connected with Tibetan culture, the idea that after such a horrible year filled with death, how can we celebrate? [...] Instead, it should be a memorial." Regular readers will remember that these were her sentiments as noted in previous blogposts 'Remember and Memorialise Louder Than The Gunfire!' and 'Let Us Make Lamp Offerings and Light Candles to Commemorate the Souls of the Deceased'.

In recent days on my blog there have been a lot of opinions left about the Spring Festival and Losar. Han netizens have said, "You celebrate your Losar, we'll celebrate our Spring Festival – there's no connection between the two. It's nothing to do with us whether you choose to celebrate Losar or not." No mistake, every nationality has its own festivals and shouldn't demand another nationality observe another nationality's festivals. It started in 1913 when Yuan Shikai was president of the Republic of China that the first day of the first month in the lunar calendar was set as the Spring Festival and the entire country had a holiday. Because the "Republic of Five Races" was advocated at the time, the main Han festivals, such as the Dragon Boat Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival were not made national festivals. It seems China's current leadership doesn't have the breadth of mind of even Warlord Yuan Shikai had. With the prevalence of the notion of "the peoples of China," the hack writers of China are calling for a unified "Chinese expression".

Since "Chinese expression" is wanted, "expressions" from other nationalities are deleted or substituted. But in order to evince the largesse and magnanimity of the Party's nationality policies, the Party often needs "expressions" by other nationalities as embellishment. Therefore, nationality festivals such as Losar are indispensable. It has not only been made into a holiday, but evening television events like those for Spring Festival are put on for the Tibetan New Year too. In some Tibetan areas in Amdo and Kham, Losar has been replaced by Spring Festival for many years now, and even though the Chinese new year is celebrated in basically the same way as the Tibetan new year; Han customs are being adopted more and more such as pasting couplets of poetry on doorways, hanging lanterns and letting off fireworks. These days, even when calls to abandon Spring Festival are growing, it'd be difficult to remove in such a short time these habits that have already become customary. Even though Losar has also been celebrated these past few years, compared to the Spring Festival it is less lively.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with celebrating Spring Festival. Some Han nietzens have said "If some Tibetans want to celebrate Han festivals or if some Han want to celebrate Tibetan Losar, they are free to do so. No one has any right or any reason to criticize them just because they are the same nationality as themselves." Such opinions as this sound rather reasonable, and I also agree with it. But the problem is, the reason why so many Tibetans are conflicted about this year's Spring Festival and Losar is less to do with both new year celebrations belonging to different cultural systems, and more to do with the levels of toleration in ones conscience and a religious sentiment full of compassion.

No matter whether it is Spring Festival or Losar, people who experienced what happened in Tibetan areas in 2008 do not want to celebrate as they had in previous years. As with last year's earthquake in Sichuan, when thousands and thousands of ordinary people died, their surviving families do not want to forget them in the New Year even as their corpses are not yet cold. A volunteer who spent the New Year in the disaster area said: "No one can stipulate that the atmosphere at Spring Festival has to be lively; it must be peaceful. True emotions, whether joyous or sad, all come from the bottom of one's heart." By the same reason, with events in Tibet that started last new year and still haven't stopped, there are countless ordinary Tibetans who died under the barrels of the PAP's guns, and countless ordinary Tibetans who are still behind bars, so how can their friends and families be in a happy mood to celebrate the New Year when their grief is still there?

The absurdity is that the authorities do not see this. They hope that the people will forget the hardships they created, thus, they have resorted to all manner of tricks that leave you not knowing whether to laugh or cry. For example, in Rebkong, the local government has gone house to house with documents requiring Tibetans to sign their name or leave their thumbprint on the documents which say: "I will ensure that there will be absolutely no demonstrations this year as there were last year, I will ensure I am obedient to the Party and government, and I will ensure that I will celebrate the new year." In the Tibetan areas of Labrang and Ngaba, the local government has given firecrackers to government workers and cadres, telling them to set the firecrackers off at New Year. And in Lhasa, Tibetans who put the word out not to mark the New Year are even being detained. Some Tibetan commenters have left such sarcastic remarks about this on my blog as: "The great Party is really close [to the people], it pays close attention to [whether people are] happy or not happy, and [whether they are] celebrating or not celebrating the New Year", "when it wants you to be happy, you're not happy. And that's a problem with your thinking, and it can even be contrived into making you a member of some 'clique' or other." As citizens, Tibetans do not even have the most basic right to mark – or not – the New Year. Tibetans with their indomitable spirit who persist on their right not to mark the New Year are becoming a completely new kind of contention, the significance of which is a great "civil disobedience"

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Tibet Advocates Urge Clinton to Press China as China Intensifies Clampdown

New York

Tibet advocacy organizations are calling on U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to increase American pressure on the Chinese
government to stop its military clampdown in Tibet. Clinton arrives in China tomorrow on her first visit as America's top diplomat. Her visit comes just days after a protest by hundreds of Tibetans in eastern Tibet and as Chinese authorities are mobilizing military forces across the Tibetan plateau in advance of the Tibetan New Year on February 25th and the 50th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan National Uprising on March 10th.

"Secretary Clinton arrives in China as the Chinese government is dramatically escalating its aggression against the Tibetan people," said
Tenzin Dorjee, Deputy Director of Students for a Free Tibet. "Clinton and many American leaders have made strong statements in support of Tibet, and it is time they matched their words with action by prioritizing a negotiated resolution between China and the Dalai Lama as an integral part of US-China relations."

Chinese authorities have recently banned foreigners from entering Tibet, including the Tibet Autonomous Region and Tibetan areas of present-day Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan provinces. Large-scale troop build up has been reported in several areas, and according to the Tibet Daily, security forces have been ordered to 'crush' any sign of dissent.

"Chinese forces are setting the stage for the bloody suppression of Tibetans to take place out of sight of independent eye-witnesses by barring foreigners from Tibet and making it impossible for reporters to access the area," said Kate Woznow, Campaigns Director of tudents for a Free Tibet. "We are gravely concerned that in the coming weeks more Tibetans will be arrested and possibly killed, and we call on Secretary Clinton to unequivocally convey to the Chinese leadership that its hard-line policies must end."

The most recent clampdown appears to have been sparked by a grassroots movement by Tibetans to refrain from Tibetan New Year celebrations next week, instead turning the occasion into a memorial for the more than 200 Tibetans killed in protests over the past year. A few days ago, hundreds of Tibetans protested in Lithang, Kham (Chinese: Litang County, Karze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province) on February 15th and 16th, calling for the return of the Dalai Lama and for Tibetans to cancel New Years celebrations. Soldiers attacked the protesters with batons and rifle butts, and detained at least 24 Tibetans.

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China Orders Security Forces to 'Crush' Support for Dalai Lama

By VOA News

Chinese authorities in Tibet are calling on officials, security forces and the general public to "crush" any signs of support for the Dalai Lama.

In a report Thursday in China's state-run Tibet Daily newspaper, the local government vowed to fight what it calls the "savage attacks" of supporters of the exiled spiritual leader.

China accuses the Dalai Lama of seeking independence for Tibet and provoking mass protests against Chinese rule last year. Authorities have tightened security in Tibetan regions of China ahead of the March 10 anniversary of the start of the protests.

The Tibet Daily said the local government also instructed Buddhist monks and nuns to reject the Dalai Lama and separatist activities.

The Dalai Lama denies inciting violent protests in China and says he seeks only autonomy for Tibet, where he remains widely revered.

March 10 also marks the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of a failed Tibetan uprising against China. During the uprising, the Dalai Lama fled into exile in India.

Tibetan rights groups said Chinese security forces have arrested at least 21 people who marched in support of the Dalai Lama over the past week in the southwestern province of Sichuan.

The rights groups said the protesters in the town of Lithang in Sichuan's Garze Tibetan autonomous prefecture were beaten by police before being detained.

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Wednesday, Feb 18, 2009

A Silent Start to the New Year for Many Tibetans in China

The below piece is an excerpt from report by Simon Elegant, Time's reporter, who recently visited Rebgong (Ch:Tongren), Malho Tibet Autonomous Prefecture, incorporated into China's Qinghai Province.

When asked how his New Year celebrations have been, the pilgrim — a middle-aged businessman wearing a heavy winter coat against the bitter winds that knife through the monastery's narrow alleys — immediately glances up and then over his shoulder. It is the universal, instinctive reaction of Tibetans I talked with on a recent trip to China's far western province of Qinghai, where ethnic Tibetans make up the majority of the population in the areas closest to the Qinghai-Tibet border. "Cameras," he hisses, nodding upwards. "The police have them everywhere."

Pulling me into the shadow of one of the deep doorways cut into the monastery's thick walls, he launches into a tirade that reflects the feelings of most of the Tibetans I spoke to in the region, a group ranging from nomadic herdsmen and shopkeepers to students and monks. "We didn't celebrate anything this year because we have nothing to celebrate," he says grimly. "We want to respect and commemorate the people who were killed last year" when demonstrations against Chinese rule in Lhasa, capital of the Tibetan Autonomous Region which neighbors Qinghai, turned violent. Beijing says 19 were killed, mostly innocent Chinese shopkeepers. Tibet's government in exile, led by its spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, put the number at over 200, mostly Tibetans. This businessman, like many of his compatriots, passionately declares the the real number is in the thousands. "We are a people living under the gun. They tried to make us celebrate the new year but we refused. They jail us if we display pictures of the Dalai Lama. They even force our children to study only in Chinese at school," he tells me. "But we will never forget we are Tibetans and will always have the Dalai Lama in our hearts."

To mark the anniversary, many Tibetans conducted a widespread campaign of civil disobedience this Chinese New Year against authorities in heavily Tibetan areas of China proper like Qinghai, where around half of the country's three million ethnic Tibetans live. And with a probable boycott of lunar year celebrations set to unfold inside Tibet, where the 15-day celebrations begin on February 25th according to the Tibetan lunar calendar, tension is likely to rise further.

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Tuesday, Feb 17, 2009

Tibetans in Lithang Call for Return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet, 16 Arrested

Representative's Office of Tibet, New York

Sixteen Tibetans have been arrested for holding peaceful demonstration in in Lithang County in Karze Tibet Autonomous Prefecture, Sichaun Province on 15 and 16 February, the Dharamshala-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy reported, citing eye witness accounts.

On 15 February, at around 12 p.m. (local time), Lobsang Lhundup, a monk from Nekhor monastery staged a peaceful demonstration in the main square market in Lithang town. Soon the Public Security Bureau (PSB) and People's Armed Police (PAP) forcibly arrested him. He called for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and independence for Tibet. He also raised slogans of swift return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet and no celebrations during Losar (Tibetan New Year).

According to eye witness accounts, Lobsang, who was limping with the help of a walking stick, was forcibly subdued and taken in a police vehicle after his brief protest at the main market. He was later taken to PSB detention centre for interrogation.

Lobsang's family was a nomad family who shifted from their nomadic base Gemo village to Lithang county in Karze a year and a half ago.
Following Lobsang Lhundup's arrest, his younger brother Sonam Tempa, 29 years old, was arrested along with fourteen other Tibetans for staging peaceful protest at the main market square in Lithang. Sonam Tenpa who was said to be leading the protest was carrying a huge portrait of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The protesters called for the long life of His Holiness and independence for Tibet.

Eye witness accounts said: "All the Tibetan protesters were brutally beaten, manhandled and forcibly loaded into military trucks by the Chinese Public Security Bureau (PSB) and People's Armed Police (PAP) forces. "Many of the detainees were badly bruised and injured with blood dripping from their nose, head and arms".

The identities of all those detained are; Sonam Tenpa, 29 years old, Jampa Thokmey, 30, Gelek Kunga, 26, Lobsang Tenzin 23, Lobsang Phendey, 37, Jampa Yonten, 30, Sanggey, 29, Jampa Tsering, 28, Lobsang Wangchuk, 30, Lobsang Tashi, 21, Gendun Choephel, 30, Dargye, 37, Gedhun, 29, Jampa, 40 and Amdo Gyaltsen, 41. All the detainees were known to be from nomadic families who have shifted their residences from different villages to Lithang.

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy has strongly condemned the use of forces to repress the freedom of expression and called upon the Chinese authorities to release all the sixteen Tibetan detainees.

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Monday, Feb 16, 2009

China in Life, Death Struggle with Dalai Lama

Media, Beijing

China's media stepped up its rhetoric against the exiled Dalai Lama today, saying the communist-led nation was in a life and death struggle with Tibetan separatist forces led by the spiritual leader.

A strident editorial in the Tibetan Daily came only weeks ahead of the 50th anniversary of a failed uprising in Tibet that led to the exile of Dalai Lama, the Himalayan region's most revered spiritual leader. "Our fight against the Dalai clique and those western hostile forces that
support him is not a question of ethnic nationality, religion or so-called human rights," said the editorial, which was also posted on the Communist Party's news website. "It is a life or death class struggle and a political battle between separatists and anti-separatists that is linked to the political foundation of the Communist Party, the unity of the motherland (and) the maintenance of social stability."

The Dalai Lama last week called the situation in his homeland "very tense" as anger smoulders over what he described as ongoing heavy-handed Chinese tactics in response to unrest there last year. "At any moment there can be an outburst of violence," the 73-year-old monk said in the German town of Baden Baden.

Tibetan New Year Boycott Call

China, on Feb 16, accused what it collectively calls the "Dalai Clique", including the "illegal Tibetan Government-in-Exile", of trying to increase the impact of "Tibet Independence" inside China with alleged calls for boycott of celebrations marking the upcoming Feb 25-27 Tibetan New Year.

A Xinhua report carried by China's online Tibet news service Feb 16, claimed that the call had "aroused wide concerns among people at home and abroad".

The report claimed: "The complete failure of the March 14 riot brought the Dalai clique to the realization that it has to change its means by turning violence into 'making non-violence troubles'." But it ridiculed the exile Tibetans' reaffirmation of commitment to non-violent means during their Nov 17-22 2008 special Meeting in Dharamsala by calling it deceitful "as they could involve participation by some people who have not seen through the true nature of Dalai." And it said: "In fact, it is the old trick of the western hostile forces and was used in Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya."

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Tuesday, Feb 10, 2009

Nine Monks Sentenced, Other Committed Suicide in Tibet

By B K Upmanyu

Dharmshala: Nine monks studying at Samye Monastery in Tibet were sentenced to varying prison terms between 2-15 years in jail for their participation in the last Spring Tibet protest in Lhoka Prefecture Tibet Autonomous Region ( TAR ) and a monk committed suicide, according to confirmed information received by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD).

In the series of court sentences of the Tibetan people involved in the last spring Tibet protests, more cases of court sentences and other extreme cases of Tibetan committing suicide due to intolerable sufferings are surfacing.

The Lhoka Intermediate People s Court sentenced nine monks to varying terms between 2 -15 years in jail for their participation in the 15 March 2008 protest which took place at Samye government administrative headquarters in Dranang County (Ch: Zhanang xian), Lhoka (Ch: Shannan) Prefecture, TAR . They were detained at Lhoka Public Security Bureau

(PSB) Detention Centre following a brief protest demonstration. The protest was joined by hundreds of Tibetans of Dranang County calling for the swift return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet , religious freedom and human rights for Tibetans. Although, the exact date of their court sentence could not be ascertained, however, the source said that they were known to have been sentenced in May-June 2008.

According to the source, following the protest the movement of the monastic populace were severely restricted that not a single monk was allowed to move in and out of the monastery for three days. After three days of complete lockdown, the County PSB officials along with the Work

Team - ((Tibetan: las don ru khag, Chinese: gongzuo dui) specially formed units of government personnel sent to conduct patriotic re-education in an institution or locality)- arrived at monasteries to question each monk regarding the protest demonstration. During one such intense interrogation on 19 March 2008, a visiting scholar from Dorjee Drak Monastery to the Samye Monastery called Namdrol Khakyab from Nyemo County, Lhasa Municipality, TAR, committed suicide leaving a note that accused of unbearable suppression by the Chinese regime and cited innocence of other monks of the monastery and took full responsibility for the protest demonstration.

According to the source, Of the nine Tibetans sentenced, four were visiting Buddhist scripture masters to the Samye Monastery from other monasteries, and other five were monks of the Samye Monastery. Five monks are:

1) Gyaltsen of Tsona (Ch: Cuona) County, Lhoka Prefecture was sentenced to 15 years in jail;

2) Nyima Tashi, of Gongkar County (Ch: Gongga Xian), Lhoka Prefecture was sentenced to 13 years in jail;

3) Phuntsok (One name only) born in Kongpo, Nyingtri Prefecture TAR and his parent were known to have shifted their home to Kyiray in Lhasa, was sentenced to 13 years in jail;

4) Tenzin Dawa, of Tsome County (Ch: Cuomei xian), Lhoka Prefecture, was sentenced to two years in jail

5) Rigden, of Dranang County, Lhoka Prefecture, was sentenced to 2 years in jail.

The visiting Buddhist scripture masters were identified as,

1) Tenzin Bhuchung of Phenpo Lhundup County, Lhasa Municipality and monk of Langthang Monastery was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment term;

2) Tenzin Zoepa, of Tsome County, Lhoka Prefecture and monk of Jowo Monastery, was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment term;

3) Gelek of Lhodrag County (Ch: Luozha xian), Lhoka Prefecture and monk of Sang Ngag Choekor Monastery was sentenced to 2 years jail term

4) Ngawang Tenzin of Nagartse County (Ch: Lianggarze xian), Lhoka Prefecture and monk of Khathok Monastery was sentenced to 2 years in jail.

Following the protest demonstration, the Samye Monastery was forcibly closed for almost nine months from March till November 2008. There is no information on the exact location of their detention at the moment nor is there any information on their physical condition.

TCHRD strongly condemns the sentencing of nine Tibetans monks for their peaceful protest demonstration in Samye. Since their activities constitute nothing more than an expression of their opinion, thought and exercise of their basic human rights peacefully, TCHRD calls upon the Chinese authorities to release them unconditionally. TCHRD expresses its grave concern over the outrageous violation of denying the Tibetan devotees and practitioners from enjoying their right to religious freedom and beliefs by completely closing the religious institution for months.

Suicides resulting from unbearable mental torture have also been recorded in the past. As a direct consequence of relentless oppression by the Chinese security forces, many anguished Tibetans attempted to and others took the drastic step of committing suicide to rid themselves of persistent physical and mental torture. Last year witnessed suicide even by monks who were known for their patience and resilience in the face of adversity. Such cases are clear indication of Tibetan monks being pushed to the extreme limits of endurance and helplessness in the face of oppression and repression by the Chinese authorities in Tibet.

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Saturday, Feb 07, 2009

Tibetan Exiles Have Decided Not to Celebrate Losar

Indo-Asian News Service in World News

Tibetan exiles have decided not to celebrate Losar (Tibetan New Year), the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) of its government-in-exile said Saturday. According to the Tibetan lunar calendar, Losar is the first day of the year. Traditionally, it is celebrated in a big way. This year, Losar is on Feb 25.

“The CTA will hold only customary religious programmes to mark Tibetan New Year, taking into consideration the continuing repression in Tibet and the ruthless crackdown last year (2008) which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Tibetans and thousands imprisoned,” said its statement issued here.

“We (the CTA) appeal to all the departments concerned and offices of the administration not to organise any lavish celebrations such as hosting feasts, dance parties and lighting firecrackers.”

Other organisations of Tibetan exiles based in this Indian hill town have also decided not to participate in festivities to mark the day.

“We will observe silence to mourn the death of our brethren who sacrificed their lives for the cause of people in Tibet during the Beijing Olympics,” said president of the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) Tsewang Rigzin. The group has more than 30,000 members across the globe.

The TYC, which the Chinese labelled as a “terrorist organisation”, plans to burn effigies of Chinese leaders on that day.

B. Tsering, president of the Tibetan Women Association, said: “This year, we (the exiles) will remember the sacrifice made by countless unsung heroes during the past five decades… This is an occasion to mourn those who sacrificed their lives and to express solidarity with those who are still suffering.”

Nobel Peace laureate the Dalai Lama, who along with many of his supporters fled Tibet and took refuge here in 1959, has spent the last two decades of his exile campaigning for “meaningful autonomy” for his homeland.

In March 2008, protests against Chinese rule in Lhasa erupted into violence which spread to other areas of western China.

Tibet’s government-in-exile, which is based here, said more than 219 people were killed and 1,294 injured in the subsequent Chinese crackdown.

Nearly six million Tibetans live in Tibet region of China while over 150,000 live in other countries, most of them in India.

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Thursday, Feb 05, 2009

China Sentences Four Nuns and Two Laymen in Kardze

Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, Dharamsala (Press Release)

Chinese authorities has recently conducted a series of court trials of Tibetans arrested and detained for their involvement in the pan Tibet protests in 2008 which swept across the areas inhabited by Tibetans in Tibet. Acccording to confirmed information received by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), four nuns and two laymen from Kardze (Ch: Ganzi) County, Kardze "Tibet Autonomous Prefecture" ("TAP"), Sichuan Province were sentenced to a varying terms in January this year for staging a peaceful protest in 2008.

Lunglung Sonam (age unknown), son of Samdak and Pamo from Thamei Village, Kardze County, was sentenced to three years imprisonment in January 2009 by Kardze County Intermediate People's Court, as per information provided by one of his close contacts in the Kardze region. LungLung was earlier arrested on 17 May 2008 for participating in a peaceful protest in Kardze county.

In a another court trial on 15 January 2009, Kardze County Intermediate People's Court sentenced three nuns from Yarteng Nunnery to two year and six months imprisonment term. The three nuns are: Poewang, 28, daughter of Choewang Gyatso and Rigah of Yarkhag Village, Kardze County; Yangzom, 31, daughter of Kunga Choegyen and MarMar also from Yarkhag Village, Kardze County; and Lhamo, 29, daughter of Nakad from Thamed Village, Kardze County. They were all arrested for staging a peaceful protest in Kardze County on 18 June 2008. According to information received by TCHRD on 1 February 2008, all three nuns were now held in a unknown prison in Tsithar Township, Chengdu, Sichuan Province. Sources also reported that at least 44 nuns were held in that prison.

A 32-year-old Ngawang Phuntsok, son of Ngawang Kunga and Palden Choetso from Bumshul village, Kardze County was detained for six months in county Public Security Bureau (PSB) Detention Centre for staging a solo peaceful protest on 18 June 2008 in Kardze County. He was arrested from the site of protest with the pictures of the Dalai Lama. On 20 January 2009, Kardze County Intermediate People's Court sentenced Ngawang to three years prison term. He is currently held in a prison in Woemin Samisa (Ch.) a 70 Km from Chengdu, Sichuan Province.

In a separate court trial on 2 January 2009, a 28-year-old nun of Dragkar Nunnery, Yangkyi, a daughter of late Tha Tsering and late Ten Choekyi of Serchu Teng Village, Serchu Township, Kardze County was sentenced by the same court to one year and nine months following her arrest for participating in a peaceful protest with fellow nuns on 12 May 2008 in Kardze County.

TCHRD strongly condemns the sentencing of the five Tibetans as their freedom to opinion and expression does not violate any of the constitutional components of Chinese law. Since their activities constitute nothing more than an expression of their opinion, thought and exercise of their basic human rights peacefully, TCHRD calls upon the Chinese authorities to release them immediately with any condition.

Over the past year, courts at various levels have sentenced nearly 200 Tibetans involved in a series of protests to varying prison terms including life sentence to seven Tibetans. TCHRD is gravely converned about the fate of the arrested Tibetans and hundreds of other Tibetans who have disappeared since the major protest that rocked Tibet last year.

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Wednesday, Feb 04, 2009

Chinese Authorities Partied to Provoke Monks

Phayul, Dharamsala

The situation in Dege Gonchen monastery, where gunshot incident was reported earlier, continues to deteriorate as tension escalated after scuffle between Chinese authorities and monks of the monastery.

According to Voice of Tibet radio service, monks of Gonchen monastery and Chinese authorities clashed after Chinese government staff provoked the monks by partying in monastery campus with women cadres even wearing monk’s robes and dancing in front of the monks on January 27, second day of the Chinese New Year. The incident occurred at Chunakmar (spelled as pronounced), a monastery facility for performance of ritual dances like "Cham" (mask dance).

Citing a member of Tibetan parliament in exile, Juchen Kunchok, who was informed of the incident by sources in the area, the VOT reported that several monks were arrested in the aftermath of the scuffle.

Kunchok told VOT that a 93 year old monk named Lama Gala led around 200 monks in a protest against the Chinese government in front of the district administration. The monks demanded immediate release of those arrested threatening to take their own lives. Four days later on Jan 31, the monks were released but around 30 of them were severely wounded due to beatings and torture, according to Kunchok, who added that the situation in Dege is “very tense”.

It appears, however, that this incident and the reported gunshots in the vicinities of Dege Gonchen monastery on Jan. 27 and arrests thereafter of monks are interrelated as they occurred on the same day at the same monastery.

Scotland Campaigners Plan Protests to Mark the 50th Anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising

Phayul, Dharamsala

Protests, debates and cultural events are being planned by campaigners from all over Scotland next month in capital Edinburgh to mark the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule, according to a Scottish media report.

Activists from all over Scotland met at the Scottish Parliament at the weekend along with the European representative of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to discuss the plans, reported Tuesday.

"The events planned in Scotland will remember 50 years of Tibetan resistance and to call for an end to their continued suffering,” the report quoted Edinburgh South Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Pringle as saying.

“After Tibetan protests in March last year China's response was severe. Over a hundred Tibetans were killed and thousands were detained," Pringle added.

Jamie Robertson, 24, Edinburgh member of Students for a Free Tibet, said: "This year's Tibetan Uprising Day will mark 50 years of resistance since March 10, 1959, when thousands of Tibetans took to the streets of the capital Lhasa to protest the invasion of their country by China."

Tsering Tashi, representative of the Dalai Lama, said he hoped in its dealings with the Chinese authorities the Scottish Government would give "due priority" to human rights.

In 2005, Scotland hosted the Fourth World Parliamentarian's Convention on Tibet convened in Edinburgh.

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Tuesday, Feb 03, 2009

Hillary Clinton’s challenge to PRC (Taiwan Times)

By Richard Halloran

"Buried in US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s testimony in her confirmation hearing before Congress two weeks ago was a subtle challenge to China wrapped in an evident preface to US President Barack Obama’s emerging policy toward Beijing.

Shortly after, and almost on cue, Beijing published a White Paper on defense that pointed warily to what they saw as an increase in US power in Asia. The US, the White Paper said, has been “consolidating its military alliances, adjusting its military deployment and enhancing its military capabilities” in the Asia-Pacific region." Read more...

Police Round up Dozens in Tibet as New Year Boycott Looms

By Jane Macartney, Beijing
Times Online

"Police in Lhasa have arrested dozens of Tibetans suspected of supporting a campaign against celebrating the Tibetan New Year. The protest has been organised to commemorate last year's anti-Chinese demonstrations.

Witnesses told The Times that uniformed and plainclothes police and members of the paramilitary People's Armed Police were involved in the sweep, which began on Monday. They raided tea houses, which are popular with young Tibetans, and picked up people of all ages in the street." Read more...

Monday, Feb 02, 2009

Government Should Confirm Gao Zhisheng is Not Being Tortured or Ill-Treated

Human Rights Watch, New York

The Chinese government should immediately disclose the whereabouts of Gao Zhisheng, a leading human rights lawyer who disappeared two weeks ago, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Human Rights in China said today in a joint statement. The three organizations stressed that Gao was at immediate risk of severe torture and ill-treatment by the Chinese security services and called for his immediate release.

“We are intensely fearful for Gao Zhisheng’s safety at this time, given the security authorities’ long history of abusing him and his family,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “He has given detailed accounts of how he was tortured in police custody in the past and he may well be suffering more of the same right now.”

Lawyer Gao, who had been under constant police surveillance, along with his family, since receiving a suspended sentence for “inciting subversion” in 2006, was last heard from on January 19, 2009. According to reliable sources, he was subsequently detained by security forces and is being held at an unknown location.

“On February 9, the Chinese government will undergo a comprehensive review of its human rights record at the UN Human Rights Council,” said Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China. “Coming close on the heels of the scathing review by the Committee Against Torture in November 2008, arbitrarily detaining and torturing a leading rights advocate is no way to show human rights progress.”

In September 2007, Gao was detained for several weeks shortly after sending an open letter to the US Congress denouncing the human rights situation in China and describing his and his family’s treatment at the hands of the security forces.

Gao detailed his illegal detention in 2007 as well as severe and sustained torture at the hands of security agents – including violent beatings, repeated electric shocks to his genitals, and having lit cigarettes held close to his eyes over a prolonged period, which left him partially blind for days afterwards. After he was released, acquaintances described him as seeming to be “a broken man,” both physically and spiritually.

“China should immediately release Gao Zhisheng,” said Roseann Rife, Asia-Pacific deputy director at Amnesty International. “China should demonstrate that its takes its international obligations seriously, in this case specifically the obligations under the convention against torture, which the Chinese government voluntarily took on in 1988.”

In November 2008, the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) reported in its “Concluding Observations” on China that it remains “deeply concerned about the continued allegations, corroborated by numerous Chinese legal sources, of routine and widespread use of torture and ill-treatment of suspects in police custody.”

Amnesty International, Human Rights in China and Human Rights Watch strongly urged concerned governments and intergovernmental bodies to call on the Chinese government to take all necessary steps to ensure Gao Zhisheng's safety and well being while in police custody and to release him at the earliest possible date.

Voted in 2001 as “one of China’s top ten lawyers” by a publication run by the PRC Ministry of Justice, Gao is a self-trained legal professional with a history of representing the victims of some of the most egregious and politically controversial cases of human rights abuses by the police and other government agencies. In October 2005, he wrote a series of three letters to President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao calling on them to halt the continuing torture and ill-treatment of detained Falun Gong practitioners and the ongoing persecution of underground Christians and democracy activists.

After his 2007 detention, Gao expressed fears that he would be tortured again if he was rearrested.

In June 2007, Gao received the Courageous Advocacy Award of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). His memoirs, A China More Just.

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Statement from the Kashag on the Conferment of the Dalai Lama's Nobel Peace Prize

"Today, as we commemorate the confluence of the nineteenth anniversary of the conferment of the Nobel Peace Prize on His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the International Human Rights Day, and the Himalayan Festival, the Kashag extends its warm regards and greetings to the Tibetans in and outside Tibet, as well as to all the peace-loving people of the world." Read more...

Dalai Lama's Address To The European Parliament

On 4 December 2008, the Dalai Lama made an address to the European Parliament in Brussels. The Dalai Lama thanked the European Parliament for it’s consistent displays of concern and support for the just and non-violent Tibetan struggle and shared his belief that “continued expressions of concern and support for Tibet will, in the long run, … create the necessary political environment for a peaceful resolution of the issue of Tibet”. Read more...

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