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May 28 2009

New images of burning of wild animal pelts in dramatic act of dissent

ICT Report

New images received from Tibet depict thousands of dollars worth of wild animal pelts being burned in the Tibetan area of Amdo, eastern Tibet, in a dramatic assertion of Tibetan identity at the height of the current crackdown on dissent. The photographs were taken in February 2009, during Tibetan New Year, at a time when Tibetans sought to mark the festival by mourning those killed in the protests. This was in defiance of the Chinese authorities' attempts to enforce celebration of the New Year. (The images, along with this report, can be viewed at http://www.savetibet.org/media-center/ict-news-reports/new-images-burning-wild-animal-pelts-dramatic-act-dissent)

The burning of the wild animal furs as an expression of Tibetan loyalties was originally inspired by a statement made by the Dalai Lama during a major religious festival in 2006 in which he said he felt "ashamed" when he saw Tibetans wearing the pelts of endangered animals such as tigers or leopards.

Immediately after he made the comments, Tibetans all over Tibet began to burn animal skins - in monetary value the equivalent of burning family cars or houses. Their actions were expressions of loyalty both to the Dalai Lama and to the Tibetan Buddhist culture, which advocates compassion for all sentient beings. This is the first known instance of wild animal pelt burning linked to the protests that broke out across Tibet in March, 2008.

The animal pelts were burnt on February 9, 2009 in a village in Tsolho (Chinese: Hainan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai province in February, and the images have only just reached Tibetan exiles. A Tibetan source told ICT said that they believed the pelts had a monetary value of more than 100,000 yuan (at least US$14,000). Estimates of GNP per capita per year in Tibet range from US$65 to US$200.

The Tibetan source who provided the images said: "The purpose of the action is to show that Tibetans will give up wearing animal skins completely and that they did not want to celebrate the New Year in 2009, because everyone thought it was a very black year for all Tibetan people in and outside of Tibet. Also by organizing this action, they would like to show their solidarity for the people who have sacrificed their precious lives for the freedom of Tibet after the violent crackdown in Lhasa last year and across Tibetan areas inside Tibet by the Chinese military forces."

The Chinese authorities had attempted to persuade Tibetans to celebrate Tibetan New Year in order to convey an impression of normalcy. The Tibetan writer Woeser expressed Tibetans' widespread feelings on 'no Losar' in a blog published earlier this year: "With events in Tibet that started last year and still haven't stopped, there are countless ordinary Tibetans still living and dying under the barrels of the People's Armed Police guns, countless ordinary Tibetans who are still behind bars, and so how can their friends and families be happy in their grief to see in the new year? The absurdity is that the authorities do not see this." (A full translation of the blog, 'A Great 'Civil Disobedience' spreading throughout all of Tibet' appears in A Great Mountain Burned by Fire: China¹s Crackdown in Tibet, http://www.savetibet.org/media-center/ict-press-releases/a-great-mountain-burned-fire-chinas-crackdown-tibet).

Chinese authorities encourage Tibetans to wear furs to showcase the "exotic" Tibetan culture. This has included encouraging - or requiring - Tibetans at official events or performances to adorn themselves with expensive hats and robes made of pelts from endangered animals such as tigers or leopards.

Following the Dalai Lama's comments three years ago, many Tibetans had stopped wearing such adornments and critised those who did. (ICT reports at: https://nl.savetibet.org/news/newsitem.php?id=1172 and http://www.savetibet.org/news/newsitem.php?id=910).
A Tibetan blogger commented: "Obviously wearing fur has become an expression of one's political standpoint, and [at one festival in 2007 in eastern Tibet] the high officials on their platform were watching to see which people from which parts of Tibet had "political consciousness". But the people watching the performances were wearing considerably less fur than in previous years; many wore colorful cotton where once they wore fur trim." (http://woeser.middle-way.net/?action=show&id=191).

The Tibetan source who provided the new images of wild animal pelt burning this year said that the protests that have swept the Tibetan plateau since March, 2008, were an expression of the frustration and resentment against the vilification of the Dalai Lama by the Chinese authorities. He told ICT: "It is not possible even to say the name of His Holiness The Dalai Lama in the presence of officials. But despite their propaganda, we all know how highly honored and respected His Holiness is in the world, and if he makes a speech anywhere, so many people are waiting to hear about it. But all information about His Holiness the Dalai Lama is shut down inside Tibet. If the authorities noticed a small picture of him somewhere in your work place or home, you would be in jail for a while. That is the real situation in Tibet today. Many of Tibetan people are dying without hearing anything about His Holiness The Dalai Lama."

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May 26 2009

6 Tibetans Seriously Wounded in Protests

Dharamshala: At least 6 Tibetan women have sustained serious gunshot wounds after Chinese security forces opened fire at a group of Tibetans in Tawu County, who were venting their anger against China's forceful relocation of tens of thousands of local Tibetans, sources reported Monday.

The Public Security Bureau officials and People's Armed Police indiscriminately fired at Tibetan residents of Tawu and Nyagchu County in Karze Tibet Autonomous Prefecture, at around 11 a.m. (local time) on Sunday, 24 May.

The sources attributed the incident to China's construction of a major hydroelectric dam between Nyagchu and Tawu County, which is resulting in a large-scale displacement of local Tibetans. The government coerced local residents of Tawu County to sign a document as it begin to plan the construction work in early 2008.

This year the Chinese authorities again reinforce their relocation plan, which was vehemently opposed by the Tibetans who refused to leave their ancestral lands and houses.

Subsequently, on 5 May 2009, the Chinese government dispatched a large number of armed police to the region and destroyed homes of some families, including those of Ati Gyatso Tsang and Chego Pezi Tsang.

Earlier, the authorities convened a meeting and erected a stone pillar in their plan to relocate the residents of Wara Mato town to another place. Expressing strong opposition to the forced relocation policy, the angry residents led by an old woman named Lhamo, who is believed to be aged above 70, refused to move saying they are owner of the land and destroyed the pillar.

Consequently, as residents from Tawu and Nyagchu districts gathered in the region to protest the arrival of large number of troops on the morning of 24 May, the army fired shots leaving six Tibetan women seriously wounded.

Those wounded have been identified as Tsering Lhamo, Rigzin Lhamo, Dolma, Kelsang, Dolkar and Khaying.

But sources could not tell whether those injured are dead or alive as they were forcibly taken away after the firing incident.

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May 25 2009

China displaces tens and thousands of Tibetans in Tawu County

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) received reliable information that the Tibetans in Tawu County protested against a construction of a major hydroelectric dam that resulted in a displacement of tens and thousands of local Tibetans.
Currently the Chinese government is undertaking a construction of a major hydroelectric dam between Nyag-chu and Tawu County, which is resulting in a large-scale displacement of local Tibetans in Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (“TAP”), Sichuan Province, much against their wishes.

The local Chinese authorities on 24 May 2009 issued orders to local Tibetans to assemble at Tawu County headquarter for a public announcement. During the meeting, the local Tibetans were told about Chinese government’s plan to re-settle them to some other place so as to clear the way for the construction of hydroelectric dam.

Just moments after the announcement of dam construction, local Tibetans in the gathering immediately broke up into major protest against the government plans. They were reportedly shouting slogans to the local authorities that, “ this place has been our ancestral dwelling place for countless generations and therefore we don’t want to leave our homes. We are not going to move away to any other places come what may.”
Within moments, Chinese security personnel consisting of both Public Security Bureau (PSB) and People’s Armed Police (PAP) lobbed tear gas and carried out violent means to disperse the agitating crowd. During the crackdown, six Tibetans including a 70-year-old woman, Guru Dolma, Rigzin Dolma and others sustained serious injuries at the hands of Chinese security personnel. The seriously injured Tibetans were taken away in a van to a nearby hospital but there was no information about their well-being and health condition.

Since the commencement of the dam construction in last year in Tawu County, the Chinese authorities had been forcing local Tibetans to re-locate and abandon their ancestral homes and those who defy official decree were beaten and tortured. Of late, 5 May 2009, the Chinese security forces as well as construction workers have been stationing in Wara town to push ahead the construction of the dam.
The TCHRD expresses serious concern at the plight of Tibetans in Tawu County and urges the international community to pressurize the Chinese government.

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May 22 2009

Chinese rule in Tibet is built on ethnic inequality and perpetuates a self-serving elite, a groundbreaking new report by Beijing academics has declared

By Malcolm Moore in Shanghai
The Telegraph (UK)

The report, written by scholars in Beijing, has been hailed by both Tibetans and Chinese as a revealing look at the troubled region. It suggests that a new Tibetan "aristocracy" has seized power in the region. Unlike Tibet's previous rulers, who were supported by the tribes and by the monasteries, the new Tibetan ruling cadres are funded by Beijing in return for absolute loyalty.

To mask their shortcomings, and reinforce their power, they have spread propaganda blaming the Dalai Lama for Tibet's social problems, the report concludes. "They use every opportunity to play the separatism card," said Phun Tshogs Dbang Rjyal, a Communist party member in Tibet who is quoted by the report.

Four students at Beijing University, China's most prestigious academic institution, travelled through Tibet in the aftermath of widespread riots in March 2008. Their conclusions provide a more balanced look of Tibet's social problems, highlighting problems in the local government and the education system, than any account previously published in China.
It was commissioned by Gongmeng, or the Open Constitution Initiative, a think tank founded in 2003 by some of China's most prominent liberal lawyers and university professors. "This is the first independent analysis of the situation in Tibet from within China," said Nicholas Becquelin, a research director at Human Rights Watch. He added that the report was a break from a series of "highly ideological" reports. "This is a factual analysis of the underlying social factors," he said.

Last years unrest began in Lhasa but quickly spread through Tibet and its neighbouring regions, leading to an armed response by Chinese soldiers and the loss of over 140 lives, according to the Tibetan government-in-exile.

China has previously blamed the Dalai Lama for fanning the violence, and said that over 100 agents of Tibet's religious leader had organised the protests.

Senior Communist Party figures, such as Feng Lanrui, a former State Council strategist, are part of the think tank's circle of advisors. It also highlighted the tensions caused by a drive to industrialise the region and move Tibetans from farms into the cities. Once unskilled Tibetans have moved to Lhasa, it concludes, they find it hard to compete for jobs with better-educated Han immigrants.

Yang Ziyun, the editor of the report, said the report had won support on internet forums, but has not yet been published formally. "We are not sure how it will be received," she said.

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May 21 2009

Deaths of two Tibetans after torture

ICT Report

Over the past year, since protests broke out on March 10, 2008, the Chinese government has sought to block all information reaching the outside world on the torture, disappearances and killings that have taken place across Tibet. A full accounting of Tibetans who died in protests since March 2008 is not yet possible as a result, and due to the intense climate of fear in the region (see report ‘A Great Mountain Burned by Fire: China’s Crackdown in Tibet, http://www.savetibet.org/media-center/ict-press-releases/a-great-mountain-burned-fire-chinas-crackdown-tibet).


This report gives details of the deaths of two Tibetans in different areas of Tibet as a result of being subjected to excessive brutality in custody. These are not isolated incidents; many other deaths following torture have occurred, but full details are often not known.
The account of 28-year old Tendar’s death reached the outside world after the Tibetan government in exile made a video available which featured disturbing images of his body after torture. There are now fears for the safety of his step-father after news of the death became known. His mother is reportedly under close police surveillance. Tendar was taken into custody on March 14, 2008, after he tried to help an elderly monk who was being beaten by police.


In a separate incident, Paltsal Kyab, a 45-year old nomad, died in May, 2008, after being taken into police custody following a protest in his hometown on March 17, 2008. Paltsal Kyab, who left five children, had told protestors not to burn any buildings and to follow the non-violent path. But he was taken into custody and died after brutal beatings in detention.


A Tibetan writer referred to Paltsal Kyab’s death in a collection of writings called Eastern Snow Mountain that was banned immediately after publication: “To say that someone has been beaten to death, isn't this something that should never have to be said in this day and age? To say that someone has been beaten to death is something that recalls the terror of the "Democratic Reform" era [of the late 1950s/ early '60s].”

The Killing of Tendar


Twenty-eight year old Tendar’s death following torture after his arrest for trying to help an elderly monk was featured in a video released by the Tibetan government in exile in March (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiZL9zvQ3Sc and http://media.phayul.com/?av_id=147&av_links_id=323). A Tibetan blogger writing in Chinese described the images as follows: “One of his legs was cut with many bloody knife wounds and a nail had been driven in to a toenail on his right foot. A great deal of flesh had been cut away from his bottom, where the wound was rotting and infested with insects. Where his waist had been beaten with electric batons, the flesh had started to decay. There were many wounds on his back and on his face. One of the wounds was covered with transparent tape. Because he had not received any medical care, he was already on the verge of death.”


The Chinese government reacted strongly to the release of the video, blocking Youtube for a period after it was publicized internationally, and stating that the “Dalai group fabricates information about Tibet”. (‘Lhasa riot footage ‘has been doctored’, China Daily, March 27, 2009, http://eng.tibet.cn/news/today/200903/t20090327_465187.htm). China’s response to the video ensured that more people knew about Tendar’s death, although full details have not been made public until now. The account below is compiled using testimony from several sources. There are now fears for the welfare of Tendar’s retired step-father, who is in his early sixties, since news of the death reached the outside world.


Tendar worked in the customer services department of a Chinese telecommunications company and lived in Lhasa. On March 14, when Tibetan protests turned violent on the streets of Lhasa, Tendar witnessed an elderly monk being beaten by Chinese security personnel. Although details of what happened are sketchy, according to reports by Tibetans who know Tendar, and others in Lhasa on that day, it seems that Tendar tried to help the monk, by telling the police to have mercy on him. He did so at a time that armed police were opening fire on the rioters. Tendar was shot and fell to the ground. Still conscious, he was taken away by police. A Tibetan source who was in Lhasa after the incident and spoke to Tibetans who know Tendar said: “The injury didn’t appear to be life-threatening. I was told that he was taken to the Lhasa General Hospital that is run by the People’s Liberation Army. While he was at the hospital, a team of four to five Chinese security personnel visited him every four to six hours. During those times they took turns in beating him while interrogating him about his involvement [in the March 14 protests]. They were using iron rods and cigarette butts to burn his skin. He was tortured repeatedly and his condition deteriorated rapidly.”


At this time, none of Tendar’s family or friends knew where he was, a pattern consistent with the wave of disappearances that took place after March 14, and that is still occurring in some areas. Through connections, Tendar’s family managed to locate him. When they were allowed to visit, he was “in shock, and in excruciating pain. Every movement of his body would cause him to scream with pain”, said the same Tibetan source. He was unable to walk and his body appeared to be paralysed from the waist down. Tendar said that he had witnessed a Tibetan monk at the hospital being beaten to death with iron bars by security personnel. He begged to be taken home.
The same Tibetan source said: “While at hospital, Tendar had tried to kill himself twice by jumping off the window from his room. He had managed to drag his body to the window but was unable to get out as he could not move the lower part of his body.”


The Tibetan source believes that Tendar was only released to his family as the authorities knew there was no hope of his recovery. This is consistent with other cases where Tibetans have died after torture; the authorities seek to avoid being responsible for a person’s death while they are under their charge. His relatives attempted to get medical care for him but hospitals were reluctant to take him into their care due to the political sensitivity of a patient who had been involved on March 14. Tendar was finally admitted to the Peoples’ Hospital near the Potala Palace, where he was immediately taken into intensive care. The Tibetan source said: “Some of the nursing staff had tears in their eyes when they saw the serious nature of his injuries.”


Tendar spent 20 days in hospital and his condition continued to deteriorate. He became unconscious, and medical staff told his family that there was nothing more they could do for him. Tendar’s family had to pay a medical bill of 90,000 yuan ($13,000) before they could take him home.


Tendar died at home 13 days later, on June 19, 2008. Video footage obtained by the Tibetan government in exile depicts vultures at his sky burial site at Toelung, west of Lhasa. The same Tibetan source, who is no longer in Tibet but who spoke to eyewitnesses, said: “One could see on his body the marks of iron rods. His body was nothing but bone and skin. When his body was being prepared for the vultures [a ritual called Jhador in Tibetan], a slender metal bar or long nail about one-third of a meter in length was found inserted through the bottom of his leg. This appeared to be one of the torture instruments used during interrogation.”


The story of Tendar’s death is well-known in Lhasa and has even been written about by Tibetan bloggers in Chinese. Many people who did not know Tendar but who had heard about him came to mark his death at important dates afterwards. “Those who were fearful of attending these occasions due to being seen by security personnel sent money and Khatags [white Tibetan blessing scarves],” said the same source.


A Tibetan writer said: “Several hundred Tibetans came to his funeral services. Many came out of deep sympathy for a stranger who suffered a terrible tragedy. At the funeral service, the mother of this youth said sadly, ‘I cry not only for my son who died a tragic death, I cry even more for those sons who are being tortured. As a mother, I can’t imagine the torments and suffering my son endured in prison.’”


According to different Tibetan sources, there are a number of cases over the past year where Tibetans were initially injured by either gunfire or beatings while being taken into custody. Although these initial injuries did not appear to be life-threatening, torture following detention has in these cases led to dramatic deterioration and death. Tibetans taken into custody with bullet wounds after March 14, 2008, were rarely given medical treatment according to sources. According to anecdotal reports from Lhasa, the worst torture was carried out by People’s Liberation Army and People’s Armed Police troops brought in from outside the city.

The death of Paltsal Kyab after torture

“Shikalo [Jakpalo] a man in his forties from Charo Xiang in Ngaba county, was beaten to death on false charges. His precious life has fizzled out. This father and cornerstone of his household leaves behind him a widow and [five] orphans, weeping inside. This life-demeaning disaster has ruined life for one household.”
- Extract from The Eastern Snow Mountain (Shar Dungri), a collection of writings from the Tibetan area of Amdo that is the only known material in Tibetan on the 2008 protests to have been published in the PRC.


On May 26, 2008, two local township leaders in Charo township, Ngaba (Chinese: Aba), Sichuan (the Tibetan area of Amdo) came to tell the family of 45-year old nomad Paltsal Kyab, also known as Jakpalo, that he was dead. Although officials said that he had died “of natural causes” while being held in custody following a protest in the area on March 17, 2008, when the body was released to the family there were clear signs of torture and brutal beatings.


Paltsal Kyab’s younger brother, Kalsang, who now lives in exile, told ICT that according to witnesses who saw his body, “The whole front of his body was completely bruised blue and covered with blisters from burns. His whole back was also covered in bruises, and there was not even a tiny spot of natural skin tone on his back and front torso. His arms were also severely bruised with clumps of hardened blood.”


Paltsal Kyab, who was married with five children, was taken into custody following a peaceful demonstration that occurred in Charo on March 17, 2008. According to anecdotal accounts from the area given to Paltsal Kyab’s brother, around 100 young Tibetans held a protest on the main street “because they believed that the United Nations and foreign media chose not to listen to and see the truth in Tibet.” The Tibetans began to talk about burning a building down. According to his brother, Paltsal Kyab told the Tibetans that it was important not to take this action, saying: “We Tibetans must follow His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s non-violent path. Our only weapon is our truth. The building belongs to the government, but several Tibetan and Chinese families are living in there.” At least three people in a building nearby testified to police that Paltsal Kyab had persuaded the Tibetans not to be violent, according to Kalsang.


After the incident, according to his friends, Paltsal talked about going to the police station to tell officers that he had not committed any violation such as destroying buildings or cars, or harming anyone. But he heard from his friends that his name was already on the wanted list, and that individuals who were detained were being badly beaten. Paltsal went to see a relative who was ill out of town.


On April 9 last year, at around midnight, 11 police raided Paltsal’s home, while a truckload of armed soldiers waited outside. According to reports from the family, one police officer pointed a gun at the head of Paltsal’s 14 year old son and asked him where his father was. His son replied that his father had gone to see his relative who was ill. Paltsal’s wife was then dragged out of her room and asked the same question. She gave the same answer as her son, but gave a different name of the relative. Because they had given different names, the police claimed that they were lying, and Paltsal’s son was taken into custody. On arrival at the police station the teenager was slapped, kicked and punched for hours during interrogation. He was released the next day.


When Paltsal was told about his son, he came home immediately. Kalsang said: “Our family had heard that the Chinese government says that people involved in protest must surrender voluntarily and that people who did so would be treated leniently, as opposed to people who are seized by police. Paltsal’s relatives told him that he was a father of five children so that it wouldn’t be possible for him to hide from police throughout his life. Paltsal also knew that his son had been beaten and interrogated. So he decided to surrender voluntarily.”
On April 17 or 18, 2008, Paltsal went to the local police station and gave himself up. He was held there for two weeks and then transferred to a detention center in Ngaba on April 27, 2008. The family heard nothing about his condition or whereabouts until May 26, 2008, when two local township leaders came to Paltsal’s home to inform his wife and children of his death.


Paltsal’s family members were allowed to collect his body from the detention center. Kalsang says: “Upon arrival, the relatives were told by the Ngaba police that the cause of his death was sickness, not torture. They also allegedly claimed that they had taken him to a hospital twice because of his kidney and stomach problems. But his relatives said that when Paltsal went to the police station to surrender he was a normal healthy man with no history of any major health problems. The police officers never acknowledged the cause of death as torture but they immediately started to offer money to the family. The family was not allowed to take photos of his body or tell anyone anything about what had happened.”


Kalsang said that he was later informed by various sources that his elder brother had been very badly tortured in custody. Family members asked for permission to take his body to Kirti monastery in Ngaba. It is important in Tibetan culture for prayers to be said for a person immediately after his death in order to help ensure a peaceful transition. But the army refused permission. Kalsang said: “They even could not take Paltsal’s body to Kirti monastery to pray for Paltsal’s soul.”


Paltsal was given a traditional sky burial, with police officers present, including two senior Tibetan police officers. Kalsang said: “It was obvious from the condition of Paltsal’s body that he had suffered an agonizing and painful death due to severe torture, not of natural causes.” Those preparing his body for burial, which involves dismemberment, told the family that there was severe damage to his internal organs, including his small intestines, gall-bladder and kidneys.


A Tibetan writer from Ngaba, the Tibetan area of Amdo, wrote anonymously about Paltsal’s death in a collection of writings called Shar Dungri, or Eastern Snow Mountain. The article, entitled, ‘What human rights do we have over our bodies?’ was written by a writer who calls himself Nyen, ‘The Wild One’, from Sichuan. He writes: “To say that someone has been beaten to death, isn't this something that should never have to be said in this day and age? To say that someone has been beaten to death is something that recalls the terror of the ‘Democratic Reform’ era [of the late '50s/ early '60s]. Generally speaking, no-one enjoys ‘vengeance’ or continuing ‘old feuds’. But for the young generation, the murder of their father leaves an impression that cannot be forgotten as long as they live. That is the certain outcome of repression, beating and killing. We have no wish for ‘revenge’ or ‘feuds’. We call for reaching a time in which the younger generation will have no 'revenge' to seek or ‘feuds’ to settle. The young generation has not come into this world for revenge or to settle feuds, but to see the spectacle of a brighter tomorrow, to seek refuge in a place enjoying the bright spring of freedom, democracy and equality.”

(Translated into English by ICT. The full article is published in the report ‘A Great Mountain Burned by Fire: China’s Crackdown in Tibet', http://www.savetibet.org/media-center/ict-press-releases/a-great-mountain-burned-fire-chinas-crackdown-tibet).

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May 19 2009

Chinese think tank investigation report of 3.14 incident in Tibet

By Tony
Fool’s Mountain: Blogging for China

Chinese think-tank (Beijing Gongmeng Consulting Co., Ltd. ) established by Beijing University law professors, and joined by several Beijing economics professors. Following the unrest and demonstrations in Tibet which started Mach 10th, 2009, they decided to see for themselves what was really happening in Tibet by visiting Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, and Labrang, outside Tibet Autonomous Region.

Their findings are astonishing. They find that a new Tibetan aristocracy has taken over power. This aristocracy is even worse than the old Tibetan aristocracy. In the old system the aristocracy was reliant on some sort of accord and agreement with the people, since they were dependent on the people to pay taxes. The new aristocracy get all their funding directly for Beijing (Central government) due to “stability” reasons, and thus they do not have any incentive to care about the well-being of Tibetans. They show how the new aristocracy cover up their own shortcomings in governance and lack of qualifications by pointing fingers at foreign forces and the Dalai Lama. This new aristocracy came to power in the cultural revolution.

In other parts of China, this type of unqualified leadership was purged in the 80s, but in Tibet (due to their absolute loyality to Beijing), they were kept in power, up untill today. They point to specific educational policy problems and find that the younger generation of Tibetans who grew up in a “liberated” Tibet has stronger Tibetan national identity than the elder generation.

The report can be found here: https://docs.google.com/Doc?id=df4nrxxq_91ctcf6sck

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May 15 2009

China's Zhao decries June 4 "tragedy" from the grave

From Reuters - By Benjamin Kang Lim and Chris Buckley

BEIJING, May 14 (Reuters) - Two decades after his downfall and four years after his death, reformist Chinese leader Zhao Ziyang has broken the official silence on the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, denouncing the killings of protesters as a "tragedy".

In memoirs recorded secretly under house arrest, Zhao has challenged China's cautious, current leaders just before the 20th anniversary of June 4, when troops crushed pro-democracy protests centred on Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

He praises Western-style democracy and denounces the armed quelling of the protests, when troops and tanks pushed down Chang'an Avenue, shooting demonstrators and onlookers.

"On the night of June 3rd, while sitting in the courtyard with my family, I heard intense gunfire," says Zhao. "A tragedy to shock the world had not been averted."

Zhao, who was head of the Communist Party in 1989, rejects the government's claim that the student protesters were part of an anti-Communist conspiracy.

"I had said at the time that most people were only asking us to correct our flaws, not attempting to overthrow our political system," Zhao says in the book "Prisoner of the State", to be published by Simon & Schuster in English this month ahead of the 20th anniversary.

The memoirs, about 30 hours of tape, were given to three confidants and smuggled out of China. A manuscript was obtained by Reuters.

Zhao's account of Party elders pushing him from power sheds rare light on the political warring behind the protests that shook China 20 years ago, culminating in his ouster and the crackdown that killed hundreds on the streets of Beijing.

"I told myself that no matter what, I refused to become the (Party) general secretary who mobilised the military to crack down on students," he says.

Zhao had his eyes fixed on China's future when he secretively recorded his memories throughout years under house detention until his death in January 2005. He decries what he saw as the mistaken conservative path taken by the Party after 1989 and argues for a gradual transition to Western-style democracy.

"In fact, it is the Western parliamentary democratic system that has demonstrated the most vitality," says Zhao.

"If we don't move toward this goal, it will be impossible to resolve the abnormal conditions in China's market economy."

China's current leaders brush aside the "disturbance" of 20 years ago as a distant event with a settled official verdict, and Zhao's book is sure to be banned by authorities who will seek to stop copies of the Chinese edition slipping into the mainland.

But Zhao remains a symbol of reformist rectitude to sympathisers and, with even apolitical citizens eager to learn about the Party's secretive ways, copies may still spread.

Bao Pu, a Hong Kong-based publisher and son of Zhao's former top aide, said Zhao apparently wanted to give his version of events to challenge the Party's official condemnation of the Tiananmen protesters and its one-Party rule.

"He did not leave instructions ... but clearly he wanted his story to survive," said Bao, whose New Century Press is publishing the Chinese edition of the book.

"It's a crucial period of history that defines modern day China. It contradicts the government's version of the truth."

Bao Pu's father, Bao Tong, lives under police surveillance in Beijing but has been allowed to meet foreign reporters. [nSP91291]

BREAKING WITH DENG

The thread running through Zhao's memories of his rise and fall is his tortured bond with Deng Xiaoping, the wizened revolutionary veteran who steered China to market reforms but rejected -- ultimately with force -- calls for democratic change.

Deng is honoured by China as the pioneer behind the country's economic success, and Zhao's account of double-crossing and betrayal under Deng is likely to irk the country's current leaders, who like to present an image of solid unity.

Zhao rejects the notion Deng was instinctively in favour of political relaxation but was led astray by conservatives.

"Deng had always stood out among the Party elders as the one who emphasised the means of dictatorship. He often reminded people about its usefulness," says Zhao.

Deng's notions of democracy "were no more than empty words".

Deng was paramount among Party elders who dominated behind the scenes while Zhao and his colleague, Hu Yaobang, coaxed officials to break up rural communes and strictures on private business that Communist leader Mao Zedong made his legacy.

But by the late 1980s, Zhao found it increasingly difficult to weave between conservatives enraged by the crumbling of Soviet socialism and the advances of market reforms and intellectuals and advisers who wanted to push past barriers to economic and then political liberalisation.

Zhao says that in ousting him from power, Deng, then-premier Li Peng and Party conservatives trampled on rules meant to prevent a return to Mao's years of arbitrary, one-man power.

The remedy to China's problems, Zhao says, lies in gradual but unceasing movement towards democracy.

"I believe the time has come for us to tackle this issue seriously," he concludes.

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing and James Pomfret in Hong Kong; Editing by Nick Macfie and Dean Yates)

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May 14 2009

FACTBOX: China's leaders in 1989

From Reuters

BEIJING - China's 1989 pro-democracy movement split the Communist Party leadership and triggered a power struggle that ended in a bloody crackdown on student protesters in the pre-dawn hours of June 4, 1989.

Following are profiles of key leaders at the time:

* DENG XIAOPING, then the power behind the throne in China, sent in tanks and troops to crush the student-led demonstrations for democracy centered on Beijing's Tiananmen Square on June 3-4 that year. He died on February 19, 1997, aged 92, after reviving the economy with a dramatic tour of the south in 1992.

* ZHAO ZIYANG was toppled as China's Communist Party chief and accused of splitting the Party for challenging Deng's decision to crush the protests. Zhao refused to repent and spent more than 15 years under house arrest until his death in Beijing on January 17, 2005.

* JIANG ZEMIN rose from Communist Party boss of Shanghai, where he quelled parallel protests without bloodshed, to oust Zhao as national Party chief in 1989. Zhao's political ghost haunted Jiang, who refused to end Zhao's house arrest. Jiang held on to power for 13 years before retiring as Party chief in 2002.

* LI PENG is known as the "Butcher of Beijing" for declaring martial law on national television days before the bloody crackdown. Li, then the premier, was reviled by many and the butt of jokes but he was a political survivor and went on to become parliament chief. Writing in retirement, Li sought to wash his hands and clear his name.

* BAO TONG, Zhao's top aide, was ousted from the Party's elite Central Committee and was the most senior official jailed for sympathizing with student protesters. He lives under tight, round-the-clock police surveillance and remains a thorn in the government's side as an outspoken critic of the country's human rights record and the slow pace of political reform.

* CHEN XITONG, Beijing mayor, supported the crackdown and emerged as Jiang's main rival. Chen was ousted in an anti-corruption campaign in 1995 and sentenced to 16 years in jail. He has reportedly been released on medical parole.

* HU JINTAO, now China's top leader, was Party secretary in Tibet in 1989. He declared martial law in Lhasa in March 1989, following clashes between Tibetan protesters and police. Hu was selected by Deng in 1992 as heir apparent to Jiang.

* WEN JIABAO, then director of the General Office under the Communist Party's Central Committee, accompanied Zhao to Tiananmen Square, where Zhao made an emotional appeal to protesting students to leave. While Zhao was ousted days later, Wen not only survived, but went on to become premier in 2003.

(Compiled by Benjamin Kang Lim and Lucy Hornby; Editing by Nick Macfie and Dean Yates)

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May 7 2009

Chinese lawyers instrumental in Tibetan monk's release

From Phayul

Dharamsala, May 7 - Two Chinese human rights lawyers, Li Fanping and Jiang Tianyong, have hands in the release of Jigme, 42, a monk who spoke on camera of his ordeals after the last year’s March unrest, reported Times Online.

Li Fangping was quoted by Times Online as saying, “He was released partly because there was insufficient evidence. Even though he spoke about how he was tortured after the March 14 incident, this was insufficient to make a criminal case. He is now released on bail.”

Mr Li said that the appearance of lawyers to argue on Jigme’s behalf was vital factor in his release.

“When the police told him that lawyers had come forward to help him, he said he wanted legal representation. Before we even had time to see him, he had been released.”

Acording to Times Online, Jigme was released on May 2 and returned a day later to his monastery, half a year after dozens of police raided his quarters and took him away for the second time in a year.

The duo also represent Trulku Phurbu Tsering, a prominent Tibetan Buddhist leader facing charges of illegal possession of arms. It is the second time in recent weeks that the two lawyers have come forward to help a detained Tibetan.

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May 6 2009

Chinese Scholars Discuss Tibet with the Dalai Lama

Phayul| By Bhuchung D Sonam

Waldorf Astoria, New York City: In his continuous effort to build a viable connection with Chinese people, His Holiness the Dalai Lama met with over 120 scholars and dissidents. They include Harry Wu, Dr. Yang Jian Li, Xu Wen Li, Hu Ping, and many others.

“My body looks the same, but one organ missing,” began His Holiness referring to his gallbladder operation last year. “But my health is very good.”

After a big round of applause, the Tibetan leader drove straight to the heart of the matter by appealing to the Chinese people to “investigate thoroughly” about Tibet-China problem by going to Tibet.

“If 60-70 percent of the Tibetans are happy in Tibet, we have nothing to complain,” the Dalai Lama said, who further mentioned that if that is not the case, then the Chinese Government must realize that things are not right inside Tibet.

Since the Chinese Communist Party refuses to accept the reality in Tibet, the 73-year-old Tibetan leader said that the Chinese scholars, intellectuals and students must make Tibetan issue clear to Chinese people living inside China.

Massive Chinese official propaganda has created a huge misunderstanding between the Chinese and Tibetans, sometimes leading to animosity.

“I always try to meet with Chinese intellectuals. Because the Tibetan problem must be solved between Han brothers and sisters and Tibetans and no one else,” the Nobel laureate said.

While responding to a question from Xu Wen Li about Tibetan demand for “Greater Tibet,” the Dalai Lama said that for a cultural survival and for practical realistic reasons all of Tibet must be united.

“We are not talking about independence. Hence if I talk only about a section of Tibet it will not be right. I am fighting for rights mentioned in the constitution [of China.] All of Tibet must be given equal rights in terms of culture and tradition,” His Holiness said.

According to the 1989 Nobel laureate, it is important for China to gradually move towards a more open democratic society but not in the footsteps of Soviet Union.

“The Communist Party has reigned long enough,” the Dalai Lama said. “Now it is time for a retirement.”

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May 1 2009

A Manifesto on Freedom Sets China’s Persecution Machinery in Motion

By Michael Wines| New York Times

BEIJING — Behind the west Beijing apartment building where Liu Xia keeps a fifth-floor flat, the police have built a guardhouse. Its purpose is not to protect Ms. Liu, who seeks no safeguarding. The house is for the guards who watch her.

Inside, they take notes to record her comings and goings. When she ventures out, a guard picks up the phone. Soon, a sedan with darkened windows carrying a man with a telephoto-lens camera is trailing her.

During a recent chat in a nearby teahouse, Ms. Liu wondered aloud why she unnerves China’s rulers enough to merit her own guardhouse. She is not active in politics, she said, and does not even use a computer. “I take photos, paint paintings, write poems, read books, cook food,” she said with a mirthless laugh. “And drink.”

But, of course, she knows why. She is married to Liu Xiaobo, a writer, philosopher and democracy advocate. On Dec. 10, Mr. Liu and 302 others issued a manifesto, called Charter 08, that urged China’s Communist Party to abandon monopoly rule and establish a multiparty system of government.

The police seized Mr. Liu two days before Charter 08 was released. He has been locked ever since in a windowless room about an hour’s drive north of central Beijing. He is denied access to lawyers, to pen and paper and, except for two brief visits, to his wife.

He is allowed to ask for books. His latest request was for the works of Kafka.

Perhaps Mr. Liu sees himself in Gregor Samsa, the Kafka protagonist who, transformed into a giant pest, is locked in a room in the hope that “out of sight” will become “out of mind.”

But his captors’ plight is also surreal. Signed by leading intellectuals, including some with links to the Communist Party, Charter 08 has been called the most important political statement since the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

Increasingly, Liu Xiaobo is no ordinary dissident, but an international cause. And the crackdown on him and his wife shows signs of becoming a public-relations dilemma for Chinese leaders.

“If they don’t suppress this matter, its influence will keep growing,” said Zhang Zuhua, a political theorist who helped Mr. Liu and others draft the charter. “But the more they suppress it, the more its influence will grow.”

Mr. Zhang also has a police guard, and a sedan that follows him. He has been warned that he is under investigation and should not make political waves.

Charter 08 concerns party rulers, some contend, because it posits an alternative to their monopoly just as China is integrating with an overwhelmingly democratic world.

Among the 20 largest economies, China is alone in enshrining single-party rule in its Constitution. Russia and China both persecute political opponents. But only China is visibly agitated by Charter 08’s premises: that people should elect their leaders, divide power among government’s branches and make the military answerable to civilians.

“Freedom is at the core of universal human values,” the charter states. “The government exists for the protection of the human rights of its citizens.” And, it states, “The most fundamental principles of democracy are that the people are sovereign, and the people select their government.”

Mr. Liu and Mr. Zhang first drafted those phrases more than three years ago with about eight other friends. Their inspirations, Mr. Zhang said in an interview, were the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, France’s 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and Taiwan’s 1980s democracy movement.

Mr. Zhang says their goals are evolutionary, not revolutionary. Most of the signers witnessed the destruction of China’s last pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square in 1989; some, including Mr. Liu, were participants in that movement. “Twenty years later,” Mr. Zhang said, “we all think that China will head toward liberal democracy eventually. But the problem is that we cannot use such sacrificial means again. So how to find a better way toward democratization that’s more suitable to China’s situation?

“People must come up with a constructive view. That’s the main idea behind Charter 08,” he said.

Such manifestos are hardly new. In December 1978, the Fifth Modernization, a proposed liberalization of the political system to go with China’s other moves toward modernity, was posted on Beijing’s Democracy Wall — and its author was handed a 15-year prison sentence. Evidence of the document was wiped from Chinese history.

Whether Charter 08 and Mr. Liu will meet similar fates remains unclear. Thirty years later, party leaders appear equally determined to retain power, but more cautious about how.

Censors have deleted Charter 08 from Chinese-language Internet pages and chat rooms, and some Web sites publishing pro-charter bloggers have been shut down. Without mentioning the charter, party leaders have railed against multiparty democracy and separation of powers as Western-imposed “erroneous ideological interferences.”

Many of the charter’s original signers have been interrogated; some have lost prominent positions or, in one case, been transferred from Beijing to remotest western China.

Mr. Liu, the only signer to be detained, is officially under “residential surveillance,” suspected of inciting subversion. But his secret confinement, lacking even a written explanation, meets no legal standard, his lawyer said.

Mr. Zhang says the aim of the authorities is to smother the charter with a minimum of force and international outcry. “They make a very precise calculation,” he said. “If they can manage to suppress this matter by arresting only Liu Xiaobo, then that’s the best deal for them.”

Yet Charter 08 continues, slowly, to gain adherents. Mr. Zhang says considerably more than 8,000 Chinese citizens have joined the original 303 signers, representing a swath of society well outside the clique of political dissidents. Another tranche of signatures is imminent.

In Beijing, the police recently searched the flat of a man who printed T-shirts with Mr. Liu’s face on the front and “Charter 08” on the back. In Nanying, a central city of about a million, an oil refinery worker named Liu Linna handed out perhaps 100 copies of the charter on April 4 before the police seized her.

“Seeing how severely Charter 08 was blocked on the Internet, I could not stand it,” she said. “So I decided, if I can’t talk about it on the Web, then I must spread the word on the streets.”

Liu Xia says her husband passes his time in detention watching sports — his captors recently installed a television — and lying in bed, planning his legal defense. It is a familiar role. Mr. Liu spent two years in prison after the 1989 Tiananmen protests, and three years in a labor camp starting in 1996 for challenging single-party rule and advocating negotiations with the Dalai Lama over Tibet.

Liu Xia and Mr. Zhang meet weekly to play badminton. Their sedans follow them to the game and wait outside the court until they have finished. Then the automobiles follow them home.

Jonathan Ansfield contributed reporting.

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