I met Adam Yauch only once. It was during a bathroom break, which came at the end of a heated session in a Tibet-China conference at Harvard in 2002. I rushed to the bathroom and found myself standing next to Adam Yauch, who was using the urinal to my right.
We greeted each other in Tibetan. I was an international relations student at Brown University at the time.
“Isn’t it appalling, what they were saying?” I said, referring to a couple of Chinese academics who had been arguing that the Chinese Communists truly wanted to liberate the Tibetans, almost “out of kindness.”
They were describing Tibet in a language that betrayed their Han chauvinism, and every Tibetan in the room was visibly distraught. But most of us were tongue-tied, understandably intimidated by the heavy use of political terminology by professors and researchers who hid the ultimate weakness of their arguments behind the cloak of academic jargon.
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Phayul is reporting today that there was a shooting of Tibetans by Chinese security forces two days ago:
A Tibetan has been shot dead and two others have suffered bullet injuries in yet another case of police firing on unarmed Tibetans.
The shootings occurred on Tuesday, March 6 in Pema region of Golok, eastern Tibet when Chinese security personnel arrested a Tibetan named Tobwang for his alleged involvement in January anti-China protests in the region.
Holly Williams at Sky News recently snuck into Tibet to report on the recent self-immolations there and China’s intense security crackdown in response. Williams was able to capture powerful video footage of the Chinese security presence by secretly filming while they were in Aba.
Not shockingly, when Williams & the Sky News team were found out, the response by Chinese security forces was intense:
After leaving Aba the Sky News crew was detained by police who forcibly searched bags and deleted files from an audio recording device.
They temporarily confiscated a computer and camera, threatened to revoke Chinese visas and then followed the car for 300 kilometres (187 miles).
Big thanks to Holly and her team for taking the risks to get this important report out of Tibet from behind the veil of secrecy the Chinese government is trying to drop around it.
Gillian Wong of the AP also helped to shine light through China’s blackout of Tibet. Wong was able to report on what life is now like inside Aba amidst the crackdown and what she saw was a climate of fear created by the intense security presence:
“The locals are definitely feeling very heavy-hearted, very frustrated, all day. The soldiers are everywhere,” said the teacher. “At every moment, people wonder what will happen to the person next to them, what the soldiers will do to them.”
The International Campaign for Tibet has a good roundup of news reporters in recent months where the reporters were able to sneak into Tibet to report on the situation there. The work these reporters are doing is very important, so be sure to click through and see the latest news.
Students for a Free Tibet
For Immediate Release
November 21, 2011
***Compilation of footage can be viewed here: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/6955112/Tawu%20Footage.mp4
High resolution footage can be downloaded here: Â http://dl.dropbox.com/u/6955112/Tawu%20Footage.dv
Rare Footage of Tibetan Nunâ€™s Self-Immolation Smuggled out of Tibet
10,000 Tibetans converge in Tawu for funeral, Chinese Forces Seen Entering Monastery
Dharamsala/New York â€“ The mostÂ comprehensive footage of protests in Tibet this year, including shocking images of Palden
Choetso, a 35-year-old nun from Geden Choeling Nunnery in Tawu, eastern Tibet, who died after lighting herself on fire on November 3, has been obtained from sources in Tibet. One video shows Palden Choetso standing upright as flames engulf her body. Additional footage shows Tibetansâ€™ response to the self-immolation, including nuns protesting and chanting â€œFreedom to Tibetâ€; thousands of Tibetans at a candlelight vigil early on the morning of her funeral; and Chinese security forces converging on Nyitso Monastery. In the past eight months, 11 Tibetans have lit themselves on fire in an unprecedented wave of protest against Chinaâ€™s escalating clampdown in eastern Tibet.
“This footage confirms reports that 10,000 Tibetans gathered at Tawu’s Nyitso monastery in a mass outpouring of support and prayers for Palden Choetso. Her ultimate act of nonviolent protest galvanized the entire community to openly and publicly offer their respects and solidarity in spite of Chinaâ€™s military clampdown in the region,” said Tawu Lobsang Jinpa, a former political prisoner from Tawu who escaped to India last February. “In Tawu, the crackdown continues although many Chinese soldiers are patrolling the town in civilian clothes to stop the world from seeing these images. Surveillance cameras have been installed around the monastery to monitor the monksâ€™ every move.”
“This is an extremely difficult time for Tibetans everywhere. This footage shows not only the desperation but also the determination of Tibetans to fight for their freedom at any cost. We fear the situation will continue to escalate and more Tibetan lives will be lost if the Chinese government does not lift its repressive measures and commit to a just and lasting resolution to this spiraling crisis in Tibet,” said Tenzin Dorjee, Executive Director of Students for a Free Tibet.
Tibetan sources report that following her self-immolation, Palden Choetsoâ€™s body was taken to Nyitso Monastery. Her funeral was held early in the morning on November 6th. Tawu town is located in Kardze prefecture of the Tibetan province of Kham (annexed by China into Sichuan and Yunnan provinces after 1965), an area long known for actively resisting Chinese rule. Following the widespread protests in Tibet in 2008, Chinese forces have been stationed in and around Tawu town.
â€œWe urge world leaders to respond to the crisis in Tawu immediately with bold multilateral pressure on the Chinese government. The Tibetans in these videos have risked everything to have their voices heard. Their actions must be a wakeup call that Chinaâ€™s repression will only stop if the world intervenes now,â€ said Tenzin Jigdal, Program Director of Students for a Free Tibet India.
ALERT: Tendor, SFT’s Executive Director, will be live on Al Jazeera Englishâ€™s show ‘The Stream’ today!
The show airs at 3:30pm EST / 1930GMT and can be seen atÂ http://stream.aljazeera.com.
The discussion will beÂ about the recent news on Tibet, includingÂ the death of 29-year-old monk Tsewang Norbu and the election of the new Tibetan Prime Minister in Exile, Lobsang Sangay.Â It will also focus on whether Tibet should be under the autonomous rule of China or if officials should push for complete independence.
PLEASE JOIN THE DISCUSSION!
This program is based solely on social media interactivity. You canÂ participate in the conversation via Twitter and Facebook.
1) Tweet directly to program producers @ajstream or tweet using the hashtag #ajstream.
2) Post your comments and questions on the Facebook site:Â http://www.facebook.com/ajstream.
You can also view the program on TV in Washington D.C. and New York City, the channel numbers are listed below:
- Â Washington, D.C. – Comcast Channel 275 | Cox Channel 474 | Verizon FiOS Channel 457
- New York City Region -Â Time Warner Cable Channel 92
The show airs live at 3:30pm EST / 1930GMT and can be seen atÂ http://stream.aljazeera.com
Join this discussion and help us accomplish two important goals:
1) Demonstrate to the media that there is widespread interest in the Tibetan issue and therefore it warrants more coverage.
2) Advance the case for Tibetan freedom & independence in the global discussion on Tibet.
To read more on the reasons why we should be calling for Tibetan independence, please click here:
For more background on the legal case for Tibetan independence, please click here:
On Tuesday morning, 20,000 people gathered in the square in front of the Potala Palace, but not to protest.Â They were celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the “Peaceful Liberation” of Tibet that took place when the 17-Point Agreement was signed in May, 1951. The stage was erected weeks in advance, much of Lhasa was under construction during the winter and spring, and government officials arrived on Sunday for one week of ceremonies and celebrations–the details of which were kept under wraps.
One thing was a given, that the Potala would serve as the backdrop.Â The Chinese government loves using the Potala Palace as its flagship image for their Tibet propaganda. Completed in the late 1600s, the building sits thirteen stories high atop a hill overlooking Lhasa, holds over 1,000 rooms, exquisite temples, ancient scriptures, and remains of previous Dalai Lamas. No other buildings in the city rival the Potala’s height. It made the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994, and the Chinese government has plastered the image of the palace on everything from tourism brochures to beer and barley wine bottles and cans ever since. Not only is the Potala Palace a representation of incredible architectural feats and traditional Tibetan design, to the Chinese government it represents the backbone of a feudal society whose serfs were “liberated” by Mao and the People’s Republic of China 60 years ago.
In 2005, the Chinese government cleared the area in front of the Dalai Lama’s winter residence to make way for the new square and the “Tibet Peaceful Liberation Monument” that lay in the center. May 23, 2006 marked 50 years since the signing of the 17-Point Agreement, and the abstract representation of Mt. Everest was unveiled.Â In front of the monument, embedded under the concrete, are water fountains synchronized with lights and music, giving the square a Disney-esque look and feel for the tourists who visit each night in the summer. Except for this year.
Lhasa has been banned to foreign travelers since June, and an article published on Saturday by AFP noted that the government is now restricting the number of Chinese tourists to the region. The fact that the number of domestic Chinese tourists traveling to Tibet is restricted is a sure sign that the situation is dire. Lhasa is cut off from the rest of the world, showing that there is fear of potential unrest, and most likely an increased military and security presence in the city–which is not something the government wants foreigners to view.
A China Daily article recounted what the government wanted people to see–Tuesday’s event, which included a speech by Vice President Xi Jinping, who claimed that “speeding up development holds the key to resolving all issues in Tibet”. The article launched into accounts of government aide to Tibetans, noting that Xi’s delegation brought pressure cookers and solar-powered TV sets to villages in Tibet.Â Praise was given for the increased number of cars in towns and cities in Tibet, as well as one man’s opportunity to work in a cement factory ten months out of the year, rather than toil at his previous occupation as a farmer.
What the article omitted were the harsh realities of Tibet’s political and cultural oppression, and the continued economic and societal marginalization of Tibetans, despite the government’s attempt to buy Tibetans’ loyalties. It left out the fact that nomadic communities are being forced off of their land to make way for mining operations that destroy the land and poison the waters that flow downstream to 47% of the world’s population; that nomads are forced to slaughter their animals and move into ghetto-style housing blocks, where rates of depression, alcoholism, and suicide are on the rise; that the grasslands are turning into deserts because there are no nomads grazing their animals, whose traditional practices aerate and fertilize the soil, keeping the grasslands healthy and mitigating the effects of climate change.
Apparently pots and pans and television sets are more important.
Celebration marks peaceful liberation (China Daily)
In March I wrote about how foreigners were banned from traveling to Lhasa, and it seems the authorities are denying entry permits to the Tibet Autonomous Region yet again.
In March, the official (read: Chinese government) reason for the ban was the over-crowding of tourists and extreme weather.Â These were blatant lies, as there were few tourists in Lhasa at the timeâ€”only domestic tourists were allowed permitsâ€”and the weather was sunny, occasionally cloudy and windy.Â The real reason was that the government did not want foreign tourists to view firsthand the current crackdown and the heightened military presence in March, due to fears of potential unrest on the anniversary of the Uprisings of 1959 and 2008
In April, permits were re-issued, and fair-skinned foreign tourists toting heavy cameras began trickling in, trailing their tour guides around the city.Â It had been one month since I had seen any foreigners save the few that I knew lived in Lhasa, and I stared and studied them with the same fascination as the Tibetans, not used to the sight of them.Â A recent news article stated that areas of Sichuan, most likely Ngaba, were closed to tourists in April, following the self-immolation of a monk and the subsequent protests and crackdown in the region.
In May, another politically sensitive anniversary occurred on the 23rdâ€”the 60th anniversary of the signing of the 17-Point Agreement, which China dubs the official day of Tibetâ€™s â€œpeaceful liberation.â€ (read the â€œ17 Points of Disagreementâ€: 60 Years of Chinaâ€™s Failed Policies in Tibet)
It is now June, and the two anniversaries have passed, so why is Tibet yet again closed to foreign tourists? Documents cited the May 23rd anniversary, but it seems more likely that the ban is in response to the upcoming July 1st anniversary of the Communist Partyâ€™s founding.Â Likewise, the recent protests in Inner Mongolia may also have something to do with it:
In May, Beijing told foreigners not to sow unrest in its vast northern region of Inner Mongolia, after rare protests by ethnic Mongolians sparked by the hit-and-run death of a herder garnered international attention.
While blaming foreigners for unrest in Inner Mongolia is flattering, credit must be given where credit is due, and the people of Inner Mongolia, Tibet, and East Turkestan need to be recognized for their brave efforts.
The fact that Tibet is so frequently closed due to fears of potential unrest and heightened military crackdowns is absurd and horrifying.Â March through October is the tourist high season, yet three out of the past four months saw bans on foreign tourists in numerous areas in Tibet. Tour guides who have no work in the winter must toil grueling hours in the high season, making most, if not all of their income in that half of the year. A ban on foreign tourists means that hundreds, potentially thousands of tour guides will be making next to nothing this year.
Right now, Lhasa is being built up into a tourist hot spot, with new luxury hotels like the St. Regis Lhasa Resort and the Intercontinental popping up, along with malls, movie theaters, department stores, and restaurants emerging and vying for tourist dollars.Â The St. Regis Lhasa Resort opened its doors in November, boasting that they are offering training and employment opportunities for local Tibetans, but how can a hotel thrive when there are no tourists?Â They have built it, but no one can come.
How can tourism successfully function in Tibet today? It cannot and it will not until Tibet is a free and independent nation, free of military oppression, economic marginalization, and religious and cultural repression.
In the early morning hours on Monday, May 9th, a group of us drove from New York to Washington D.C., to raise our voices at the U.S. China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. When our van pulled up in D.C., Tibetans were already confronting four full buses of Chinese officials and military personal.
SFT board member, Tenzing Barshee, unveiled a Tibetan flag in the face of Deputy Chief of the People’s Liberation Army, General Ma Xiaotian. Tibetan palas and amalas placed flags over the windows of their buses as activists confronted the Chinese officials.
As Tibetans in Ngaba, Eastern Tibet continue to experience repression from Beijing, Tibetans in D.C., brought their voices straight to the Chinese leadership.
By 1:00 PM, we gathered in front of the State Department. As 20 of us began to raise our bull horns, voices, and flags, we were joined by the 8 Ngaba Peace Marchers. During the previous 7 days, the marchers had epically walked from New York to Washington D.C., and insisted on walking the distance from Capitol Hill, where they lobbied their congressional representatives, to the State Department.
For the next 3 hours, we had unprecedented access to limousines and buses full of Chinese officials. We hounded them.
It was reported,”…protesters chanted “Shame on China!” and held signs outside the building that read “China — Stop Military Crackdown in Ngaba, Tibet! (Huffington Post)” and “Tibetan protesters demanded that China ensure the freedom of monks at the Kirti monastery (AFP).”
Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton responded to the Dialogue by saying, the Chinese leadership “is trying to stop history, which is a fool’s errand” and called Beijing’s human rights record “deplorable.”
That night, back in New York, as I walked home, exhausted, my face burned by the sun, and my voice lost, I thought of the 8 marchers who tirelessly walked from New York to Washington D.C. I thought of the hundreds of monks, students, and lay Tibetans in Ngaba whose calls for human rights and freedom we delivered to the Chinese leadership.
It indeed was not a good day to be a Chinese official.
Click here to view photos from the protest.
On March 16th, 2011 when Phuntsok Jarutsang, a 21 year-old Tibetan monk from Kirti Monastery, doused his robes in petrol and set himself ablaze, he sent a spark through the Tibetan world.
Following Phuntsokâ€™s death, over a thousand brave Tibetans in Ngaba (Ch: Aba County), took to the streets. Their protest was swiftly quelled by Chinese security forces. In the ensuing days, Chinese forces arrested dozens of Tibetans and laid siege to Kirti Monastery.
Tensions mounted on April 12th, fearing Chinese security forces plans to take away monks, Tibetans blocked the entrance of Kirti Monastery. Chinese soldiers tried to break through the Tibetansâ€™ blockade by beating and setting dogs on the crowd. The Tibetans stood their ground.
Nine days later, police in Ngaba again attacked unarmed Tibetans and arrested over 350 monks from Kirti Monastery. Around 200 lay Tibetans formed a human chain attempting to stop the monks from being taken away. Two elderly Tibetans were killed as police beat their way through the human chain.
How did China respond to the siege at Kirti? A Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson acknowledged Phuntsokâ€™s death but blamed it on â€œepilepsy treatment delays.â€ (China Daily) Nothing could be more insulting than to blame Phuntsokâ€™s brave and tragic act on epilepsy.
A spokesman for Chinaâ€™s foreign ministry denied that security forces were blockading the monastery and added that Beijingâ€™s policies in the Ngaba were â€œwell received by local peopleâ€ (BBC)
If this was so, then why did thousands of Tibetans pour into the streets after Phuntsokâ€™s death? Why did thousands of Tibetans attend Phuntsokâ€™s funeral to pay homage to Phuntsok? Photos and video received by Free Tibet campaign clearly show the blockade at Kirti and a massive police and military build up in Ngaba. Beijingâ€™s policies have clearly not been â€œwell received.â€
The spark ignited by Phuntsok reached far beyond the streets of Ngaba. Tibetans and supporters across the world have held protests, vigils, and lobbied in support of Tibetans in Ngaba. Every day for the past 3 weeks, Tibetans in New York have staged daily protests and on April 25th, the Tibetan Youth Congress in India launched an Indefinite Hunger Strike in New Delhi.
Tibetans in Ngaba have not only exposed the Chinese governmentâ€™s brutality, but also the blatant lies they have told to cover up their actions.