Defiant Tibetans hold solidarity prayer march for victims of Chinese crackdown

Upon witnessing massive protests across the Tibetan plateau since 10 March, Tibetan people from all walks of life in Holkha Township, Tsigorthang County (Xinghai Xian) Tsolho “TAP” Qinghai Province staged a peaceful solidarity march and later held a prayer session for those who lost their lives in the recent series of protests in Tibet on 25 March. Following the peace march and prayer session at the township government headquarters, three Tibetans were arbitrarily arrested in an early morning raid in their home by the People’s Armed Police (PAP) and Public Security Bureau (PSB) officials, according to confirmed information received by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD).

With severe restrictions placed on communication lines by the Chinese authorities, further information on the peaceful political dissents are hard to come by, however, a few brave and courageous Tibetans despite being aware of the grave risk have sent first hand information substantiated with pictures. The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) received exclusive fresh pictures depicting peaceful Tibetan solidarity march in Holkha Township on 25 March. 

According to confirmed information received by the TCHRD, on 25 March, hundreds of Tibetans from all walks of life including monks in Holkha Township staged a peaceful solidarity march at the main market square of the Township. The marchers were calling for an immediate end to the brutal crackdown on the Tibetan protesters in Lhasa and series of Tibetan protests in other parts of Tibet. In a unique display of their support for those who have lost their lives and were injured in recent protests, many marchers were seen carrying traditional prayer wheels in their hands while reciting prayers (Mani Mantra) and others holding a huge banner bearing text written in Tibetan and Chinese, that reads: Peace, Democracy. We mourn and pray (mani mantra) for our people who lost their lives. The marchers finally ended their procession at the Holkha Township government headquarters where they held a sit-in protest and recited prayer throughout the day. Although PAP and PSB officials were seen in their combat gear during the entire peaceful solidarity march, there was no report of arrest or detention of Tibetan marchers that day.

However, in a sudden change of tactic, the authorities launched an early morning raid in the homes of Tibetans suspected to be the leaders in the previous day protest. The PAP and PSB officials arbitrarily arrested at least three Tibetans including a female from their homes and took them to an unknown location. Arrestees are: Rinbum Gyal and Tsewang, both in their late 20’s and a female whose identity could not be ascertained at the moment. A Public Notice imprint with the official stamp of PSB was issued demanding protesters of the ‘illegal’ 25th March protest to surrender voluntarily for leniency. At the same time, it warned protesters of severe punishment who fail to surrender to the authorities within three days’ deadline. There is no current information on the number of people arrested and on the exact location of where the three are detained.

According to sources, following their arrest in the early morning raid on 26 March, more than 600 Tibetans from nine villages under Holkha Township staged a peaceful sit-in protest in front of Township government headquarters demanding immediate release of those arrested. The protesters sat for the entire day demanding the authorities to heed their demand. After a daylong protest, the protesting crowd finally dispersed after township authorities agreed to secure their releases. The sources confirmed that protesters pledge to undertake a similar protest at the government headquarters if authorities fail to deliver their promise.

Although there was no report of protest by Tibetans on 27 March in Holkha Township, yet at around 3 PM (Beijing Standard Time) hundreds of additional PAP and PSB officials in military trucks were flooded into the market place to check a further outburst of protest by Tibetans. Military troops in several rows were seen patrolling the streets of Holkha Township. Later that day, four people, Malle and Tsekyab Gyal both male in their late 20’s from Holkha Township and two Tibetan businesswomen from other parts of Tibet were arrested by the security forces for unknown reason. There is no information on the location of their detention. The present atmosphere in Holkha Township is known to be very tense with heavy presence of military forces.

TCHRD expresses its serious concern over the prevailing circumstances in many parts of Tibetan inhabited areas and urges the Government of the People’s Republic of China to allow protesters to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, opinion and peaceful assembly, to refrain from excessive use of force, and to ensure those arrested are not ill-treated and are accorded due process in line with international standards.

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