12/07/2020

More injured by gunshots than earlier reported in Tawu

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Smoke from incense and juniper leaves fill the air as Tawu Tibetans celebrate Dalai Lama’s birthday on 6 July.
Smoke from incense and juniper leaves fill the air as Tawu Tibetans celebrate Dalai Lama’s birthday on 6 July.

New information from Tibet sheds light on important details related to 6 July shootings, beatings and teargassing by China’s People’s Armed Police (PAP) forces in Tawu (Ch: Daofu/Dawu) County on the 78th birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Kardze (Ch: Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province. (Click here for our previous report on Tawu shootings.)

According to information received by TCHRD, on the afternoon of 6 July armed police detained 18 Tibetans from a bridge on the foothills of Machen Pomra mountain, en route to the famous Tawu Nogen Stupa (Tib: Tawu Nogen Chorten). Out of them, 14 have sustained gunshot wounds and are receiving treatment. There is no death reported yet although the injured are not out of danger.

TCHRD has identified a few more injured Tibetans. Yama Tsering, 72, was severely beaten and got four of his ribs broken. Another Tibetan man, Dekyi Gonpo aka Goleb has become deaf in one ear due to beatings. Ngawang, a former administrative staff (Tib: chanzoe) at Nyatso Monastery and a layman named Tamka Choeden have been injured in police beatings. Another female school student named Palden Wangmo, was not only beaten but armed police also seized her gold earrings and a wristwatch. These items had not been returned yet to its rightful owner.

Tibetans at the religious ceremony to observe Dalai Lama’s 78th birthday as armed police watched from afar in Tawu.
Tibetans at the religious ceremony to observe Dalai Lama’s 78th birthday as armed police watched from afar in Tawu.

On 6 July, armed police stopped local Tibetans from conducting sangsol, a Tibetan Buddhist ritual of burning incense and juniper leaves to mark important occasions, at Machen Pomra by surrounding the mountain. Faced with armed police blockade, local Tibetans opted for another venue nearby. At the ad-hoc venue, local Tibetans held sangsol prayers, hung prayer flags and made offerings in front of a portrait of the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, as armed police watched from the distance.

Hundreds of Tibetans had showed up bearing food and other items for what was intended to be a grand festive occasion on the 78th birthday of the Dalai Lama. At monasteries, nunneries and local homes in Tawu, people burned incense and lit butter lamps to mark the day.

PAP officer Tsering Norbu (Ch: Cireng Nuobu)
PAP officer Tsering Norbu (Ch: Cireng Nuobu)

Local sources in Tawu further told TCHRD that armed police provoked the bloody confrontation by stoning and smashing the car windows of Jangchup Dorjee, a brother of nun Palden Choetso who died of self-immolation protest on 3 November 2011. At the time, Jangchup Dorjee, a monk at Nyatso Monastery, and other Tibetans were returning home after the completion of the religious ceremony. A dispute ensued between local Tibetans and armed police over the stoning, after which armed police came down to the bridge and confronted the Tibetans. Attempts made by the abbots and other senior monks to settle the issue peacefully failed when Tsering Norbu, a leader of the PAP contingent gave orders to shoot, beat and teargas the Tibetans.

Khen Rinpoche, the abbot of Nyatso Monastery (facing front on left) along with other senior monks mediating with local Tibetans and armed police.
Khen Rinpoche, the abbot of Nyatso Monastery (facing front on left) along with other senior monks mediating with local Tibetans and armed police.

Before the bloody confrontation, the abbot of Nyatso Monastery tried to mediate by talking to armed police, particularly Tsering Norbu, a senior PAP officer, who was responsible for giving the order to shoot, according to local sources in Tawu. Tsering Norbu turned deaf ear to the abbot’s appeal. “Khen Rinpoche (abbot) told him (Tsering Norbu) to be mindful of his high official status as a county PAP officer and not to escalate the tension as it would only result in more suffering to local Tibetans,” a local source in Tawu told TCHRD. Khen Rinpoche reminded the PAP officers about simmering tension in Tawu, which could blow out of control at any moment if care was not taken to calm tension.

On the evening of 6 July, after the shootings, over 3,000 local Tibetans gathered at the courtyard of Nyatso Monastery and held a vociferous protest condemning the PAP actions and called for immediate release of those detained earlier that day. The protesters informed the authorities of their decision to withdraw their children from Chinese government-run schools, to boycott farming, and to block all traffic movement in Tawu County if their demands were not met. Sources also reported other protests in eight different locations in Tawu; these protests were mainly staged by nuns and lay Tibetans. Local Tibetans and nuns from Geden Choeling Nunnery, Ngagong Nunnery, and other nunneries in their area also organized protests.

Threatened by the spectre of a county-wide movement, the Chinese authorities released the detained Tibetans at around midnight on 7 July after their detention at around 4 pm on 6 July.

Armed police making their way down from Machen Pomra to the bridge where at least 14 Tibetans were brutally shot and injured.
Armed police making their way down from Machen Pomra to the bridge where at least 14 Tibetans were brutally shot and injured.

As reported earlier by TCHRD, Nyatso Monastery has borne all expenses related to the treatment of the injured. Local sources told TCHRD that Nyatso Monastery has refused to accept financial help from the Chinese government in keeping with the wishes of the local people. More importantly, local Tibetans say accepting money would perpetuate the culture of impunity enjoyed by Chinese authorities in Tibet. As one local Tibetan was quoted as saying, “China thinks it can settle any inconvenient or illegal actions with money. This is what they have been doing for so long. What they did on 6 July was brutal and illegal, and money is not the answer.” Another local Tibetan said, “We don’t need their money. We would like them to respect our wishes, recognise the reality, and address our legitimate grievances.”

TCHRD earlier reported that PAP officers expressed their apology for their actions on 6 July in front of local Tibetans. Local sources now say the apology never happened although a PAP officer who smashed the car windows of monk Jamyang Dorjee attempted to offer apology. “The officer wanted to apologise but was stopped by Tsering Norbu (Ch: Cireng Nuobu), the leader of the PAP contingent, who openly ordered the PAP soldiers to shoot anyone who does not listen,” a local eyewitness informed TCHRD.

Communication channels in Tawu remain erratic posing huge challenges in getting more comprehensive information about current situation. On the afternoon of 15 July, the official Chinese language website of Tawu County (click here for the website) was inaccessible. But the same evening, the website was working although the last updated news item was on 5 July, one day before the bloody crackdown in Tawu.