China sends in troops to quell monks' peaceful protests

Image: a snapshot I took in 2006 of ethnic Tibetan nuns praying in a temple in Lhasa, Tibet. This small temple is very close to the site of large protests taking place this week. Some of the women in this temple told me that fellow nuns had been jailed, tortured, or "disappeared" for expressing spiritual allegiance to the Dalai Lama, and to the notion of Tibetan sovereignty.

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The Chinese government this week dispatched military troops and police to important monasteries in Tibet to crack down on the largest protests by ethnic Tibetan Buddhist monks in the Himalayan region in 20 years. Witnesses are reporting that trucks full of troops have surrounded Drepung monastery in Lhasa, as police surround nearby Sera monastery. Snip from the Independent:

These two sites have strong symbolic significance, as they were the training grounds for the monks who led Tibet before the People's Liberation Army came in 1950 and ousted the Dalai Lama.

Protests began on Monday as monks marked the 49th anniversary of the failed uprising against Chinese rule that culminated in the Dalai Lama's exile. The protests are the biggest since the late 1980s, when riots led to martial law. Back then, China's current President, Hu Jintao, was the Communist Party chief in Tibet.

Signs of defiance in Tibet come just five months before the Olympic Games in Beijing, when the eyes of the world will be on China. Tibetan activists are expected to use the extra attention to highlight their cause.

Among the many reports today, this sad and symbolic story: two of the protesting monks from Drepung are in critical condition after stabbing their wrists and chests as a form of protest.

The two monks were identified as Kalsang and Damchoe, both originally from Kirti monastery in Sichuan province and now resident at Drepung monastery. Sources said the men had stabbed themselves in the chest, hands, and wrists. Both refused to be moved to hospital but were taken instead to the monastery clinic, the sources said.

"There are many other monks who hurt themselves in desperation, and protests are going on inside the monastery as of March 12 and 13," one source said. Another source described the two monks' condition as critical and said they were not expected to survive.

The pro-Tibet-independence advocacy group Students for a Free Tibet has a news coverage roundup of the protest inside Tibet, and a roundup of related video reports, including the clip above, which shows exiled Tibetan monks and nuns in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh protesting, and vowing to return by foot over the Himalayas to Tibet.

Previously on BB:

  • Police attack peacefully protesting monks in Tibet
  • Protest inside Tibet captured on tourists' cameras
  • Hacking the Himalayas: Xeni's stories and trek-blog from Tibet and India
  • Boing Boing tv: Miss Tibet/Eames Elephants
  • Google, China, and genocide: web censorship and Tibet
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    1. nowadays protest accomplishes less than nothing in America, why should we expect it to have more success in China?

    2. I suppose current video from inside Tibet is a little hard to do, give them some time.

      While you are waiting, here is some from 2006

      As for the futility of protest, that’s OK, not everyone agrees.

    3. I agree, protests accomplish nothing in America.

      “When police dogs were biting black women and black children and black babies in Birmingham, Alabama, that Kennedy talked about what he couldn’t do because no federal law had been violated.

      As soon as the Negroes exploded and began to protect themselves…then Kennedy sent for troops.”
      -Malcolm X

    4. maybe protests are worth nothing.
      but at least we can rest assured that america will defend the defenseless.
      it is about justice after all, isn’t it ?

    5. I was in Tibet in 2000 and spoke to monks – especially one particularly young one who was a very good english speaker. I was asking them what their thought about China and their situation was and he was downbeat. He said that basically everyone accepted that they are part of China now and all they want is to preserve their culture – that was at a time when there where only 40 individual tourists where allowed (that is outside guided groups) at once up there. I got the feeling that the destruction by the Chinese was already at a level of irreversibility and soon the monasteries would only be tourist attractions. The monk said things did progress a bit and got better with the influx of foreign tourists who bring money and the chinese gave the monasteries a bit to rebuild and lots of the rural ones actually where in the process of rebulding – just for tourism which is sad but it did seem to benefit the monks equally. Lhasa at that point was already lost (the biggest whorehouse in bigger political China was in Lhasa – the most sacred place in the world I would say).
      I think the huge protests going on are not good for the tibetan communities – especially not for Lhasa – Han-Chinese already outnumber Tibetans up there and there is no way you can reverse this other then shooting a lot of people dead – its kinda like the same story as with the aborigines in australia just in the earlier stages.
      The monk said that a lot of the people think it would be best to go for a recognition of their heritage and culture and live with the irreversible fact that they are part of the bigger China. It seems that the Tibetans in India disagree and meddle and I really really think there is a better form of protest in these day and age then bitter confrontation against a much bigger enemy that has grown to the big dragon that hold the world in check with just a breath of cheap mass labour. I sincerely believe the current events should be looked at critically for the good of the tibetan people because in China there is noone who can help them militarily and there is none willing to help them morally on in the powerhouses of this world – its best to see where the solution is not how to stir up so much trouble that another 100.000 of them disappear again.

    6. If you are a chinese and living in a western country and still consider the invasion not an invasion please think about this:
      if your country political mantra is right then Italian “People Liberation Army” should invade europe and northern Africa since these areas has been part of the Roman Empire!

      ps Is hilarious that China’s “People Liberation Army” are killing and torturing people instead of liberating them?!

    7. Kixin – Those soldiers might not be Han Chinese, but they are still Chinese soldiers. What other government would they represent?

    8. Xeni – Thank you for bringing light to on BB these issues that the Tibetians are once again up against with the Chinese military. It truly crushes me to hear accounts like this and the firsthand experiences of people like Falk (#9) who understand the vast differences between the peaceful culture of Tibet in contrast with [what seems like] the worldwide majority (highlighted by almost daily terrorist attacks).

    9. @11

      be careful,

      “and a roundup of related video reports, including the clip above, which shows exiled Tibetan monks and nuns in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh protesting, and vowing to return by foot over the Himalayas to Tibet”

      The soldiers in the video clip might bt throwing Tibetan protesters into trucks but they are Indian soldiers working for the Indian govenment. Also remember that Indian hosts many Tibetan refugees. They may or may not be sympathetic, but a protest on Indian soil wil be dealt with by them as an Indian problem. Hence what you see.

      I enjoin you to be careful if you wish to be a helpful ally of the Tibetan cause. The other side plays fast and loose with facts, Tibet does not.

    10. Why is it that we always only hear the perspective of the monks in Tibet? Are they the only people living there? To me it seems like they’re the only people with good media skills there (just as they seem quite privileged otherwise as well – after all, you don’t see them working too much).

      What about the farmers that live there? The average person, who’s struggling to make a living? What do *they* think about the situation? I know by now that the monks are not happy about the development, but don’t expect me to cry too many tears about complaints from some religious elite (no matter how pretty their robes and temples are).

    11. go to the BBC website. The Tibet feature has video of interviews with non-monk Tibetans. If you really want the opinions of such Tibetans, search the web. There are interviews and news reports going back years.

      I begin to wonder about the sincerity of those who continue to characterize all the unrest in Tibet as monk driven. To take time to express this opinion and at the same time not appear to try to get facts themselves leads me to wonder if they have an agenda.

      China uses considerable resources officially and unofficially to prosecute state programmes.

    12. It is difficult to not be infuriated at th prnng rrgnc f th flthy Communist scm. They think the whole world should be a scowling, gray prison with no religious or philosophical freedom at all.

      I hope Communism in China is crushed into oblivion during my lifetime. That would be such a wonderful thing to see.

    13. Takuan, how dare you continue to accuse people of being insincere or having an agenda that supports the brutality of the Chinese just because they question the religious elite of Tibet and wonder what ordinary Tibetans think. You have made many statements that clearly show that YOU have an agenda and a strong bias, like this one:

      “The other side plays fast and loose with facts, Tibet does not.”

      Oh, sure… ‘Tibet’ — by which I assume you mean the monks, since there is no Tibetan government other than the Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile — is made up of entirely honest, unbiased people with absolutely no agenda and no shred of dishonesty in them. I guess they’re some kind of perfect being, or perhaps ethical robots.

      t’s vry, vry clr tht y r srsly ntllctlly dshnst, nd tht y ccs thrs f bng xctly wht y r. Gt fckd, nd stp cldng nd mddyng sss wth yr prpgnd. Dgm nd bllsht r dgm nd bllsht vn f thy r ntndd t b n th srvc f gd nd nt vl.

    14. Motisbeard, I see you ran out of arguments.

      RJ, if all you know about the world’s Communist states is a handful of stereotypes plus some overblown midcentury anti-Communist rhetoric, I think you can spare us having to listen to it. We’ve heard it too.

    15. Motisbeard, the line that it is only the deposed elitist monks who complain about the latest Chinese invasion is the Communists’ attempt at undermining support for Tibetan independence in the West. That others are uncritically repeating the line doesn’t make it any less propaganda, or more worthy of automatic respect than anything else in the media. Be skeptical, by all means, but please use that skepticism as a tool for finding out the truth, not as an excuse for inaction. As Takuan has pointed out, if you don’t trust the monks then there are interviews with ordinary Tibetans out there in the webosphere, easy to find. There are even books about the subject.

    16. Truth must be served. China; open the borders of Tibet to free visits from the press and people of other nations. No more secrecy, no more unreasonable restrictions. If there is nothing to hide,let the world come to Tibet and hear what Tibetans wish to say.

      You want free speech, so do they.

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