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Report from Lhasa

Tuesday, Feb 21, 2012

Identity control in a restaurant. Lhasa, 31 January 2012.

Someone I know who has just returned from Lhasa sent this to me. It is deeply troubling.
Jamyang Norbu

* * *

Report from Lhasa: February 18, 2012

I have just returned from Lhasa. Tibetans are disappearing; everyone is terrified about the bloodshed which seems inevitable.

Lhasa consists of approximately 1.2 million Chinese and approximately 200,000 Tibetans. The majority of these Tibetans live in an area which is now almost entirely enclosed by military compounds with walls between 10-16 feet; some with barbed wire. This isolation gives the impression of what the Warsaw Ghetto was like. Inside the “enclosed” area groups of armed soldiers, S.W.A.T. teams, and police patrol the streets 24 hours a day. Military drill songs can be heard throughout the day. S.W.A.T trucks and rows of 6 to 15 armored vehicles and tanks come through the area on a daily basis. Each vehicle has 3 to 4 soldiers at the opening turret, armed with assault rifles or machine guns aimed at the Tibetans.

All Tibetans must carry identification at all times. Tibetans residing in Lhasa are required to register with the police. There are approximately 134 new Police station checkpoints in Lhasa for random searches of pedestrians and vehicles. In addition to the military compounds in and around Lhasa, permanent military posts holding 1-10 armed soldiers have been established throughout the city.

The Kala Chakra Ceremony in November 2011, held in Bodh Gaya, India by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, was attended by approximately 10,000 Tibetans from China. Among these were reportedly 3000 Government informants. The remaining 7000 Tibetans from China, on returning to Tibet via India, Nepal, Hong Kong, etc. were ALL brought to reeducation camps for a minimum of three months. Elderly people begged to go home in the evenings due to the cold, but they were not allowed. In many instances when family members brought blankets for their elderly family, they were told they were no longer there and the authorities didn’t know where they were. Among the 7000 Tibetans in reeducation camps, interrogation from the Chinese police was common practice. Tibetans are made to disclose their jobs (from which they are fired), loose pensions or other such benefits, disclose names of relatives and their contact information, including addresses and professions. Random identification checks and House searches are done; family members are brought in for “questioning”.

Approximately 50 nuns going to a retreat on a bus, were detained and held for questioning after an informant accused them of speaking against the government. Their whereabouts are presently unknown.

A Tibetan artist who painted a Tibetan looking upwards towards a clock above their head, titled “Waiting” was arrested for the symbolism used in the painting.

I was told that many people were taken away by the State Security and don’t come back. They just disappear.

Roadside checkpoints in the Tibetan Autonomous Region are used to keep Tibetans that are not residents of Lhasa, away from the city. In addition, if a monk or nun is in a vehicle the police/soldiers will make them return to their monasteries on foot. All Tibetans riding in such vehicles will have their full identification listed. The Potala Palace is a place of pilgrimage for Tibetans, especially during Losar (Tibetan New Year) but the roadside checkpoints prevent this and limit the number of Tibetans in Lhasa.

Approximately 300-400 monks previously resided at the Potala Palace; today the number is around 36. Soldiers and other military personnel now live in the rooms where the monks used to reside. Although it is listed as a World Heritage site, the Chinese government now uses the Potala as a military post. A large Military complex is situated within several blocks. The nunnery, located across from grounds before the Potala Palace, now has Military bunkers.

Jokhang Monastery has such a large military presence in and around the area that you have to be careful not to bump into soldiers and police as they crowd the streets of the surrounding market when they go on patrol.

Drepung Monastery was home to 7 to 10,000 monks now has only between 500-700. A hunger strike of 100 monks is said to be underway.

Sera Monastery once had approximately 6,000 monks now has 200-300 monks. Sera Monastery is surrounded by police stations and military compounds. Soldiers and police constantly patrol the grounds of the monastery, including where the monks debate.

Norbulingka Palace has between 6-10 monks from almost 300 in the past. The Dalai Lama’s small personal menagerie has been sold to a Chinese businessman and a separate admission is charged to see the animals, although the entire Norbulingka park is listed as a World Heritage site.

Please send this report to anyone who can help, especially US government officials, newspapers, humanitarian organizations, etc.

Thank you for your help!

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  • avatar Elliot Sperling says:

    Please note that a Chinese translation of this article is available at the 说, 还是不说? website as well as at Woeser’s blog. Woeser has added a note at the beginning of the essay which readers should take into consideration. I translate it here:

    In order to understand the actual state of affairs in Lhasa we should state that this report on recent conditions in Lhasa is basically true. However, two points need explanation:

    1. “Lhasa consists of approximately 1.2 million Chinese and approximately 200,000 Tibetans.” This sentence is pretty close to reality with regard to the number of Tibetans, but “1.2 million Chinese” is obviously too many. Even if this number includes the number of military troops in Lhasa, it still seems to be too many.

    2. “Among these were reportedly 3000 Government informants. The remaining 7000 Tibetans from China… were ALL brought to reeducation camps for a minimum of three months.” In this sentence the statement that 3,000 people were informants is really an exaggeration. And the Tibetans brought for reeducation were all Lhasa Tibetans. At present we have no information regarding whether Tibetans from Kham and Amdo who were returning from the Kalacakra were sent for reeducation or not. So there cannot have been 7,000 Tibetans sent for reeducation. The figures that I heard were upwards of 1,000. As for whether or not the period of their subjection to reeducation is to be as long as three months, I’ve had no such information. But according to what is known, it’s to last until the end of this March.

  • avatar Jamyang Tashi says:

    Reading through this article was arduous, not because of the seemingly Sad situations mentioned in the article, but it’s really hard to digest some of the factual errors and the blatantly exaggerated numbers. Pretending to be an academia and writing a comprehensive report like this based completely on rumors is a very dangerous work and also highly discouraging sometimes. Since when Sera monastery had 6000 monks? Maybe few hundreds years ago, but Sera monastery’s actual monk population had been on a rapid declining rail since Chinese occupation.

    There is also one part where the author talked about having police check points everywhere, which to some extend is true but I can definitively tell you it’s not set there to stop or harass Law Abiding Tibetans. If you have ever been to Lhasa or any other heavily Tibetan populated regions, you will find an answer for why there are more polices everywhere. It’s because we Tibetans tend to use our Yak-meat feed brawny more than our intellectual brainy. I am not saying we Tibetans are uncivilized or ruthless as Chinese portrays, all I am trying to say here is we tend to act before we think of the consequences. It’s a common place in Lhasa where young and sometimes even old Tibetans get extremely intoxicated and get into often fatal brawls. It’s commonly known that Khampa are people not to be messed with, because people had seen from time to time that Khampa people stroll around Bharkor brandishing sharp swords looking for problems. There is legendary stories like people running for help with their intestines in their hands. Old Achalas circumambulating Jokhang had notoriously became easy targets for petty thieves and people to bully around. If these kinds of disgusting occurrences can be stopped, I don’t mind having police forces bugging around.

    P.S: I know lot of people will find this offensive and indigestible, but sometimes facts are facts, you need to face it at some point. Please Let me help you with my identity, I am 100% tibetan, you don’t have to worry about me being a chinese spy or an informant. I love Tibet and concern about Tibetan as much as any of you do.

    • avatar Namgyal says:

      Situation in Tibet is crucial and Tibetans have become an endangered race I should say. Numbers might not seem right I know but the report itself has great truth in and its the communist act which we are against and we should condemn. Since the illegal occupation the communist regime has always lied and it never gave the exact number of people being prisoned or killed under their administration. So many Tibetans are missing – shouldn’t we count them as killed by the Communist or what ?

      As for the drunk Tibetans misbehaving in Lhasa, I feel so sorry for them and believe me I would also do something like that when frustrated. Generally why do people get drunk and why is it that there are drunkards everywhere in this world, we should seriously give a second thought instead of just writing – No matter where on earth people live some sort of problems make them rely on drugs and alcohol. Even the Eastern Europe countries when under the great USSR occupation alcohol and smokes were dirt cheap as is in Tibet. I guess there are reason for the communist to have such things sold cheap ( Not to talk of bars,clubs and gambling stations ) and even today there are drunkards in the streets of such European countries. People are mugged for few dollars on the streets of every country I am sure whether its in the streets New York, Toronta, New Delhi or Dharamsala. But, the current military presence in the streets of Lhasa are not the result of the drunk khampas with a swords in their hand I must argue and I thinks its because of the Tibetans showing their unacceptability and resistance towards the brutal Communist Regime.

      Therefore, every Tibetan who lives and enjoys the freedom outside Tibet should stand up and rise against Communist China or atleast do their part by keeping quiet instead of criticizing the ones who try.

  • avatar Yves says:

    “The Kala Chakra Ceremony in November 2011, held in Bodh Gaya,”
    error about date of Kalachakra,I don’t understand such a mistake for a date so important for Tibetans coming from Tibet, China or elsewhere
    Everybody know that it was at the beginning of january, and i was there vidéos 1h06’18’’ photos 12’23’’

  • avatar Aryashakya says:

    Where is Obama? Where is the European Union? Where is OTAN or NATO? Where is the United Nations? Where are the United Nations Peace Corps?

  • avatar Aryashakya says:

    Save the Tibetan children! At all costs, save the Tibetan children! Take the Tibetan children out of China! Out of China, take the Tibetan children! Anyway you can!

  • avatar Aryashakya says:

    Save the Tibetan Buddhist Monks! Save the Tibetan Buddhist Nuns! Take the Tibetan Buddhist nuns out of China! Take the Tibetan Buddhist Monks out of China! Anyway you can!

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