Marital law in Tibet; clashes spread

A week after it began, the uprising in Tibet finally hit the front page of the New York Times March 15, with clashes reported throughout Lhasa the previous day. At the Tromsikhang market, Chinese-owned shops were burned and cars overturned. At least two were killed when police fired on crowds in the city’s Barkhor district. A tourist bus was torched outside the Ramoche temple, where monks clashed with police and protesters waved traditional white scarves, chanting “Free Tibet.” Beijing is said to be bringing in military police troops, as well as dispatching them to other parts of China with significant Tibetan populations—such as the sacred city of Bamei, Sichuan. BBC News says Chinese authorities put the total dead at 10, but the BBC World Service reported early the 16th that the Dalai Lama says he has received reports of up to 100 dead. He also rejects official Chinese assertions that martial law has not been declared. “I have the feeling this is like in 1959, after the 10th of March… I fear more killing, more suffering.”

Asked by the World Service if he would call for a halt to the protests, the Dalai Lama responded: “It is a people’s movement, it is up to them.” He emphasized: “We are not seeking independence or separation. But stability and unity must come from the heart, not simply from force. China has tried that for 50 years and failed… They cannot control human mind. More suppression, more military occupation—more failure.”

The World Service says protesters are now surrounded by security forces in an ethnic-Tibetan district of Lhasa and have been given a deadline of midnight Monday (March 17) to “stand down.”

Uprising spreads to Gansu, Sichuan and the diaspora
With a semblance of calm returning to Lhasa the 15th, protests erupted for a second consecutive day in the city of Xiahe, Gansu province, where an estimated 4,000 Tibetans gathered near the Labrang monastery, culminating in a clash with security forces, the Times reported the 16th.

The Tibetan Center for Human Rights & Democracy (TCHRD) reports March 16 that thousands of Tibetan monks at Amdo Ngaba Kirti monastery, in Ngaba county of the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (TAP) in Sichuan province, “erupted into spontaneous protest” after morning prayers, chanting the slogans “Tibet independence,” “return of the Dalai Lama” and “freedom for Tibet”—and raising the banned Tibetan flag. Within moments, the People’s Armed Police (PAP) burst into the monastery grounds and fired tear gas at the monks. Some ten monks were arrested, and the monastery remains occupied by security forces. A similar scene is reported from the TAP’s Taktsang Lhamo Kirti monastery.

Thousands of Buddhists marched in Nepal and India in solidarity with the Tibet protesters, and the World Service noted reports of Chinese security forces crossing into Nepalese territory to put down protests at the border.

Dalai Lama disavows violence
The March 15 Times account quoted China’s official news agency Xinhua: “The government of Tibet Autonomous Region said Friday there had been enough evidence to prove that the recent sabotage was ‘organized, premeditated and masterminded’ by the Dalai clique.”

The Dalai Lama issued a statement calling on both sides to avoid violence and appealing to China’s leaders to “address the long simmering resentment of the Tibetan people through dialogue with the Tibetan people.” A spokesman for the Dalai Lama called China’s accusations “absolutely baseless.”

See our last post on Tibet.

  1. Tibetan resistance spreads; death toll rises
    Hundreds of Tibetans have been arbitrarily arrested in ongoing house-to-house raids by Chinese security forces in Lhasa beginning March 15. All former political prisoners have been rounded up and imprisoned by the security forces, according to the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD).

    Although martial law has not been officially declared in Lhasa or the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), the TCHRD says the situation “has all the elements of the Martial Law imposed in 1989 by the then ‘TAR’ Party Secretary Hu Jintao, currently the President of People’s Republic of China.” (TCHRD, March 16)

    Protests continue to spread beyond the TAR. Some 500 Tibetan students of the Tibetan Studies Department at the North Western Nationality University, Lanzhou City, Gansu province, staged a peaceful march on the campus March 16. (TCHRD, March 16) Also March 16, 300 monks from Rong Gonchen monastery in Qinghai province’s “Tibet Autonomous Prefecture” marched on local government offices, but were blocked by security forces. The monastery is now surrounded by a heavy presence of paramilitary troops. (TCHRD, March 16)

    Eight are reported dead at Ngaba Kirti monastery in Ngaba county, Sichuan province, following repression of marches. The bodies were brought back to the monastery March 16 after the People’s Armed Police (PAP) attacked marching Tibetan monks. (TCHRD, TCHRD, March 16)

    All sources online at

  2. Dalai Lama refuses to condemn the violence
    These protests are clearly anti-Chinetic. The Buddhist world must condemn the violence. Why do Tibetans let their children throw rocks? Where is their Nelson Mandela? Tibetans will be free when they learn to love their children more than they hate the Chinese.

    The 72-year-old Tibetan leader’s dilemma was clear Sunday as he spoke to reporters, reiterating his commitment to nonviolence but at the same time refusing to condemn the violent protests inside Tibet.

    «This is something like the people’s movement,» he said, calling himself just a spokesman for the Tibetan people. «Morally, I don’t want to demand ‘do this, do that.

    «I support their protest in a peaceful way that expresses their deep resentment,» said the Dalai Lama, who has personified Tibetans’ struggle for self-determination since fleeing into exile in India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

    He also said activists inside Tibet had requested that he not ask them to curtail the protests, which appear to have led to wide-scale bloodshed.

    1. Why should he “condemn the violence”?
      For starters, your question betrays your bias. By “violence,” you clearly mean Tibetan violence—rather than the far greater Chinese repressive violence.

      Secondly, is it true that the Dalai Lama has not “condemned the violence”? He has clearly called for both sides to refrain from violence—while having enough humility not to make condescending demands on the oppressed from the safety of exile.

      But more to the point, why should the Dalai Lama “condemn the violence”? You sound like Washington and the Israelis, with their incessant demands that the Palestinian leadership “condemn the (Palestinian) violence”—while the Israelis get a virtual blank check to be as violent as they wanna be.

      “Where is their Mandela?” Mandela supported armed struggle for a generation before the apartheid regime essentially agreed to acquiesce in its own demise under internal and international pressure. Why don’t you put your energies into turning up the external heat on Beijing, and help lay the conditions for a nonviolent solution?

        1. There was no shortage…
          …of hypocrisy all around in that episode, as we noted at the time. But you seem to be suffering from some hypocrisy yourself, Mr. Anonymous—or else, thinking you’ve got the Straight Poop after reading one short news account. According to YNet of Feb. 15, 2006, the Dalai Lama did urge the Israelis to recognize and open dialogue with the Hamas government:

          But the harmony was pushed aside when the Tibetan leader was immediately thrown into the cold waters of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and asked whether Israel should conduct negotiations with Hamas.

          The Dalai Lama described the question as obstructive, adding that it was too early to answer it. He quickly added that the Hamas won the majority, and that democratic elections must be respected. Addressing Hamas, he added that it’s best to talk, saying he wanted to enjoin them into that belief.

          The Tibetan leader said that if, during his visit in Bethlehem, Hamas members would want to meet him, he would gladly oblige.

          Good enough?

            1. Has it occurred to you…
              …that in asking Hamas to refrain from violence he was implicitly recognizing the legitimacy of their cause? What, was he supposed to ask the Israelis, “Could you please occupy Palestine nonviolently?” He did ask the Israelis to recognize and open talks with the Hamas government. If that isn’t good enough for you, I assume you are just fishing for excuses to dis the Dalai.

  3. New York Times and Tibetan Protests
    Thanks for your post on the Tibet protests but I am not comfortable with your story beginning with the New York Times which I think is note very objective in its reporting especially when it concerns Tibet and the Tibetan people’ struggle for their homeland. The March 15 Times’ story lacks objectivity; it used eyewitnesses’ accounts of four Chinese but not a single Tibetan in Tibet.

    1. We agree with you
      We agree with you. We noted that this is the first prominent coverage the Times has given the uprising since it began on March 7. We have been covering it comprehensively since then, mostly relying on sources such as the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy. We do think it is important to note what the Times is reporting on Tibet, as it reveals much about how Western elites view the crisis (and China).