Tibetan protests and deadly repression in Sichuan province

Although details and even the death toll are disputed by Chinese authorities and Tibetan exile and support groups, a wave of protest and repression has left several dead in the Tibetan ethnic areas of Sichuan province this week. Three Tibetans were reported killed and several injured when police opened fire on protesters as they gathered in Draggo county, Kardze (Chinese: Garze) prefecture (the Tibetan area of Kham), on Jan. 23, the first day of Chinese New Year. The violence followed the circulation of leaflets in the area saying that Tibetans should not celebrate the New Year because of the recent self-immolations, and declaring an intention by the leaflets’ unnamed authors to set themselves on fire at the Tibetan New Year (Losar, Feb. 22). A clash was also reported that day in nearby Luhuo county, with officials confirming one dead after protesters stormed local shops and a bank, and attacked police vehicles. Two days later, another two were killed in an incident in neighboring Seda county. China’s official Xinhua news agency quoted authorities as saying rioters attacked a police station with stones, knives and petrol bombs, with 14 police injured. Disturbances were also reported Jan. 24 in Pema (Baima) town, seat of Golog prefecture, with several Tibetans detained, including one monk. The town is reportedly under curfew, as security forces have been rushed in.

Lobsang Sangay, the Tibetan kalon tripa (prime minister) in exile, called for a worldwide vigil on Feb. 8 to condemn this week’s killings. “I call on the international community to show solidarity and to raise your voices in support of the fundamental rights of the Tibetan people at this critical time,” he said. “I request that the international community and the United Nations send a fact-finding delegation to Tibet and that the world media be given access to the region as well.” Lobsang called on China to “heed the cries” of at least 16 Tibetans who have burned themselves to death over the past year in protest actions. Tibetan monks led a candlelight protest of the killings Jan. 25 in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala, where the exile government is based.

In Washington, the US State Department’s special coordinator for Tibet issues, Maria Otero, criticized what she called Beijing’s “counterproductive policies” in the region. “We call on the Chinese government to resume substantive, results-oriented dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives to address the underlying grievances of China’s Tibetan population.” (WSJ, VOA, Tibetan Review, Jan. 26; International Campaign for Tibet, Jan. 22)

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