60 Tibetans injured as security forces fire on peaceful protest
Area “besieged” following protests over Chinese flag
Free Tibet’s research partner Tibet Watch has confirmed that police in the Tibet Autonomous Region fired on Tibetans on Sunday 6 October, causing serious injuries (1). The Tibetans were demanding the release of a villager arrested after local protests against attempts to force Tibetans to fly the Chinese flag. According to one local resident, “it seems like the Chinese Cultural Revolution has restarted in Kham-Driru.”
Dorjee Dagtsel was arrested in connection with protests that took place on 28 September in Driru county. On 6 October, Tibetans gathered at a local government office and appealed for his release. Security forces started beating the Tibetans causing severe injuries, deployed tear gas and fired indiscriminately into the crowd. 60 people are thought to have been injured during the incident.
Five of the injured Tibetans have been identified so far, including Tagyal who sustained a broken femur and severe bleeding due to gunshot wounds and Tsewang who was shot in the jaw. Both have been taken to a Lhasa hospital and are said to be in a critical condition.
The shooting followed large-scale protests and clashes between Tibetans and security forces in the area the previous week. Thousands of officials had flooded the area earlier in September to impose a “political re-education” campaign on the local population. On 28 September, after being instructed to fly Chinese flags over their houses, Tibetans in Mowa township threw the flags into the river. Authorities responded by sending paramilitary and police forces into the area in large numbers. In subsequent clashes around 40 Tibetans were arrested and many were severely beaten and injured. A number of the most serious casualties have been sent to hospital in Lhasa. In at least one case, a man severely injured in detention was denied appropriate medical treatment for nearly a week.
Later on 28 September, an estimated 1,000 people staged a hunger strike outside local government offices and secured the release of detainees arrested at the original protest.
Following the initial protests, Mowa and Monchen townships in the area were described as “besieged” by Chinese forces (photos available, 2). Thousands of school students boycotted schools in the area after children whose parents were linked to the protest were barred from school.
All movement in and out of the area is prohibited at present and internet and phone communications are severely restricted. The situation is described as “tense”.
In July, security forces in Tawu, Sichuan, fired on Tibetans gathered to celebrate the birthday of the Dalai Lama, injuring at least 14 people, some seriously (3). In August, a large mining protest in Dzatoe County, Qinghai, was broken up with tear gas and beatings with batons and rifle butts (4).
Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:
“China under Xi Jinping is tightening the screw in Tibet. Over recent months there has been an increase in the frequency and severity of violence by the security forces. While individual self-immolation protests have died down, we have seen significant mass protests throughout Tibet. China’s exploitation of Tibet’s natural resources and its continued attempts to impose a Chinese identity onTibet have triggered these protests which in turn, have triggered the kind of brutality that China has employed in Tibet for decades.
“For too long world leaders have been unwilling to antagonise China by publicly challenging it over Tibet. As a result, China feels it can act with impunity. Tibetans being shot as a result of refusing to fly the Chinese flag is proof that the strategy of quiet diplomacy on Tibet has failed: the world community needs to speak clearly, before the situation gets even worse.”
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Notes to editors
1. Location: Dathang township, Driru County, Tibet Autonomous Region (Chinese: Biru County, Naqu Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region
2. Photos available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/freetibetorg/sets/72157636320968983/