Chinese forces open fire following prayer gathering in Tibet

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

A Tibetan monk was shot in the head and at least six other people were badly injured when Chinese security forces opened fire on Tibetans who had been offering prayers to mark the Dalai Lama’s birthday on Saturday 6 July. The incident took place in Tawu county, Kandze Prefecture, Kham, Eastern Tibet (1).

Several hundred Tibetans gathered on the sacred Machen Pomra mountain, alongside monks from nearby Nyatso monastery and nuns from the Geden Choeling nunnery, to offer prayers to mark the 78th birthday of the Dalai Lama.

Security forces, thought to be Paramilitary Armed Police (PAP), were at the mountain waiting for them. The Tibetans were prevented from reaching the incense offering stage on the top. Many turned back and went to another part of the mountain to offer prayers. It is believed that they were able to carry out the celebrations.

The circumstances of what transpired next are still unclear but it is known that Chinese security forces opened fire on the unarmed crowd. Two people were critically injured including Tashi Sonam, a monk from Nyatso monastery who was shot in the head.

Tear gas and rubber bullets were also fired upon the gathered crowd. Photos of injured people afterwards appear to show evidence of gunshot wounds, surface level bullet wounds and beatings (2).

One of the injured has been identified as Jangchup Dorjee, a monk from Nyatso monastery and brother of Palden Choetso – a nun who self-immolated in Tawu in November 2011 (3). A number of the injured are still unidentified.

On the night of 6 July, 17 people were reportedly arrested. The abbot of Nyatso monastery and other senior monks went to the detention centre around 11pm (local time) to appeal for the release of the individuals who had been detained. It seems that the authorities released those who had been arrested.

This is the largest confirmed mass shooting in Tibet since last January when Chinese forces opened fire on unarmed protesters in Drango (4) killing at least two and injuring more than 30 others.

Tibetans have assembled on Machen Pomra mountain to mark the Dalai Lama’s birthday in recent years, despite Chinese attempts to ban the events. In 2011 an eyewitness reported that hundreds of soldiers with automatic rifles surrounded the top of the mountain and pointed their guns at people but they did not stop the celebrations (5). Security forces stopped people from reaching the stage for incense offerings last year.

Free Tibet Director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:

“This shocking incident demonstrates the depravity of Chinese oppression in Tibet. A simple gathering to offer prayers to mark the birthday of a religious leader is viewed as an occasion for the occupying Chinese forces to open fire and deploy tear gas.

“We cannot allow this incident to go unnoticed like so many before. The international community must condemn this act in the strongest terms and call on China to recognise the legitimate calls for freedom in Tibet.”


Notes to editors
1. Chinese: Daofu, Garzi Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province
2. Photos available, email

Free Tibet is an international campaigning organisation that stands for the right of Tibetans to determine their own future. We campaign for an end to the Chinese occupation of Tibet and for the fundamental human rights of Tibetans to be respected.

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