Concerns over military build-up and escalating tension at Tibetan monastery

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

There is increasing concern over the rapidly growing Chinese military presence at Kirti Monastery, Ngaba Town, Ngaba County (Chinese: Aba), Eastern Tibet and in Ngaba Town itself (1). Free Tibet has repeatedly witnessed a build-up of military presence around the anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan Uprising in key Tibetan areas, particularly since the Tibetan protests of 2008. In Ngaba, which has a history of unrest, tension has been further escalated this year by the death of Phuntsog, a young monk from Kirti monastery, from injuries sustained when he set fire to himself on 16 March 2011 (2).

Since Phuntsog’s death there has been a steady increase in numbers of military personnel at the monastery as well as restrictions on movement into and out of the monastery. On 12 April 2011Free Tibet received reports of the arrival of dozens of military trucks and the presence of armoured vehicles at Kirti monastery. Unconfirmed reports have also been received that further military personnel arrived in Ngaba Town on the same day and are being housed in the local government hospital.

Local people, mostly women and the elderly, took the protection of the monastery and its monks into their own hands by forming a human shield at the gates of the monastery on 12 April to prevent military personnel from entering. There are unconfirmed reports that the police used electric batons and attack dogs to disperse the people. Following the confrontation the army entered the monastery.

Free Tibet Director Stephanie Brigden said

“We are extremely concerned at the escalation of tension in Ngaba. As recently as 2008, disproportionate and lethal force was used with impunity against peacefully protesting unarmed civilians, resulting in 13 deaths. Since Phuntsog’s death, a number of monks from Kirti monastery have been detained; given China’s record of mistreatment of people in detention, we are very concerned for their well-being.
The international community must call upon the Chinese administration to guarantee that disproportionate force will not be used against civilians in Ngaba, Tibet, and that anyone detained will be protected by the law.”

Despite efforts by the Chinese authorities to disperse local people, up to 100 elderly local people slept outside Kirti monastery on 12 April to prevent the removal of monks during the night. According to local witnesses, people fear that the army have come to take monks into detention based on rumours that monks between the ages of 18 and 40 were to be taken from Kirti monastery to ‘study’ elsewhere (3).

Since 19 March 2011, Chinese authorities are reported to have been at the monastery to ‘re-educate’ the monks. Such ‘re-education’ is intended to stamp out dissent and ensure loyalty to China (4). According to one report an official from Beijing came to the monastery on 11 April and told the monks that the re-education campaign would continue for three months or until the monks “react favourably”.

Homes in Ngaba town were searched during the night of 12-13 April and identity cards were checked as authorities searched for people staying in Ngaba who are not from the area. Chinese authorities have repeatedly demonstrated concern that unrest is instigated by outsiders, as testified to by numerous former detainees who have spoken to Free Tibet of being repeatedly interrogated about the role of outsiders in protests.
Notes to editor

(1) Kirti monastery, home to over 2,000 monks, and the surrounding Ngaba County have witnessed regularly intensified security since Chinese armed police fired into a crowd of unarmed protesters in Ngaba town on 16 March 2008, killing at least 13 civilians.

(3) There is a precedent for such detentions: a large number of monks were taken from Lhasa to an army facility in Qinghai in 2010 and detained there for several months to undergo ‘re-education’


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.

For further information and interviews please contact Free Tibet’s Director <a href="">Stephanie Brigden</a>
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