Tibetans tortured in detention following shooting at Dalai Lama birthday celebrations

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Free Tibet has obtained further, confirmed information about the shootings in Tawu, eastern Tibet, on 6 July and events that followed. In at least one confirmed case electric shock was used on a 72 year-old man in detention.

Many people were severely beaten during the incident with some, subsequently, requiring hospitalisation. A large protest was staged by the local community following the incident, which secured the release of many detainees.

As previously reported (1), monk Tashi Sonam was shot in the head during the incident and hospitalised: no information has been released to friends or family about his current condition.

The shooting incident

As previously reported, members of the local community, including many monks and nuns, gathered on 6 July to celebrate the birthday of the Dalai Lama. New and reliable information has now emerged about the sequence of events leading to the shooting.

Around 3:00 pm, Tibetans started to go home, but armed security forces surrounded the area and prevented people from leaving. Security personnel stopped cars (picture available, 2) and, when people verbally protested, members of the security forces threw stones at the leading car.

Attendees at the event then protested that their gathering was legal and that the security forces were acting illegally when they damaged the vehicles. Security personnel then privately offered apologies and agreed to compensate the car owners for the damage but the Tibetans insisted that the compensation and the apology should be official.

An argument ensued and some members of the security forces began to beat some of the Tibetans, two severely. Other Tibetans responded by throwing stones. At some point during the altercation, security forces opened fire, leading to an unknown number of injuries.

Free Tibet can confirm the names and some details of injuries for 14 of those injured during the incident and three injured following the incident (3, selected portrait and injury photos also available).


At least twenty people were arrested, including some of those injured in the shooting. Free Tibet has confirmed the names of 14 detainees (4). Many detainees were severely beaten and 72-year-old Yama Tsering, who had sustained an arm injury during the incident, had four ribs broken and was also subjected to shocks from an electric prod (names of those confirmed injured, 3).

There are unconfirmed reports that other detainees were also subjected to electric shocks. Lobsang Choedon, a nun, was beaten in detention and has been hospitalised as a result of serious injuries sustained.


Later on 6 July, approximately 3000 people gathered at Tawu Monastery to protest and appeal to the authorities to release the detainees. They threatened to remove their children from school and to stop cultivation of farm land. Local truck drivers also threatened to strike.

At around midnight, the detainees were released and authorities offered a total of 13,000 yuan (£1,400/ US$2,100 approx) to compensate for the injuries. The injured victims refused the offer of compensation on the grounds that it was inadequate and did not address the broader political problem.


Eleven people reported serious head, leg and arm injuries at the hospital, but others did not seek treatment for fear of being detained. Authorities have prevented family and friends from visiting those in hospital and their current conditions are unknown.

Wanchen, a nun from Gedun Choeling nunnery who attempted to visit her friend in the hospital, was turned away. On her way back, Chinese security forces intervened and beat her, resulting in a broken arm.

In remarks made at a high level meeting at the US State Department last week, a member of China’s ruling State Council claimed that people in Tibet are "enjoying happier lives, and they’re enjoying unprecedented freedoms and human rights" (5).

Free Tibet Director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:

“This incident is confirmation that China under Xi Jinping will still use potentially lethal force against unarmed Tibetans defending their rights to follow their beliefs and will still use torture without hesitation against those in detention. The litany of gross human rights abuses arising from this single incident should be a wake-up call to world leaders that China’s PR on Tibet is as cynical as it is false. It is gravely concerning that more than a week after it was widely reported, Western governments have failed to make any public comment or condemnation of this severe and unjustifiable use of violence by the state.”


Notes for editors

(1) Free Tibet press release, 9 July 2013
(2) Picture available from Free Tibet
(3) Names of people confirmed injured during the incident

1. Tashi Sonam, monk, bullet wound in head (photo of serious head wound)
2. Aga Tashi, layperson, multiple bullet wounds on back. Other injuries indicative of being beaten (photos of wounds)
3. Sangpo, layperson, shot in leg (portrait and leg injury photos)
4. Tsewang Choepel, monk in charge of monastery finances, bullet wound in leg (portrait and leg injuries photos)
5. Tashi Gyaltsen, lay person, nature of injuries unconfirmed (portrait photo)
6. Jangchup Dorjee, monk, nature of injuries unconfirmed (portrait photo)
7. Lobsang Dorjee, monk, nature of injuries unconfirmed (portrait photo)
8. Nyendak, layperson, bullet wound in leg (photo of wound)
9. Gyamtso, disciplinarian at the monastery, nature of injuries unconfirmed
10. Dolma, nun, nature of injuries unconfirmed
11. Gyaltsen, two ribs broken
12. Yama Tsering, 72, arm injury from incident; four broken ribs and electric shock during detention
13. Dokapa Choedon, severely beaten, nature of injuries unconfirmed
14. Karnga Ngawang, severely beaten, nature of injuries unconfirmed

Names of those confirmed injured following the incident:

15. Lobsang Choeden, nun, severly beaten in detention, hospitalised (portrait photo)
16. Wanchen, nun, beaten after visiting hospital
17. Dickyi Gonpo, beaten, lost hearing (wound photo)

(4) List available from Free Tibet
(5)US State Department, 11 July 2013

For further information or comment, contact campaigns and media officer Alistair Currie:

E: alistair@freetibet.org
T: +44 (0)207 324 4605