Tibetans in critical condition after Chinese armed police shoot into crowd celebrating Dalai Lama’s birthday

 

Gyen Tashi Sonam was shot in his head; receives treatment in a hospital in Dartsedo.

Gyen Tashi Sonam was shot in his head; receives treatment in a hospital in Dartsedo.

Several known Tibetans are in critical condition and many more injured after Chinese armed police fired into a crowd of Tibetans gathered to celebrate the 78th birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on 6 July in Tawu (Ch: Daofu) County in Kardze (Ch: Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province.

According to information received by TCHRD, at least nine Tibetans have sustained serious gunshot wounds and are believed to be in critical condition.  Many others, both monastic and lay Tibetans, whose exact numbers cannot be determined immediately, have been injured after paramilitary forces from People’s Armed Police (PAP) lobbed teargas shells and beat them. The injured are mostly monks from Nyatso Monastery, nuns from Geden Choeling Nunnery and a considerable number of lay Tibetans in Tawu County.

Gyen Tashi Sonam, a monk and teacher at Nyatso Monastery, who was shot in his head, is being treated along with others at a hospital in Dartsedo (Ch: Kangding) County. Graphic photographs show the bullet wound on Gyen Tashi Sonam’s head, a gaping hole on the front left part of his head. The condition of Ugyen Tashi, a layman, is said to be serious with hopes of his survival receding fast given his severe injuries.   According to latest information, Ugyen Tashi was shot at with at least eight bullets. He was first taken to County hospital where doctors, failing to handle the case, referred him to a provincial hospital in Chengdu where he is now being treated.

Gyamtso, a monk disciplinarian (Tib: Gekyo) at Nyatso Monastery was injured along with fellow monks, Jangchup Dorjee and Lobsang.  Jangchup Dorjee is a brother of Palden Choetso, a nun from Dakar Choeling Nunnery who died of self-immolation protest on 3 November 2011 in Tawu. Laymen injured by gunshot wounds included Tashi from Khoro nomadic camp, Nyendak from Dukya nomadic camp, Sangpo from Kyasor nomadic camp. Dolma is the only injured nun identified so far. She hails from Dunkye nomadic camp.

Chinese armed police arrive to surround the venue of birthday celebration.

Chinese armed police arrive to surround the venue of birthday celebration.

Local Tibetans in Tawu County including monks and nuns from Nyatso Monastery and Geden Choeling Nunnery had gathered on the morning of 6 July 2013 to celebrate the 78th birthday of the Dalai Lama. As Tibetans stood on the hillside – worshipped by Tibetans as the home of Machen Pomra, one of the most popular mountain gods in Kham – burning incense, hanging prayer flags and making offerings in front of the Dalai Lama’s portrait, vehicle loads of armed police arrived at the scene and attempted to cut short the birthday celebration. Armed police then surrounded the hill.

This provoked the crowd as Tibetans objected and questioned the armed police about the legality of their actions. “They asked why it was illegal to conduct religious rituals and under what national laws it was illegal to hold rituals,” a source told TCHRD quoting local eyewitnesses in Tawu. A former administrative staff (Tib: chanzoe) of Nyatso Monastery (name withheld) who participated in the celebration later recalled that the monks tried to negotiate with the armed police to avert bloody confrontation but were rebuffed.  “They [armed police] didn’t listen to us at all. They just started beating and shooting,” a source quoted the monk as saying.

The same source said armed police stoned the vehicle of Jangchup Dorjee as he attempted to drive up the hillside to reach the celebration venue. Armed police also used teargas shells to break up the crowd and beat the Tibetans. Sources say hundreds of Tibetans in Tawu attended the celebration although it is difficult to ascertain the exact number of those injured in armed police excesses.

Armed police stop cars driven by Tibetans to reach the celebration venue.

Armed police stop cars driven by Tibetans to reach the celebration venue.

Many Tibetans were detained the same day but were released after lay Tibetans and monks gathered at the courtyard of Nyatso Monastery and called for their immediate release. When armed police reached the courtyard full of local Tibetans at Nyatso Monastery, they expressed their apology and promised to bear responsibility if anyone died or sustained life-threatening injuries. But according to a source, local Tibetans believe that the armed police were just executing orders from above and that the apology must come from the prefectural government of Kardze.

So far Nyatso Monastery has borne all costs associated with the treatment of injured Tibetans, the source told TCHRD.

The situation has eased a little after staff and monks at Nyatso Monastery mediated with the security forces, who no longer surround the monastery as they did since 6 July.  But local Tibetans continue to face restrictions on their movement and the situation is said to be tense.

Last year on 6 July, armed police stopped local Tibetans from celebrating the Dalai Lama’s birthday on the same spot, a source with contacts in Tawu told TCHRD.