‘WASTED LIVES’: New report offers fresh insights on travails of Tibetan nomads

Is there anything new that can be said about the disappearing nomads of Tibet? For years they have been removed from the plateau pastures that purify the great rivers of Asia, to be rehoused in concrete barracks, without their animals or livelihood. This is usually reported as coercion by a state determined to end nomadism. That has become a standard narrative. The alternative narrative, generated by China’s official media, is that the nomads are all voluntary ‘ecological migrants’ giving up their lands for the greater good of the planet, to allow degrading lands to become a wilderness of pristine grassland, to better protect those rivers watering almost all of Asia.

Wasted Lives: China’s Campaign to End Tibetan Nomadic Lifeways’ cuts through these stereotypes and extremes, with a wealth of new evidence. This co-publication by Tibetan Centre for Human Rights & Democracy (TCHRD) and League for Pastoral Peoples (LPP) takes the reader onto the pasture, to hear Tibetan voices. That is what has been strikingly missing till date.

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Freedom of peaceful assembly under attack: Tibetan monk detained for non-violent protest

Gedun Phuntsok

Gedun Phuntsok

A teenage Tibetan monk has become the latest target of China’s consistent and systematic attacks on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in Tibet.

Gedun Phuntsok, 18, a monk from Kirti Monastery in Ngaba County was detained on 8 March for staging a peaceful protest calling for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet and for “freedom and equality” in Ngaba (Ch: Aba) Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture (Sichuan Province), in the Tibetan province of Amdo.

The solo protest occurred at about 1.30 pm (local time) in Ngaba County town where on the main road, Gedun Phuntsok walked carrying a huge portrait of the Dalai Lama draped in a yellow khatag (Tibetan ceremonial scarf) on his head and shouted slogans such as “Let His Holiness the Dalai Lama return to Tibet” and “Freedom and equality for Tibet”, according to a source with close contacts in Tibet. [Read more…]

Two Tibetan artists receive harsh sentences, severe fines for creation of Tibetan music

Singer Kelsang Yarphel sentenced to four years in prison

Singer Kelsang Yarphel sentenced to four years in prison

Two prominent members of the Tibetan folk music industry have been given harsh prison sentences and heavy fines for their involvement in the making of Tibetan folk music in Ngaba (Ch: Aba) County in Ngaba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province, according to sources in Tibet.

On 27 November, well-known folk singer and music producer Pema Rigzin and famed singer Kelsang Yarphel were sentenced together to lengthy prison sentences and given severe fines by the Intermediate People’s Court in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.

Pema Rigzin, 44, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison and a severe fine of 50,000 yuan for composing, releasing, and distributing music with alleged political overtones. Rigzin was detained on 7 May 2013 in Chengdu city, and held incommunicado until the 27 November trial. Though family members were allowed to attend the trial, they were barred by authorities from hiring Rigzin a lawyer. [Read more…]

[GUEST POST] The past in the way of the present: Ruminations on Pema Tseten’s movie Old Dog

Credit: http://chinesevisualfestival.org/

Credit: http://chinesevisualfestival.org/

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) presents one of the most comprehensive and insightful reviews ever done on the critically acclaimed Tibetan feature film Khyi rgan (“Old Dog”), written and directed by Pema Tseten.

Old Dog was screened and discussed at TCHRD’s annual human rights symposium early this year.

In this guest post, scholar and historian Roberto Vitali ruminates on the film’s varied messages along side the tragedy that continues to unfold in the lives and landscapes of the Tibetan plateau under the Chinese, whose “presence are never mentioned” in the film but stays “thick on screen”. Vitali contends that Khyi rgan moves away from the usual anthropological approach to anything Tibetan, avoiding “explanations and erudite posturings” inherent to the anthropological genre. In one of the greatest tributes to Khyi rgyan’s creator, Vitali writes that no one, be it Tibetan or non-Tibetan, has so stunningly depicted Tibet’s tragedy for the Tibetan cinema as Pema Tseten does.

Roberto Vitali is an independent researcher on Tibetan history and literature, and is “deeply taken by [Tibetan] people’s struggle for freedom.” In his own words, Vitali is “like the one in Pema Tseten’s movie, an old dog, who thinks no Chinese will buy him out.”

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Tibetan student dies from self-immolation protest

10708079_1015272-300x277A 22-year old Tibetan student from eastern Tibet burned himself to death in protest against China’s occupation of Tibet.

Lhamo Tashi set himself on fire around midnight outside a police station in Tso area in Kanlho Tibetan autonomous prefecture, China’s Gansu province on 17 September 2014. He died of his injuries.

The self-immolation protest coincided with the Chinese president Xi Jinping’s state visit to India last week.

“The Chinese police took away his body and later informed his family that Lhamo Tashi died. Despite the requests of his family members, the Chinese police refused to handover the body and cremated it themselves. They only gave the family his ashes,” a source who has close contacts with Tibetans in Tso told TCHRD. [Read more…]

Tibet raised at the 27th session of UN Human Rights Council

Tsering Tsomo at UNHRC

Tsering Tsomo addressing the UN Human Rights Council

As the Human Rights Council discussed situations that require the Council’s attention, several NGOs raised their concern on the urgent and deteriorating human rights situation in Tibet.

This morning, Tsering Tsomo, speaking on behalf of the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP_Tibet_Statement), highlighted the recent shooting in Kardze (Ch: Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (Sichuan Province) as a recent example of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) being caught in a downward spiral of violence in Tibet. [Read more…]

Tibetan writers Jangtse Donkho and Buddha released from prison

“The greatest mental suffering of Tibetans is not that there is no place to complain about their sufferings but that they are not allowed to complain.”

~ Nyen

Jangtse Donkho

Jangtse Donkho aka Nyen

Two Tibetan writers, Jangtse Donkho (pen name: Nyen/“The Wrathful”) and Buddha were released earlier today on 20 June 2014 after serving four years in Mianyang Prison in Sichuan Province.

Jangtse Donkho was arrested on 21 June 2011 from his home in Ngaba (Ch: Aba) County and accused of writing a “reactionary” essay entitled ‘What Human Rights Do We Have Over Our Bodies?’ which commented on the Chinese government’s bloody suppression of the 2008 Uprising. The essay was published in the Shar Dungri (Eastern Snow Mountain) literary journal, which was later banned. Jangtse Donkho was 33 at the time of his arrest. Before his arrest, he was working as a researcher at Kyungchu (Ch: Qiongxi) town, Ngaba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province. Donkho wrote the book Rolang (Eng: ‘Zombie’) and along with Buddha, edited a few more journals including Du Rab Kyi Nga (Eng: ‘Consciousness of the Century’).

Buddha is a writer, poet, and medical doctor whose work is regarded as influential in Tibetan society. He was detained on 26 June 2011 at the hospital where he worked in Ngaba County town. He was 34 at the time. [Read more…]

Extrajudicial detention still a major issue despite RTL abolition

Diary written by a detainee and smuggled out of Masanjia RTL. The story of Masanjia RTL became a sensation in PRC and was one of the most popular news stories on the PRC’s top four news websites. China quickly censored the news and shuttered Lens Magazine which published the story.

Diary written by a detainee and smuggled out of Masanjia RTL. The story of Masanjia RTL became a sensation in PRC and was one of the most popular news stories on the PRC’s top four news websites. China quickly censored the news and shuttered Lens Magazine which published the story. [Photo: Seeingredinchina.com]

On Saturday 28 December 2013, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee voted to abolish Re-education Through Labor (RTL; Ch: laojiao).  This fulfills the promise the People’s Republic of China made in the 3rd Plenum Decision on 15 November 2013 to abolish the 56 year old Chinese system of gulags that had been used to imprison people in forced labor camps for up to four years.

When the National People’s Congress Standing Committee announced the abolition of RTL, it stated that it was because changes made to Chinese laws had made RTL redundant and it had fulfilled its historic mission.  This justification fails to recognize the fundamental problems inherent in RTL.  It ignores the substantial criticism of RTL for being an illegal system of arbitrary detention, forced labor, and torture.  Internationally, numerous States, NGOs, and international organizations, including the United Nations criticized RTL for violating international human rights law.  [Read more…]

Prominent political prisoner in critical condition on release after 17 years

A prominent Tibetan political prisoner, Jigme Gyatso, 52, was released recently after completing his 17 years’ prison term, according to exile Tibetan sources.

After his release, he is said to be in poor health struggling with multiple medical problems including weak eyesight, heart complications, kidney disorder and difficulty walking: all unmistakable signs that he had undergone years of torture, mistreatment and beatings during his imprisonment.

In April 2009, TCHRD issued an urgent statement calling for Jigme Gyatso’s release on medical grounds, after learning that Gyatso was seriously ill.[i] TCHRD’s concerns were based on the long history of Gyatso’s mistreatment and torture in detention centres and prisons in Tibet. Moreover, in February 2009, when relatives met Gyatso at Drapchi Prison Hospital, he appeared very frail and was suffering from a kidney problem. He could only walk with his back bended. [Read more…]

China arrests five Tibetans on uprising anniversary

Chinese authorities arrested five Tibetans in Sershul (Ch: Serxu) County in Kardze (Ch: Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province, on the 54th anniversary of the Tibetan national uprising day on 10 March 2013.

According to information received by TCHRD, at around 11 am (local time) on 10 March 2013, three Tibetan monks from Ganden Samten Dhargyeling Monastery in Dzachuka area in Sershul County staged a protest march in the County town and got arrested along with two other lay Tibetan men who tried to persuade the monks from protesting for fear of arrest.
The source told TCHRD that the monks shouted slogans for “freedom, democracy, and the need for a Middle Way approach to solve the Tibet issue.” They carried a huge flag emblazoned with a portrait of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. [Read more…]