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Chinese police open fire on Tibetans celebrating Dalai Lama's birthday PDF Print E-mail
[8 July 2013] Press release from International Tibet Network, a global coalition of Tibet groups, of which Tibet Society is a member.

Chinese Peoples Armed Police open fire in Tawu, eastern Tibet, on Dalai Lamas birthday celebrations; six Tibetans reported to be seriously injured

Tibet movement expresses shock at violent response to peaceful gathering

Incident casts doubt on speculation of policy relaxation in Tibetan areas

[8 July 2013] News is emerging from Tibet that Peoples Armed Police (PAP) opened fire on unarmed Tibetans who were holding a picnic in the Tawu region (Ch: Daofu) of Kham, eastern Tibet (now part of Sichuan Province) on 6 July to mark the Dalai Lamas 78th birthday. According to the International Campaign for Tibet, two Tibetan monks were shot in the head; Tashi Sonam from Nyitso monastery and Ugyen Tashi (also known as Tashi Gyaltsen) who is said to be in a critical condition in hospital in Chengdu, the Sichuan provincial capital. Several other Tibetans were seriously injured and are being treated in Dartsedo (Chinese: Kangding) in Kardze. A number of Tibetans were detained after the incident and at least 20 are believed to still be in custody in Tawu [1].

ITN logo"These harrowing reports and images [2] of Tibetans being shot in connection with a local celebration of the Dalai Lama's birthday have shaken the Tibet movement to the core," said Tenzin Jigme, International Coordinator of the International Tibet Network, a coalition of 185 Member Groups [3]. "Tawu has seen five fatal self-immolation protests by Tibetans [4], suggesting intense frustration in this area. This most recent example [5] of disproportionate lethal force from Chinese security personnel will do nothing but further aggravate the fundamental grievances of the Tibetan people."

Exile sources say that local residents had joined monks from Nyitso monastery and nuns from Ganden Choeling nunnery, in a grassland area outside the village when PAP arrived on the scene and ordered the gathering to disperse. A stand-off developed after Tibetans refused to leave and PAP opened fire and used tear gas. In addition to Tashi Sonam and Ugyen Tashi, exile sources have named at least three of the other Tibetans who were seriously injured [6]. There are unconfirmed reports that in some other areas of eastern Tibet gatherings for the Dalai Lamas birthday were not stopped, although security forces were present.

This incident in Tawu represents a major test to the international communitys commitment to stand up for the rights of the Tibetan people to peacefully promote their national and religious identity, added Tenzin Jigme. The Tibetan people urgently need a show of diplomatic strength from world governments, in the form of a multilateral initiative that will impress upon China the legitimate international concerns about Tibet.

The Tawu incident follows reports of discussions in some localities in eastern Tibet that had raised hopes of a possible relaxation of Chinas hard-line attitude towards Tibetan reverence of the Dalai Lama. Whilst it is known that discussions have taken place in some Tibetan areas of Qinghai Province, during which it was proposed that Tibetans may be given permission to display photos and official vilification of the Dalai Lama could end, there has so far been no confirmation that such measures have been officially sanctioned or implemented [7]. Indeed, on 28 June a Chinese official from the State Administration for Religious Affairs denied that there had been any change to official policy [8], giving rise to concerns that local policy experiments might be closed down. There is no evidence that such policy discussions have extended to central Tibet (Tibet Autonomous Region) and several sources from Ganden monastery including award-winning writer Tsering Woeser, who recently visited the monastery, have confirmed that photos of the Dalai Lama are not allowed there [9].

Tenzin Jigme + 1 703 424 0015
Alison Reynolds + 44 7711 843884
Mandie McKeown + 44 7748 158618

1. See Tibetan monks shot as police open fire on Tibetans praying on Dalai Lamas birthday, International Campaign for Tibet (8 July 2013)
2. (Graphic) images are visible in the report Tibetan monk shot in the head, Others severely injured for the Dalai Lamas birthday prayers, Phayul (8 July 2013)
3. The International Tibet Network is a global coalition of more than 185 Tibet Groups dedicated to ending the human rights abuses in Tibet and restore the political rights to the Tibetan people. See
4. The five self-immolations in Tawu were Tsewang Norbu, a monk from Nyitso monastery (August 2011), Palden Choetso, a nun from Ganden Choeling nunnery (November 2011), religious figure Thubten Nyandak and his niece, Atse, a nun, who died in a fire at their residence (April 2012) that was later confirmed to have been a deliberate decision to end their lives, and a further nun, Wangchen Dolma, who self-immolated at Nyitso monastery. on 11 June 2013. See
5. Compilation of media reports of other recorded instances of shootings in Tibet since January 2012 See also Resistance in Tibet - Self Immolation and Protest, International Tibet Network
6. See 2.
7. New Challenges to Tibet Policy from Inside Tibet, International Campaign for Tibet (27 June 2013) - Tibetans in eastern Tibet were able to display photos of the Dalai Lama before 2008 and again in the last two-three years, though without official permission.
8. See
9. See (in Chinese)

Click here to read Tibet Society's report (9 July)

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