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Overview of recent protests and crackdown in Tibet Autonomous Region PDF Print E-mail
[4 November 2013] Tibetans in the Driru region of the Tibet Autonomous Region are currently facing a harsh crackdown by the Chinese authorities, following a series of recent protests. At the end of September, Tibetans in Driru refused government orders to fly Chinese flags from their homes leading to arrests and clashes with police. Protests spread across the region with security forces responding by shooting into the crowds. There have been four (unconfirmed) deaths and dozens of injuries.

Troops in DriruThe full extent of the protests and subsequent crackdown is not clear due to tightening of security measures in the region, which have included the blocking of communication lines as well as an increased presence of armed forces (pictured right in Driru) and restrictions on movement.

Driru (Chinese: Briru or Biru) is located approximately 300km north-east of Lhasa, in the Nagchu (Chinese: Naqu) prefecture of Kham (now incorporated into China's Tibet Autonomous Region).

Timeline of known events
28 September 2013: Tibetans in Mowa village, Driru county, clash with Chinese police after refusing to fly Chinese flags. 40 Tibetans arrested.
28/29 September: All 40 are released after up to 1,000 Tibetans protest demanding their release. Detainees claim to have been tortured and denied medical treatment. One is later hospitalised in critical condition.
6 October: Police shoot into crowd of Tibetan protestors in Driru; 60 are injured, 4 seriously. Crackdown in Driru intensifies, with a tightening of security measures (such that further news from the region is limited).
8 October: Protests continue in Driru. Unconfirmed reports indicate police shoot four dead, 50 injured.
11 October: Kelsang arrested in Nagchu for anti-China images and songs on mobile phone.
11/12 October: Tsultrim Gyaltsen & Yugyal arrested in Driru for involvement in Mowa protests.
12 October: Kelsang Chodar arrested in Kardze for sending information on protests. 400 Tibetans protest, calling for his release. Two injured as protest dispersed.
13 October: Tibetans in Chentsa refuse to fly Chinese flag.
Troops in Shagchu15/17 October: Four Tibetans arrested for sending information on protests and crackdown in Driru.
18/19 October: Tenzin Rangdol arrested in Driru. 150 Tibetans gather to call for his release. Troops surround protestors and force their dispersal (pictured right), 10 arrested.
20 October: Kelsang Chodar released.

Tibetans refuse to fly Chinese flag
Troops in Driru countyOn 27 September, Chinese government officials and work teams arrived in Nagchu (Chinese: Naqu) prefecture (pictured right) to ensure that all homes and monasteries display the Chinese flag on 1 October, China's National Day. The flag-flying orders are part of a larger propaganda and surveillance campaign by the Chinese government aimed to enforce loyalty to the Communist Party and 'build harmony, stability and economic prosperity' in the Driru region.

On 28 September, Tibetans in Mowa village, Driru (Ch: Briru) county, clashed with Chinese security forces after refusing to raise the Chinese flag. The clashes occurred after Tibetans threw the flags into a nearby river and security forces surrounded the village.

According to Radio Free Asia, around 40 Tibetans from nearby villages were arrested after they gathered to protest against the use of violence against the Mowa villagers. This led to a larger protest of up to 1,000 Tibetans at the Driru county government office demanding the release of the 40 Tibetans.

The authorities eventually released the detainees, however the detainees showed signs of having been beaten and tortured. One Tibetan, Tsering Gyaltsen, who the police apparently identified as the 'ringleader' of the protests, is released with serious injuries. He, along with others who were injured, were prevented from receiving medical treatment for several days. Tsering was later transferred to a hospital in Lhasa in critical condition. His current status is not known.

The refusal to fly the Chinese flag spread to other areas of Tibet. Residents of Tsodru township are reported to have defied orders from local authorities to fly Chinese flags from their homes on 13 October. Tsodru is located in Chentsa (Ch: Jianzha) county, Malho (Ch: Huangnan) prefecture, Amdo (now part of China's Qinghai province). It is not known if there have been any reprisals.
Further reading: RFA (2 Oct) I ICT (3 Oct) I Phayul I ICT (8 Oct) I RFA (15 Oct)

Police use guns, batons and tear gas on Driru protestors
Dorje DragtselOn 6 October, a large number of Tibetans gathered in Driru to appeal for the release of Dorje Dragtsel (pictured right), who had been detained following the previous week's protests. Dorje Dragtsel, a resident of Yangthang village, had been identified by authorities as one of the leaders of those who resisted orders to fly the Chinese flag from their homes.

The protest was violently suppressed by approximately 300 armed police and troops. According to Radio Free Asia, at least 60 Tibetans were wounded when the security forces opened fire. Many were shot in their arms and legs and others knocked unconscious when tear gas was fired into the crowd. The condition & whereabouts of Dorje Dragtsel is not known.

Amnesty International issued a press release following the incident saying, It is outrageous for the police to start firing on a peaceful gathering. This latest incident shows that the Chinese authorities have done nothing to rein in excessive use of force by their security forces or to increase respect for Tibetans right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
Further reading: RFA I TCHRD I ICT I Amnesty Int.

Unconfirmed report: Four shot dead at Driru protest
According to sources quoted by Radio Free Asia, four Tibetans were shot dead by Chinese security forces following further protests in the Driru region on 8 October. Three Tibetans from Sengthang village and one from Tinring village were killed in the incident, and a further 50 injured. The deaths could not be confirmed nor further information obtained as the Chinese authorities locked down the area, in an effort to quell the situation and prevent news from spreading.

As well as cutting communications to the area, the intensification of security measures in the Driru region has included restrictions on movement and an increased presence of security forces. In Lhasa, Tibetans from Driru have had their mobile phones confiscated and told not to return to Driru for the time being.
Further reading: RFA I ICT

Arrests in Driru
Despite China's attempt to block communication channels in the Driru region, some information has reached the outside world, indicating that numerous Tibetans have been arrested in connection with the Driru protests and sporadic demonstrations continue. It would seem the crackdown has exacerbated the situation with tensions remaining high. However, the full picture remains unclear.

Tsultrim GyaltsenTsultrim Gyaltsen & Yugyal: On 11 October, Chinese police arrested Tsultrim Gyaltsen (pictured near right) on suspicion of supporting and spreading information about the Driru protests. The following day, Tsultrim's friend Yugyal (pictured far right) was also arrested. According to the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), Tsultrim and Yugyal were accused of engaging in separatist activities and disrupting social stability by spreading rumours.

Tsultrim Gyaltsen, 27 and a former monk, is a writer who had been previously expelled from university for holding debates on 'anti-China' subjects. Yugyal, 26, an entrepreneur, was previously a Public Security Bureau officer, but resigned in 2012 due to the 'political nature' of his job.

Reporters Without Borders (RWB) condemned the arrests saying, Every arrest of a Tibetan who tried to inform his peers and the outside world about the dramatic situation in Tibet plunges the region further into isolation. Instead of trying to turn Tibet into an information black hole, the Chinese authorities must put an immediate stop to these arbitrary arrests and release those detained without delay.
Further reading: TCHRD I RWB I RFA

KelsangKelsang: On 11 October, Kelsang, a mother of three, was arrested in Nagchu for having images of the Dalai Lama on her mobile phone. It is not clear whether the arrest was directly related to the nearby Driru protests, however, she is also alleged to have had Tibetan patriotic songs on her phone and expressed 'anti-China' sentiments on WeChat, a social networking application. Kelsang's current condition and whereabouts are not known.
Further reading: TCHRD I Phayul

Kelsang ChodarKelsang Chodar: On 12 October, Kelsang Chodar, was arrested by Chinese police on suspicion of sending information about the Driru protests and subsequent crackdown to contacts outside of Tibet. Kelsang Chodar is a monk from Palyul (Ch: Baiyu) county, Kardze (Ch: Ganzi) prefecture, Kham (now incorporated into Sichuan province), which neighbours Driru county.

Protest for Kelsang ChodarLater the same day, over 400 Tibetan laypeople and monks protested outside a police station where Kelsang Chodar was believed to be held, demanding his release. Two people were injured as police dispersed the crowd.

Kelsang Chodar was eventually released on 20 October. However, it is not known if he has been released under any conditions. Those released are often given a travel ban, kept under surveillance and sometimes re-arrested and charged at a later date. It is not known if there have been any reprisals for those that demanded his release.
Further reading: RFA (13 Oct) I ICT I RFA (23 Oct)

JampaDawa LhundupDawa Lhundup & Jampa: On 15 October, Dawa Lhundup, a 19 year-old male (pictured left) , and Jampa, 20 years-old (pictured right), were arrested by the Chinese authorities on suspicion of relaying information about the Driru protests. Their current condition and whereabouts are not known.
Further reading:
TCHRD I Phayul

KelnamJampa Lekshay & Kelnam: On 17 October, Chinese police arrested two monks, Jampa Lekshay and Kelnam, in Lhasa on charges of "leaking state secrets". Both monks are aged 20 and from Shugding monastery, Shamchu township, Driru county. It is believed the "state secrets" refer to the protests and crackdown in Driru. Their current condition and whereabouts are not known.
Further reading: TCHRD I Phayul

Tenzin RangdolTenzin Rangdol: On 18 October, Tenzin Rangdol, a 34 year-old father of three, was arrested by Chinese police in Shagchu (Ch: Xiaqu) town, Driru county. The reason for his arrest is not known. However, the arrest triggered a protest by about 150 Tibetans calling for his release. At least 10 protestors were detained. Phone lines were disabled and road blockades erected in an effort to stop additional protests. According to Phayul, the detained protestors were later released having been forced to sign legal documents.
Further reading:
TCHRD I Phayul

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