Photos posted on a Tibetan blog site in the Chinese language, TibetCul.com show damage to local shops and homes and streets lined with debris.
According to a Tibetan source in exile with contacts in the area, known among the dead are the wife of a Mr. Dhula, age 58, and her niece, name unknown. Ama Drongkar, age 66 and a monk, name unknown, from Mankar Drongtso are also reported among the dead.
No damage to Labrang Monastery has been reported.
The flooding occurred on August 20, and included a large mudslide, according to the state-run newspaper, Gansu Daily. The paper reported that over 400 People’s Armed Police personnel were deployed and able to clear storm drains blocked by the mudslide on the morning of August 22.
Details of the impact of the flooding have been slow to emerge due to the authorities’ attempts to impose a news blackout on the Tibetan plateau since largely peaceful protests against Chinese misrule swept across Tibet this spring.
Protests in Labrang on March 14 and 16 were broken up by police using tear-gas on hundreds of unarmed Tibetan demonstrators. (ICT report, Protests spread throughout Tibet: thousands gather in towns and monasteries; statement of Dalai Lama’s Special Envoy on events in Tibet – March 18, 2008)
Monks from nearby Labrang Monastery were filmed protesting during a state-sponsored delegation of foreign journalists on April 9. Several of the monks carried large paper Tibetan flags. (ICT report, Labrang monks stage protest during official media tour – April 9, 2008)
Horse race and religious festival cancelled in Labrang in environment of political repression
In the wake of the protests and the Summer Olympics, the atmosphere has been tense in Labrang, with soldiers stationed there routinely patrolling internet cafes and bus stations.
A significant horse race in Sangkhog township due to be held at the same time as the Olympics – was cancelled at the last minute by the local county authorities. Although no reason was given for its cancellation, local Tibetans believe it was in order to deter incidents of dissent that might occur during a large gathering of Tibetans in the tense political climate and when international attention was focused on China during the Olympic Games. Incidents of dissent have previously taken place at horse races and religious festivals – even prior to the spring uprising beginning in March. Nomad Runggye Adak was sentenced to eight years in prison after he took to the stage and called for the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet at a horse festival in Lithang (Chinese: Litang) in Kardze (Ganzi), Sichuan in August 2007.
Although the local government did not stop preparation for the race in Sangkhog – which usually attracts thousands of Tibetans – they announced its cancellation just before the festival was due to begin in mid-August, a few days after the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. A Tibetan with contacts in the area said: “Tibetans had to leave with deep regret. This was more than just a horse race. Candidate horses are selected through careful religious ceremonies, and traditionally prayers are made by Tibetans at the race to reincarnate in the Shambhala realm [a Buddhist kingdom] in the next life.”
For the first comprehensive analysis of the spring uprising in Tibet see ICT’s new report, ‘Tibet at a Turning Point: The Spring Uprising and China’s New Crackdown‘ – August 6, 2008.