Monks from Tsang monastery south of Rebkong, Qinghai, participated in a peaceful protest involving hundreds of people on Sunday (March 18). The monks distributed leaflets and posters with five clear requests to the authorities, including that the Dalai Lama should be allowed to return to Tibet, and that China and the United Nations should be accountable for the life of a Tibetan reincarnate lama who is currently staging an indefinite hunger strike in New York (ICT report, UN Secretary-General reacts to Tibetan hunger strikers in New York).

The monks from Tsang monastery, an ancient and important religious institution in Malho (Chinese Henan) Mongol (Tibetan: Sogpo) Autonomous County in Malho (Chinese: Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, also made a point of saying that the actions were organized only by them, and not planned or influenced by those abroad – a reference to the Chinese authorities’ claim that demonstrations and self-immolations in Tibet are master-minded by the “Dalai clique” in exile.[1]

According to a Tibetan in exile who is in contact with Tibetans in the area, the protest happened on March 18 following the dissemination of flyers in public places around the monastery beforehand. Flyers contained publicity of the planned protest, and some reportedly warned that if anyone tried to stop the peaceful protest, then Tibetans would commit self-immolations.

At least 15 monks from Tsang monastery traveled to Sogpo town and began to march, chanting their five demands, which were as follows:

  1. His Holiness the Dalai Lama should be allowed to return back to Tibet.
  2. Tibetan people want freedom.
  3. Tibetan people should be allowed to exercise and preserve our own unique language, religion and culture without any restrictions from the authorities.
  4. Tibetan political prisoners, including His Holiness Panchen Lama [who was taken into custody in 1995 as a small child] and particularly those who were arrested since 2008 [when protests swept across Tibet from March 10 onwards] must all be released immediately.
  5. China and the United Nations should be accountable for Shingza Rinpoche’s life (Shingza Rinpoche is one of three Tibetan hunger strikers outside the UN in New York, now in their fourth week without food. All are weakened and wheelchair bound, and one of them, Dorjee Gyalpo, was taken to hospital on March 20, where he is continuing his hunger strike: More from VOA)

Another set of flyers was also disseminated, including the following:

  1. His Holiness the Dalai Lama should be allowed to return back to Tibet.
  2. Self-immolations and other peaceful protests carried out by both Tibetans inside Tibet and pleas from the Tibetans in diaspora have not received positive response from the Chinese authorities. Until our grievances are addressed by the authorities, we will continue with our resistance.
  3. China’s deliberate policies of destroying Tibetan identity, language and culture must be stopped immediately.
  4. Tibetan people should be allowed to enjoy our basic human rights as per the UN universal declarations. Forbidding of such rights for the Tibetan people is contravening the UN charter.
  5. Three monks from the Tsang Monastery, who were sentenced to 10-year imprisonment on March 17, 2008 – Choktrin Gyatso (30), Tselsang Gyatso (27) and Khedub Gyatsen (32), must be released immediately. (These arrests followed a protest in the area in March 2008 involving monks from Tsang monastery).

Hundreds of people joined the march, according to the same Tibetan source in exile, and the protest carried on for some hours. When other monks at Tsang heard that the initial contingent of monks had been detained, more than 200 of them traveled to Sogpo to call for their release. After discussions, the group was released and all of the Tsang monks were transported back to their monastery.

According to the same Tibetan sources, on Monday (March 19) a senior official from a neighbouring Tibetan prefecture visited Tsang monastery and talked to the monks about their grievances. Monks told the officials that the protests were the culmination of the government’s failure to address the grievances of the people for a long time. They also said that the protests were organized by themselves, and not by anyone abroad.

No further information is known about the situation today at Tsang monastery.

[1] Reporting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s comments on the self-immolations, Xinhua reported this week: “Chinese leaders said earlier that the Dalai Lama clique has tried to create incidents in Tibet and Tibetan-inhabited areas to split them from China.” (