Tibetans in Kandze (Ch: Garzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (TAP) continue to openly resist measures against freedom of expression and religious freedom imposed by Chinese authorities there. According to reports from Kandze residents incidents of protest, including the pasting of wall posters, distribution of pro-independence leaflets on main streets and hanging of the Tibetan national flag, occur almost weekly.

The most prominent incident of open resistance in recent months occurred on August 19, 2003, when a five foot square Tibetan national flag framed in silk brocade was hung off a radio transmission tower in the town of Kandze. The radio tower, which is also believed to be used for jamming radio signals from Voice of America, Radio Free Asia and Voice of Tibet, is opposite the prominent Kandze TAP Government Headquarters, which houses the local Party Secretary and Communist Party of China (CPC) office headquarters.

The August 19th flag hanging coincided with the visit of over a hundred Chinese Buddhists to Kandze for the consecration of a large Buddhist monument (Tib: chorten) built by Natsok Rinpoche. It took nearly two hours of repeated attempts by army officers to climb the tower before the flag could be brought down, eye witnesses report.

“By the time they got [the flag] down, hundreds of residents saw it. And all the Chinese tourists and Natsok saw it when they came back from [the consecration],” a Kandze hotel worker told the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT).

“They placed our flag there precisely because the Communist Lama and his followers came to our town,” said a Kandze resident who recently fled into exile. “State television praised [Natsok Rinpoche] as one of the most trusted Buddhist religious figures in China but almost no Tibetan trusts him in Kandze.”

Natsok Rinpoche enjoys considerable influence among Communist Party members and has a significant Han following in China. Local Kandze residents report that he raised the money for building the chorten from Chinese Buddhists. Last summer, on the July 1st anniversary of the founding of the CPC, Chinese state television showed Natsok Rinpcohe receiving honors as a patriotic director of the Beijing-based China Tibetan Language Higher Institute of Buddhism.

Carrying out the Ban on Dalai Lama Photos

During the second week of August, Communist Party Secretary of Kandze Prefecture Li Qichang chaired a meeting in the town of Kandze for village and county heads and government workers including school teachers. An attendee told ICT that the focus of the meeting was implementing the long-standing ban on photographs of the Dalai Lama. It was announced that the possession of Dalai Lama photographs, books or recorded material, such as cassettes or VCDs, was banned and that routine checks would begin for homes and businesses in Kandze TAP. A 4000 yuan ($US 500) fine would be imposed on any government official found with a Dalai Lama photo, the meeting attendee reported.

Within days, shop-to-shop checks for photographs of the Dalai Lama began in Kandze town. Many photographs were confiscated although no fines are known to have been imposed on shop owners. Both Tibetan and Chinese police officers carried out the checks.

“I told the Tibetan police officer that we are both Tibetan and that he shouldn’t take the photo of the leader of all Tibetan people,” one Tibetan shop owner told ICT. “He grabbed the small photo out of the frame and irreverently stuffed it in his pocket.”

A related incident occurred in mid-September when Kandze TAP officials were inspecting houses in outlying villages as part of a government program to provide financial assistance to poor family for home improvements. During one such inspection in the village of Rongbatsa, photographs of the Dalai Lama were found in a number of homes. The photos were confiscated and home owners were told that they no longer qualified for government subsidies.

“We were told by the inspector, ‘We won’t help you. We will not help followers of the Dalai,'” a Rongbatsa resident who recently arrived in exile told ICT. “He questioned me why His Holiness wasn’t building houses for us and told me, ‘We build houses for you but the Dalai doesn’t.'”