• Eight Tibetan students detained after student protests in Chabcha; 18 students detained in Rebkong
  • Booklet issued by prefectural authorities set off large demonstrations
  • Several students seriously injured during security response to peaceful protests
  • Three monks have been detained from a monastery near Chabcha and are accused of spreading information about the protests

Eight Tibetan youths have been detained following recent student-led protests in the eastern Tibetan town of Chabcha. It is believed that the eight students, Rabten, Wangdue Tsering, Chamba Tsering, Choekyong, Tashi Kunsang, Dorjee Tsering, Sanggye Dundrup and Kunsang Bum, are accused of organizing student demonstrations in response to a booklet distributed by the prefectural authorities, according to a Tibetan source in exile. The booklet prompting the protests, “Ten Ways of Looking at the Present Situation in Tsolho Prefecture” (a partial translation by the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy can be found here), was printed in early May and later distributed as part of a propaganda campaign in the run-up to the 18 Party Congress, which began on November 8, 2012, according to a Tibetan in exile in contact with Tibetans in the area.

In addition to assertions such as, “[t]he 14th Dalai Lama is not an ordinary religious person. He is a political itinerant who wants to split the Chinese Motherland and [is] a political tool of Western opposition against China,” the pamphlet includes an incoherent diatribe on the Tibetan self-immolation protests, which are equated to “terrorist acts,” committed by people who are “mere puppets of the Tibetan independence forces.” The students are from the Tsolho (Chinese: Hainan) Professional Training School, located in Chabcha, Tsolho (Chinese: Hainan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai province (Tibetan area of Amdo). The school specializes in programs in Tibetan and Chinese medicine, as well as vocational programs, such as carpentry and technology skills. The booklet that sparked the demonstrations was met with derision by students, some of whom discarded, and possibly burned, their copies in protest, prompting a response by security personnel, according to a Tibetan source in exile in contact with Tibetans from the area. One of the students was severely injured by the security forces, believed to be People’s Armed Police, and is now in hospital with serious brain injuries.

“The dispatch of security forces in Chabcha who beat and seriously injure young people for expressing their views is not only thuggish, it is officially-sanctioned criminal behavior against Tibetans,” said Mary Beth Markey, President of the International Campaign for Tibet.

The initial security response prompted a demonstration by a larger group of students, primarily from the Tibetan medicine program at the school. Following this protest, another, large-scale demonstration involving an estimated 1,000 Tibetans, including students from throughout the school, occurred on November 26, according to the same Tibetan sources.

Security personnel again beat students, injuring several and requiring hospital treatment for at least 20, four of whom required emergency medical treatment, according to Voice of America (VOA, 26 November 2012). Security personnel also fired warning shots, though no one is believed to have been injured, and used tear gas on the students, four of whom were detained, according to Radio Free Asia, citing Tibetan sources in Tibet (RFA, 27 November 2012).

During the protest, students called for greater freedoms, equality among the nationalities in China, and change in how Tibetan areas are governed. Security forces surrounded the school, cordoning the students off inside, where they were denied access to their parents, while internet and phone lines were restricted. The students were eventually released and allowed to return to their families.

Another large protest occurred two days later, on November 28, according to Radio Free Asia, citing sources in Tibet (RFA, 28 November 2012). Students peacefully demonstrated in front of government offices in Chabcha, calling for freedom and Tibetan language rights. Security forces again used tear gas and beat students, detaining five, according to RFA. The booklet prompting the protests also describes those who have self-immolated as having been caught up in a “conspiracy” by those who make “use [of] illegal assembly, procession and demonstration gatherings, rallies and demonstrations to realize their criminal objectives.” The booklet cautions readers that: “[a]ccording to the nation’s law on assembly, procession and demonstration, one must write to the main [relevant government] office for permission at least five days prior to the event. The letter must specify the [nature of] assembly, procession, or demonstration, as well as the method, objective, leaflets, slogans, number of participants, number of vehicles, types and number of microphones and duration of the event. The organizer of the event must submit details of his name, residential address and occupation.”

Three monks detained; accused of spreading information about the Chabcha protests

According to a Tibetan source in exile, three monks have been detained and accused of spreading information and possibly disseminating photographs of the Chabcha protests. One of the monks, Sungrab Gyatso, was arrested in Chabcha on December 1, while monks Sangdrag and Yeshi Sangpo were detained from the Khyamru monastery, located just outside of Chabcha in Erdi township, on December 3. The Tibetan in exile said that on December 3, troops and police arrived near the monastery and held military manoeuvres nearby at the former site of Military Base 5782, which has long been in disuse. The exercises appeared designed to intimidate monks and local people. A number of monks gathered and were preparing to go to government offices in the area to complain about the situation. They were stopped by local villagers who were concerned for their safety, and the monks went back to the monastery. The current whereabouts of the three detained monks is not known.

Student protest in Rebkong

The student protests in Chabcha followed a peaceful demonstration on November 9 by thousands of Tibetans in Rebkong (Chinese: Tongren), Malho (Chinese: Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai following emotional gatherings of Tibetans after two self-immolations in the area in the preceding two days. Tibetan students and children from middle and high schools in Rebkong, began to gather for the protests from 5 am on November 9, according to Tibetan exile sources in contact with the area. They recited long life prayers for the Dalai Lama, and called for freedom in Tibet, rights for the Tibetan people, and the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet (ICT, 9 November 2012).

According to exile Tibetan sources from the Amdo area of eastern Tibet, 18 students from the teacher training college in Rebkong are in detention, and the college has not yet been opened. Four of the 18 students detained have been named as Palchen Dorjee, Dorjee Wangchug, Palden Dorjee and Tashi Tsering.

Note: ICT reported on December 12 in a mailing that was not published online that the five Tibetan students detained following the Chabcha protests had been sentenced to five years in prison. It appears that while the students are in detention, they may not have been sentenced, according to further information from two exile Tibetan sources.