In the third such incident in Tibet this week, police fired into a crowd of Tibetans yesterday, resulting in the death of a Tibetan student (January 26) in Dzamthang (Chinese: Rangtang) county, Ngaba (Chinese: Aba), according to Kirti monks in exile and other sources in contact with Tibetans in the area. The young Tibetan, identified as a 20-year old student named Ogyen, was part of a crowd of Tibetans who had gathered to protest the detention of another young Tibetan, identified as Tarpa, who had posted leaflets in the early afternoon stating that the self-immolation protests that have taken place in Tibet were calls for Tibetan freedom and for the return of the Dalai Lama, and that the self-immolations would continue until authorities met these demands, according to the same sources in exile. Tarpa included his name and a photo of himself on the leaflets, stating that the authorities could arrest him if they wished. The student who was shot yesterday was a schoolmate of Tarpa, and had been seeking to prevent his arrest.
The killing came four days after a peaceful New Year vigil in Dzamthang, according to the same sources, in which the names of those Tibetans who have self-immolated across Tibet were read aloud. A further prayer vigil was held on the first day of Chinese (and Amdo) New Year in Barkham.
The Dzamthang area is now under lockdown and surrounded by troops of armed police, according to Kirti monks in exile. Tibetans are confined to the area and are being stopped from leaving. At the end of a week of intense crackdown in Ngaba and Kardze, officials and People’s Armed Police in both areas have had their Chinese New Year leave cancelled and have been ordered back to work. China’s ruling Communist Party has already deployed “working groups” into every village and monastery in Kardze and Ngaba prefectures, according to Jampel Monlam, assistant director of the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Dharamsala. Jampel Monlam said: “The police are on 24-hour alert in all the villages and monasteries, to maintain stability.”
The incident yesterday escalated when police attempted to detain the self-declared author of the leaflets in Dzamthang, Tarpa, early in the afternoon on January 26 at a house in Dzamthang Barma township, in Dzamthang county (Ngaba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan, the Tibetan area of Amdo) and were taking him away when they were met by a crowd of Tibetans who attempted to block their way, and warned the police that Tarpa’s detention would provoke a larger protest. According to the sources in exile, police responded by opening fire into the crowd, killing Ogyen and injuring several others.
Ogyen was a friend of Tarpa’s from Shonda village, Barma township in Dzamthang county. Both young Tibetans were fellow students at a government school. It is currently not known if Ogyen’s body has been returned to his family, and the whereabouts and wellbeing of Tarpa is also not known at present. According to the same Tibetan sources, four monks from nearby Lhawang monastery have been detained in connection with the incident.
Dzamthang is a rugged, forested mountain region in the Tibetan area of Amdo, on the eastern edge of the Tibetan area of Kham. The Dzamthang county town is connected by road to Serthar, in neighboring Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, where police opened fire on a group of Tibetan protestors on January 24 (ICT report, ‘New Year of Mourning’ in Tibet: Police again open fire killing Tibetan – 25 January 2012). The same road leads to Draggo, also in Kardze, where police opened fire on a gathering of Tibetan protestors on January 23, killing three and injuring several others (ICT report, Three Tibetans shot dead on first day of Chinese New Year – 23 January 2012).
News has emerged of a third peaceful vigil in Dzamthang on Monday (January 23), the first day of Chinese New Year, according to Kirti monks in exile in India. A large number of monks and lay Tibetans in Dzumenda township in Dzamthang county held a candle-lit vigil march on January 23, according to Tibetan sources in exile in contact with Tibetans in the area. The organizers of the vigil addressed the crowd, saying that the day (January 23 marked the first day of Chinese New Year) should not be marked by celebration, but rather should be dedicated to honoring the sacrifice of those Tibetans who have given their lives in protest against the Chinese government. The organizers then read aloud the names and details of all of the Tibetans who have self-immolated. Further information about the consequences of their actions is not known.
According to the same sources, hundreds of Tibetans gathered at Tsodun monastery near Barkham (Chinese: Ma’erkang or Markam) county town in Ngaba and held a candle-lit vigil for three hours from 5 pm onwards on January 23, the first day of Chinese (and Amdo) New Year. Police and soldiers arrived, although the full consequences of the incident are not known.
Kalsang, an MP in the Tibetan parliament-in-exile in Dharamsala, India, was quoted by Radio Free Asia as saying that the whole area is now under tight military control. “The strictest military controls are being imposed in three counties: Serthar, Kardze, and Draggo,” he said. “The Dartsedo (Chinese: Kangding) and Lithang (Chinese: Litang) areas are also on full-scale military alert.” (Radio Free Asia report, January 27, 2012).
The journey from Barkham into Dzamthang makes the transition from the Tibetan areas of Kham to Amdo. According to Steve Marshall and Susette Cooke in their CD-Rom “Tibet Outside the TAR”: “In the past, Dzamthang lay on an important Amdo-Kham trade and communications route between Pema in the Golog territories and Draggo and Kartse in Kham, along which many pilgrims and religious teachers, traders and caravaneers travelled over the centuries. A rugged, richly forested mountain region carved by the deep upper Dadu watershed, Dzamhang was remote and alien to the Chinese when they invaded Kham and Amdo in 1950. It was not made a county until 1958, a measure of the Chinese occupiers’ difficulty in deciding how to deal with such an unknown quantity.” (Section from “Tibet outside the TAR,” archived here.)