Free Tibet has learnt that three monks from Kirti monastery in Sichuan’s Ngawa County (Aba in Chinese) have been arrested. Jamyang Phuntsok was detained on 3 March whilst Mewa Gyatso and a third unnamed monk were taken into custody on 5 March for distributing flyers announcing that four fellow Tibetans were planning to set themselves alight on 10 March in protest against Chinese rule in Tibet.
As part of their response the authorities have announced that they would shut down the monastery at the slightest inkling of protest, and have deployed about 60,000 soldiers throughout the area.
A 7 pm curfew was imposed on Sunday. Since then all restaurants and shops have been ordered closed. Unconfirmed reports say that all civilian road traffic has also been banned.
In Hainan’s Mangra County (Guinan in Chinese) about a hundred monks from Lutsang Monastery held a peaceful candlelight march in Tabey village.
About 190 monks were summoned by police; they individually interrogated and beaten.
On Sunday 109 monks were ordered to take their things and then moved to an undisclosed location for patriotic re-education.
Faced with mounting international criticism, China is sticking to its claim that it freed Tibet from slavery and poverty. In a recently released white paper the Chinese government stated that it has invested 154.1 billion yuan (about US$ 20 billion) between 2001 and 2008. The net result has been that the local GDP has grown at an annual rate of nearly 12 per cent on average, higher than the national average.
At the same in its campaign against Tibetan separatism, Beijing is playing up its own nationalist card in order to muster support back home, talking about “foreign enemies” interfering in its internal affairs.
On Tuesday Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in response to criticism coming from the US Congress that the “Tibet issue is purely China's domestic issue. The Chinese government and people, as always, oppose any country or anyone to interfere in China's internal affairs on the pretext of the Tibet issue.”
Yet not everyone is of one mind. Some voices are being heard even within China calling for a different approach from that of the country’s leadership.
On Tuesday for instance a delegation of pro-democracy Chinese travelled to Dharamshala to commemorate 50 years of exile. Thomas Yan, chairman of the China Forum for Human Rights in Hong Kong, was among them.
“I spent five years in prison for joining the Tiananmen Square uprising,” he said. “I know how our Tibetan brothers and sisters have suffered. The Chinese Communist Party is an evil government. It is the enemy of the Chinese people. We must work together for a democratic China and a Free Tibet!”
Equally for many independent observers, treating the Tibet problem as an economic issue is totally off the mark. Any goodwill gained from a faster-growing economy is offset by issues like freedom of religion and speech, as well as respect for Tibet’s cultural identity. By contrast, all the Chinese authorities can do is ban Tibetan public servants and students from practicing religion as they have done since the mid-1990s.
So far ethnic Han and Hui settlers have been the main beneficiaries of large scale investments in the region. Beijing has indeed deliberately promoted waves of outside settlers who have come to monopolise positions of power and private business in Tibet.
This in turn has stoked the flames of Tibetan resentment as the indigenous population increasingly finds itself marginalised in its own country.
And it is also why in March of last year an outbreak of protests turned into an assault against Han Chinese-owned stores.
As much as China claims that religious freedom exists in Tibet and that it is spending large sums on the upkeep of ancient Tibetan monasteries and the restoration of ancient Buddhist texts, for most Tibetans, Beijing’s respect for Tibet goes as far as bricks and stones, not their religion.