Dalai Lama Urges Restraint in Tibet Monastery Crisis

Recent standoff between Chinese military forces and Tibetan monks in Ngaba County in Sichuan has been escalating over the past month. The Dalai Lama has now spoken out, hoping  Tibetan protesters will show greater restraint and warning of “catastrophic consequences” if clashes continue. From AFP:

“I urge both the monks and the lay Tibetans of the area not to do anything that might be used as a pretext by the local authorities to massively crack down on them,” the exiled spiritual leader said in a statement posted on his website Saturday.

Clashes erupted at the Kirti monastery in China’s southwest Sichuan province after a monk set himself on fire and died last month, according to the International Campaign for Tibet, a New York-based rights group.

Police unleashed trained dogs on residents outside the monastery and beat people when they tried to prevent forces from entering the compound on Tuesday, the rights group said in a Wednesday statement.

“I am very concerned that this situation, if allowed to go on, may become explosive with catastrophic consequences,” the Dalai Lama said.

He also called on the international community to persuade the Chinese leadership to exercise restraint.

The statement said the monastery, housing 2,500 monks, was completely surrounded by Chinese armed forces, who at one point prevented vital food and other supplies from entering the compound.

Witnesses report that the 2500 monks at Kirti monastery have been surrounded by the Chinese military and are facing food shortages. From the Tibet Post:

According to latest confirmed information, Chinese security forces have cordoned the monastery and additional contingents of armed security forces (estimated to be around 800) have been brought in on 9 April 2011 to reinforce security clampdown in Ngaba County. The movement of the monks is totally restricted with no one being allowed to go in or come out of the monastery. Gaps in boundary barb wire in north of the monastery have been closed with concrete walls. Since the cordon, monks are facing shortage of food and depend on voluntary food offerings by locals through the monastery administration. Authorities have prohibited the faithful local Tibetans from offering food to monks. Reports from ground indicate that if the situation remains same, over 2500 monks in the monastery will face starvation which will most probably lead to a mass revolt. In such an event security forces will unleash its deadly assault leading to extrajudicial killings as it happened three years ago on 16 March 2008 in Ngaba County. The lamas and monastery officials have been able to maintain peace so far by advising the monks to remain calm despite the ongoing repression.

In the aftermath of Phuntsok’s protest and subsequent show of solidarity by monks of Kirti Monastery, the authorities have taken drastic measures to bring the monks under control. According to latest information, since the begining of April 2011, security forces who were earlier surrounding the monastery have entered into the campus. They have stopped elderly monks from even walking the outer circumambulation path (Kora), and made observation posts (with binoculars) on stepped platforms of stupas in the monastery. The guards keep round the clock vigilance of activities in the monastery. Over 33 people have been arrested out of which 22 people (8 monks and 16 lay people) continue to be under detention.

Apparently the Chinese government intends to imprison the Kirti monks and send them to re-education camps. There are reports of police brutality and extra judicial killings and police brutality. From Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy:

There is a high probability of extrajudicial killings to take place at Ngaba County, Sichuan, according to latest confirmed information received by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD). High tension has prevailed between local Tibetans and Chinese security forces at the Kirti Monastery which might prompt Chinese security forces to open firing.

According to information received from reliable sources by the TCHRD, today around 12 pm (Beijing Time) additional large contingents of armed Chinese police vehicles arrived at the Kirti Monastery. Upon seeing the vehicles local Tibetans rushed towards the monastery to protect the monks. The Chinese authorities have earlier announced that the monks will be relocated on 12 April to another location for “legal education” and “patriotic reeducation”. The students who usually take the route to their schools passing through the vicinity of Kirti monastery have been ordered by the officials not to take their usual route begining from 8 April 2011. The locals suspected that the police vehicles have arrived at the monastery to transport the monks. They blocked the forces from entering the monastery which broke into heated tension between the locals and armed police. The police started to brutally beat some of the Tibetans and let lose police dogs upon the crowd. Upon seeing tension outside the monastery, monks inside were blocked from coming out by the police stationed inside . In view of the high tension, senior monks in the monastery management came out to diffuse tension by pursuading the crowd to maintain calm. Although tension has been temporarily difussed, additional Tibetans arrived to join the crowd. The local Tibetans have now blocked all the roads leading out of Ngaba County and maintain vigil.

The Dalai Lama and other Tibet advocacy groups are asking international organizations, including the U.N., to respond to the human rights violations taking place at Ngaba.