As the Tibetan New Year holiday began, the Sichuan Provincial Communist Party Chief visited Aba prefecture and Kirti Monastery, the location of recent self-immolations by protesting Tibetans. From the New York Times:
The party chief, Liu Qibao, made a trip to the prefectures of Aba and Ganzi, where Tibetan clergy have been engaging in self-immolations to protest Chinese policies and ordinary people have taken to the streets to rally against the authorities. Mr. Liu met with security officers and also visited Kirti Monastery in the town of Aba, called Ngaba in Tibetan, where many of the self-immolations have taken place.
“Everyone is equal before the law. No matter whether you are a monk or a nun, you are a citizen first,” Mr. Liu said, according to a translation of passages in the Sichuan Daily article by The Associated Press. “There are no monasteries outside the law, nor are there individuals outside the law.”
Meanwhile, access to the area is tightly restricted for others. Foreign journalists have entered the region undercover and at great risk to themselves and their Tibetan contacts, as Louisa Lim reports for NPR (Listen to her report):
Visiting Tibetan areas nowadays is a risky venture. There is nothing in the Chinese regulations explicitly forbidding journalists, but the unspoken dangers deter many. One colleague told me it wasn’t worth bothering; the monasteries are full of spies, he said, you won’t get anything anyway.
Many have tried, nonetheless, hiding in the back of vans, under piles of clothes, in questionable disguises. If you do get caught, you might get detained and questioned, but eventually you’ll get sent home. At worst, you might get beaten up. The dangers are far worse for those who help us and talk to us.
In 2008, Jigme Gyatso, a Tibetan Buddhist monk from Labrang monastery in Gansu province, recorded a video telling how, after a protest at Labrang, he was arrested, held for 42 days and tortured. His testimony was later broadcast on Voice of America.
He’s been detained multiple times and is currently being held incommunicado. He has been charged with taking part in activities aimed at splitting China. It’s unclear what part, if any, the 2008 video played in that charge.