Monday, July 13, 2009
FURTHER VIOLENCE IN URUMQI
iolence flared again in Urumqi this afternoon, as Chinese soldiers gunned down at least two Uyghur men after they and a third man tried to attack the soldiers with knives. Two Uyghur men who witnessed the incident said the three had "hacked at the soldiers with big knives, and then were shot." Two Uyghurs were killed and the third was wounded. His condition is not known.
However in a later report, an Urumqi city official named Mr. Fan told Associated Press that the three attackers had been going after another Uyghur man when the paramilitary police shot them. The AP goes on to cite construction worker Zhang Ming, who said he also saw the men try to attack the soldiers. The security forces chased them, beat them and fired shots, he said.
Photos taken at the time show one policeman raising his rifle to strike a man. Beaten, the man in a blue shirt with blood on his right leg lay on the ground. Police formed a ring around him, pointing their guns up at surrounding buildings.And according to a still later dispatch from Reuters, the official Xinhua state mouthpiece has now reported the incident, and stays on-message with Mr. Fan's version. Uyghurs were attacking Uyghurs, and the People's Armed Police saved the day.
Xinhua also had more good news for China, revealing the long-awaited proof that the unrest in Uyghur country was organized by outsiders. Demonstrations against China's longstanding suppression of the Uyghurs have been occurring around the world, some of which have resulted in attacks against Chinese consulates and embassies.
"Supporters of the East Turkestan separatists started well-orchestrated and sometimes violent attacks on Chinese embassies and consulates in several countries soon after the riots occurred," Xinhua said, referring to name given to their desert homeland by some Uighurs.And there you go, what more proof could you need? Supportive demonstrations were organized in many countries, and were carried out by foreigners. Therefore the protesting students who marched in Urumqi's streets last Sunday afternoon were organized by foreigners too. It's so obvious! It couldn't possibly have anything to do with this:
"The attacks against China's diplomatic missions and the Urumqi riots seemed to be well-organized."
A Uighur security guard, who declined to give his name, said that while he did not support the violence, he understood people's frustration.A few days ago I mentioned that a Canadian journalist was among those being ejected from Kashgar, the Uyghur cultural capital in the western part of the territory. Mark MacKinnon is the Toronto Globe and Mail's Beijing bureau chief, and was in Kashgar to report on the demolishing of Kashgar's Old City by Chinese authorities. MacKinnon writes of his rushed eviction with fellow journalists here. His story on the destruction of Kashgar's Old City, for which (surprise!) the Chinese government has never applied for a well-deserved UNESCO world heritage listing, has now been published.
"Look around you -- 90 percent of all the businesses are owned by the Han," he said, standing in Urumqi's main bazaar.
"All I can do is get a job as a security guard," complained the university graduate. "The Han here can't even speak Uighur."
The Chinese government did the right thing by immediately allowing journalists into their 'New Dominion' to report on the conflict, but angry Han mobs probably didn't exactly fit into the desired narrative. An ABC news crew happened to see an attempted Uyghur lynching by a Chinese mob, which then promptly turned on the journalists.
Thirty Han Chinese men were beating a Uighur man, kicking him and punching him and hitting him with sticks. He was not fighting back but just trying to get away. Hundreds of Han Chinese were cheering the men on. Eventually, the police dragged the Uighur away and put him in a vehicle for his protection. Then, the mob turned on us. They blocked our cameras, not wanting the images of Han Chinese beating a Uighur to get out. I was pushed. Then the group surrounded us and started yelling. They pushed us back up a highway ramp where we were shooting. They yelled that western journalists were biased against the Han Chinese and that we should delete our footage. One man tried to grab our camera and then pulled out a baton and held it over his head as if he were going to hit us. We turned around and ran. The oddest part of the whole experience was that there were swarms of police and troops around and none of them were really trying to break up the fight.The Boston Globe has another fine Big Picture series on the ethnic violence in East Turkestan. It's good to see those big format images which make it easier to see people's faces. Some of it is disturbing, but the gallery offers a prior warning over the images which you may choose to skip.
Last night I watched Alim Seytoff, the Vice President of the Uyghur American Association, interviewed on C-SPAN's Washington Journal. The thirty minute interview, with video footage and phone-in callers can be viewed here.
I'll be in Indonesia this week, so I'm unlikely to post again until next weekend. Pro-Uyghur demonstrations have been held today in Surabaya and Jakarta, so I'm looking forward to learning what the Indonesian views are on the situation. (I'm also looking forward to ketoprak, sate, tempeh, nasi goreng, ikan bakar, etc. Heh.)
Friday, July 10, 2009
CHINA'S OTHER COLONY EXPLODES
he Chinese Empire's conquered colonies are restless. More than a year after the latest Tibetan uprising, protest still continues in Tibetan areas and China's responses are as intolerant and repressive as ever. Now a spark has ignited the dry tinder of rage in Uyghurstan, which the Communist empire calls the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. A protest march in the regional capital Urumqi turned into a violent anti-Chinese riot, and protests have also been reported in Kashgar and several other towns.
The vast culturally Turkic area of central Asia was once divided up between two competing imperial powers — neither of which had anything much in common with the people of the region. West Turkestan was conquered by the Russian Empire in the mid 19th century, around the same period that the Qing Dynasty Empire (Manchus who had previously subsumed China and were not themselves Chinese) conquered East Turkestan. After the Russian Revolution the communists held on to the empire's central Asian colonies, converting them into Soviet Socialist Republics (Turkmen, Uzbek, Tajik and Kyrgyz SSR's). After the fall of Soviet communism, these all became independent countries.
But the Turkic Muslims in the eastern part of this vast region had a different fate. With the fall of the Qing Dynasty and the advent of the new Chinese Republic in 1912, the fringes of the empire began to fall away. The Tibetans evicted the Chinese and declared their independence, while eastern Turkestan fell under the control of various warlords and ethnic insurgencies. An East Turkestan Republic existed briefly in 1933-34 until a Russian-backed Chinese warlord retook control. A second East Turkestan Republic was declared (in what is now northern Xinjiang) in 1944. With the advance of the Chinese communist revolution in 1949 and the People's Liberation Army's advance into southern Sinkiang, Chinese Republican government officials fled to other countries or surrendered to the communists.
Uyghur resistance to the CCP continued, and the leaders of the East Turkestan Republic travelled to the Soviet Union in 1949 — where they were advised to cooperate with the Chinese communists. The five leaders boarded a plane in Kazakhstan, enroute to Beijing. The plane crashed, killing all on board. With all their experienced leaders now gone, the remaining figures in the East Turkestan government agreed to incorporate their republic into the "Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region" of China. KGB files released after the collapse of Soviet communism revealed that the East Turkestan leaders had been killed on orders from Stalin — and in accordance with a deal the Soviet dictator had made with the new Chinese dictator, Mao Tse Tung.
This is admittedly a thumbnail sketch of Uyghurstan's recent history, but we can surely better appreciate the depth of resentment on view over the past five days if we have at least an outline of the initial relations between the Uyghurs and the Chinese communists. Unfortunately for the latter, you never have a second chance to make a first impression. By his own rhetoric, Mao was a great liberator of humanity. But by his practice, he was determined to recover every square inch of land ever (even marginally) colonized by long-past Chinese empires. Mao evidently inherited the imperialist gene from the earlier emperors, including the non-Chinese ones.
And Mao handed that gene down to his political descendants who have taken and run with it. At the time of the communists' victory in China's civil war, the Han Chinese comprised around 5-6% of the population in East Turkestan. Today, with its longstanding policy of transmigration into "minority" regions, the CCP has turned that around. The Han migrants now comprise around 40% of the entire "autonomous" region — three times the size of France. In the major commercial city of Urumqi (current population 2.4 million), the Han make up around 75% now.
The trouble on late Sunday afternoon began with a student protest march through Urumqi (a Dzungar name meaning "beautiful pasture"). The students were photographed in a non-violent procession, chanting and carrying Chinese flags, making their way toward People's Square. After that, the sequence of events is murky (I held off making a post on this until a clearer understanding of what happened on Sunday evening could be known — it still isn't). Foreign journalists were permitted to flood into the city the next day, but reliable accounts of the time between the protest march and the (at least) 156 deaths that night are hard to find.
Whatever happened, a non-violent protest march became — in the space of a few hours — an extremely violent anti-Chinese riot. Given the recent history of crowd control in Tibet, one might surmise that the smashing of shops and cars could have been triggered by a violent dispersal of the student protesters. Some hours later, Uyghur youths were hunting for Hans to beat and kill. Learning the exact sequence of events will be essential in understanding how this could happen, yet this short period (before journalists were present) is the murkiest of the past five days.
One thing we do know about the spark for all this, is that it originated thousands of miles away. The students were marching to demand justice for some of their compatriots who had been lynched by a Han mob in Guangdong, a major industrial province in southern China. Those riots had been sparked by rumours initiated by a disgruntled Han factory employee, which claimed that Uyghur boys had raped some Han girls. At least one of the Uyghurs killed by the mob was reportedly a girl. After the riot and lynchings, it was found that the rape rumour had been false.
Rumours can be deadly, and perhaps the Chinese authorities are learning this. If China actually had a vibrant free press, the chances that one hateful person could start a baseless rumour and have it widely believed (with such deadly consequences) might be close to nil. The starting requirement is an unfettered press with journalists willing and able to investigate anything. Then it will still take time for various media outlets to establish themselves as trustworthy, or not. Until such time as citizens can trust the press, they will fall for rumours.
Of course the Guangdong riot was not covered by the Chinese media in any detail, since the authorities believe that hushing up uncomfortable events is the best course. This is a nutritious environment for growing bigger and better rumours. Authorities claim that only two Uyghurs were killed by the lynch mob, but with no trustworthy journalism to dig up the story, Uyghurs were also inclined to believe rumours. Following the Urumqi riots, I came across at least three separate accounts by Uyghurs claiming that the Guangdong mob had killed over 600 of their people, and that the bodies had been chopped up and dumped into garbage bins. That's some fine rumour fuel for what would follow.
The Chinese government must learn that an independent and trustworthy press is the only thing which can remedy this situation. But government officials continue to believe that they must control absolutely everything, especially information. This ridiculous attitude will cause many more deaths until the CCP learns their lesson.
The clearest accounts of the Guangdong incident come from a secretly-conducted interview with some of the hundreds of Uyghur factory workers now held under the protection of Chinese police. They are not allowed to leave the place where they are held, much less go home. One of the workers had a hidden cell phone, though they are not permitted to communicate to the outside. Radio Free Asia's Uyghur service was able to establish contact and spoke with three of them. Why aren't Chinese citizens permitted to know what happened that night, from the victims' perspective?
But even the deadly rumour from Guangdong can't be blamed for everything that happened in Urumqi. A "Strike Hard" campaign (Tibetans know all about those) was launched in Xinjiang in April. Many have been arrested over the past few months for taking part in "illegal religious activities" and regional Party leaders have been flying into their familiar Cultural Revolution-style tirades well before the Sunday night riot.
For whatever reason, the Chinese are not precisely following their Tibet pattern in responding to this incident. The day after the initial riot, foreign journalists were welcomed to travel to Urumqi and were afforded the only open internet connections in the city (at their hotel). But the authorities were unable to completely dispense with their impulse to control the message, and they set up guided "tours" for the press — apparently believing they had things well in hand. Suddenly, out of the lanes and alleys of an impoverished Uyghur neighbourhood, dozens of women and children appeared and wailed over the disappearance of their husbands, fathers and sons. Yet another staged media event (Labrang, Jokhang...) had gone awry.
The only video I've found of this event is in a report by Tania Branigan and Dan Chung in The Guardian. Watch for the soldiers and their equipment backing up at Tursun Gul's approach, in the opening seconds of that clip. Peter Foster of the Daily Telegraph tells her story. Without the accidental presence of foreign media, her act of courage would not have been known by the world.
But there was more to come. That same day, a new mob was taking over the streets. Angered by their own army's failure to protect them from the angry, marginalized and colonized minority, the Chinese citizenry organized vigilante gangs. Armed with crude weapons, they went hunting for minorities to kill.
It was too quiet. At two o'clock on another hot, dry afternoon they strolled up towards the People's Square. Some were in smart shirts and ties, others in jeans and trainers. In their hands were iron bars, knives, staves of wood, metal chains and nunchuks, golf clubs and meat cleavers, lengths of piping, shovels and axes.For the rest of the week, Chinese riot police and soldiers have played cat-and-mouse with the roving gangs of vengeance-seekers and the defiant remaining pockets of Uyghurs willing to challenge them. At some points the two groups were hurling rocks at each other over the heads of security forces. Heavy military deployments were made around Uyghur neighbourhoods in attempts to keep the Hans out — not always successful. But over those few days the vigilantes were kept on the move and unable to congregate in one place, earning the security forces an unaccustomed praise for their tactics from some foreign media members.
Little by little the numbers swelled, almost imperceptibly. Within half an hour there were hundreds of Han Chinese on the streets of Urumqi – then thousands. At first the talk was of self-defence. Then it turned to vengeance.
Some things, though, will never change under the CCP. Prominent Uyghur intellectuals disappear, presumably by police action (and even if he lives in far-off Beijing). The initial unexpected openness toward foreign media has an expiry date, as news agency reporters have now been ordered out (including a Canadian in Kashgar). Being that Friday is the most important Muslim prayer day, it's only sensible for the government to padlock the mosques and order everyone to pray at home, right? That was the decision this morning, but evidently that one won't fly right now. Urumqi's Uyghur population was able to get into at least some of their mosques today.
Also on the 'never change' list is the standard, number one response of the CCP — blame some outsider for your own deficiencies. With Tibet, of course, everything is always the Dalai Lama's fault. Party functionaries dream up conspiracies of plotting death and destruction, with His Holiness always at the centre. They have "plenty of evidence" but none is ever presented — only elaborate passages in official speeches lifted straight out of the Cultural Revolution, disseminated far and wide on the state controlled media mouthpieces. For the Uyghurs? That's easy: Rebiya Kadeer did it all. What would these vile repressive dictatorships do without a small but tough woman to blame for everything? (Is Hu taking lessons from Burma's Than Shwe?)
And let us not forget the clever strategy of vowing to execute as many as possible — that's always a smart move, and quite helpful at calming inflamed passions. It worked so well in Tibet, right? Oh wait... well, it couldn't hurt to try, eh?
A good source for keeping up with events in Uyghurstan is The New Dominion, a well-written and apparently well-connected website which has followed this episode from its first hours. The latest article is a letter from an anonymous foreign traveller who flew into Kashgar from Urumqi just before the riot. There is an account of the Kashgar protest, and the crackdown that followed it. Chinese CCPatriots will be pleased to know that it is depressing; if you want to experience Uyghur culture, you'd better hurry. The Motherland is burying it as quickly as possible.
Striking up a conversation with a police officer, the letter-writer asks him his thoughts on the situation. The officer replied that everything would be fine. "You know, in the next ten years, we’ll just send more Han here and that’ll just end the problem once and for all."
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
COME HOME (VIDEO)
mages — From the book "Our Tibet" © 2008 Flying Mystics Press, and from the Australia Tibet Council's "50 Years of Hope and Courage" photo Exhibition 2009.
Words — "Come Home" by Woeser, written on March 10, 2000. Translated by A. E. Clark in "Tibet's True Heart — Selected Poems" published by Ragged Banner Press.
Sound — "Om Mani Padme Hung" from Tibetan Wind. © 2004
Compiled by Rob Perry.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
CLASHES, DETENTIONS, RELIGIOUS PROHIBITIONS CONTINUE IN TIBET
hinese authorities imposed harsh restrictions on religious activities ahead of the Tibetan Saka Dawa observances which fell on the 15th day of the fourth Tibetan month, or June 7. The occasion marks the birth, enlightenment, and passing of Lord Buddha (a very important holy day for all Buddhists — in Thailand it is Wisakha Bucha Day, usually in May).
Sources said the concerned government offices in Lhasa had convened meetings of staff members and people under their jurisdictions and subsequently issued strict orders particularly to students and government officials not to visit temples during the festival.The stepped up security featured increased scrutiny of foreign arrivals and continuing investigations of Tibetan families with members outside the country, who are asked to provide their details and contact information to the authorities.
The normal life of people has been affected as the government have sent reinforcement of security forces and deployed a large number of intelligence officials across the city.
On the holy day itself, more than 200 Tibetans gathered at around 11:00 am in Lhasa’s Tromsikhang Market. They collected donations and proceeded to the Jokhang Temple to offer butter lamps and perform rituals. These observances were reportedly led mainly by Lhasa merchants from the Kham region. It was the same day that Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe was due to confer his city's "Citizen of Honor" award to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
The crowd then moved through the open Barkhor street and assembled at the compound in front of the Potala Palace, the official residence of the Dalai Lamas of Tibet. Turning their back to a stone pillar placed by Chinese government and facing the Potala Palace the Tibetans wore ceremonial scarves around themselves and again shouted "Lha Gyalo" ["May the Deities Prevail" -ed.] in unison, sources explained.At around 4 pm a larger group gathered again at Tromsikhang Market. The police seemed alarmed with so many people gathering and demanded an explanation from the faithful pilgrims. The Tibetans replied that they were exercising their "freedom of religious belief." A number of Tibetans were arrested and all but six were later released. The Tibetans demanded release of the remaining six, and the Chinese authorities promised the angry crowd they would be released after their inquiries were complete. But the six — Pedo, Phurba, Dolkyab(Dokyab), Dorjee Tsering and Pema Demay from Kham Derge and Thuppa from Kham Nangchen — were not released. This was not a protest (despite the previous headline) but was in fact a religious observance.
A large number of Chinese security forces later stopped the group as they headed towards the monastery of Nechung (Tibet's State Oracle) and forced them to retreat.
"It was not a protest but a sangsol," or a special offering to Buddhist deities, one Tibetan man, a resident of Lhasa, said in an interview. The man said he had been detained for three days, from June 7-10.It is unclear exactly how many were originally arrested, or later released like the man quoted above. But some Chinese officials are not shy about denying confirmed facts.
"Many of us were detained, and it is not easy to give details on the phone," he said.
Municipal officials declined to comment.We continue to receive new details of March 14, 2008 — the night violence broke out in Lhasa following 5 days of violent suppression against peaceful processions of monks and nuns. They were beaten and they were arrested for five days straight, until some of the anti-government protesters themselves became violent and set fires in the city. After five days of seeing their monks and nuns dragged away from sit-down protests and trucked off to the detention cells, many people believed that some of these detainees had already been killed in custody.
But an official who answered the phone at the Lhasa Public Security Bureau said, "No one was detained. It was a religious event."
Sometime after the riot broke out, the official crackdown came. The very few western witnesses present were all astounded at how long the anti-riot response took to show up. PAP photo/video-graphers were out capturing the scenes for later productions (which later played on state TV with high repetition for months). Having a platoon of armoured riot police marching into these scenes could certainly have spoiled the movie. The Chinese tactic was to take loads of pictures and video first, then send in the anti-riot violence later. When it came, it came with a vengeance.
That night Phuntsok, a 21 year old driver, was at home with his wife and one year old child in eastern Lhasa. He wasn't protesting or chanting in the streets, much less setting fires. His vehicle for livelihood was his "three-wheeler," which I think would mean one of the canopied motorcycle-rickshaws used in Lhasa for passengers and goods. In other words Phuntsok was a poor man providing for his family. Chinese security forces arrested Phuntsok and took him away from his home that night.
"After the arrest, the PAPs beat him fiercely and then locked him — along with other innocent Tibetan detainees — in the storeroom of the Lhasa railway station. He was released after having detained there for 20 days."The Tibetan farmers' boycott campaign, prevalent mainly in Kardze Prefecture, has reportedly taken root in Jomda County, Chamdo. At the end of May, boycott supporters were arrested, beaten and shot by security forces, and arrests were made at Vara and Jobhu Monasteries. All but three of those arrested at the monasteries were later released, but Sonam Palmo (alias Sopal), Lobsang Palden and Yeshe Dorjee are being held as suspected boycott leaders.
On returning home, the source further said, he was given the bests of medical treatment but his condition did not improve much. "At the moment, his physical condition is very poor; he has to rely on walking sticks and cannot stand straight due to back injury that he sustained from severe beatings at the hands of the PAPs."
Tsering was hit by a bullet and Paga and Lhadher were taken away after being seriously beaten and injured by police with a baton. Samga was also beaten with the barrel of a gun. All these cases took place in Jomda County (Chamdo Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region TAR) in the end of May.It was also reported that Gyune Monastery was surrounded by armed security forces, and that eight residing retreat lamas were beaten during a night raid. Retreat lamas at Palchen Monastery were also beaten, the report said.
In Markham County, Chamdo, three Tibetans were sentenced for destroying equipment used to broadcast Chinese slurs and abuse against the Dalai Lama. The young men were arrested in October 2008 and sentenced on June 1. Ngawang Tenzin, 19, was sentenced to five years, Tenzin Rinchen, 17, was sentenced to two years, and Tenzin Norbu, 21, was sentenced to five years in prison.
A local source in Jomda County told Radio Free Asia that on June 13 authorities went to six Jomda monasteries to enforce the "patriotism re-education campaign". Three monks and an attendant from Nyedo Monastery were detained. Hundreds of Tibetans from nine nearby villages gathered at the detention centre demanding their release, and several hundred security officers dispersed them with tear gas and beatings.
"One Tibetan named Kalsang who was in the Chinese army and spoke Mandarin well tried to go toward the security forces and appeal to them to stop using poisonous gas. They beat him up," he said.The monks were later released. Many monks in Jomda are reported to be leaving their monasteries to avoid the government's indoctrination, which requires them to denounce the Dalai Lama. Monasteries have been told they must accept the indoctrination or be closed down. All non-cooperating monks are threatened with detention.
Protests against a mining company's water diversion project in Meldro Gongkar County (in the eastern portion of Lhasa municipality) have sparked a violent suppression by security forces. The large scale project channels water from the upper reaches of the Gyama Shingchu River to the mining site via pipes laid over agricultural lands (which were seized by the government without compensation to farmers). The mining of the upper Gyama region began in 1990, but the loss of their water was the last straw for local Tibetans. Gyama Shen is the birthplace of the great Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo (617-650 AD).
After authorities refused to hear the residents' appeals, clashes broke out between Chinese miners and angry Tibetans on June 20, followed by a police crackdown which left three Tibetans wounded. One seriously injured person was denied admission to a county hospital and was transported to Lhasa. It isn't known whether that person survived. After the incident, representatives from every family in the affected farming villages protested at the local government office.
Water for irrigation has been cut off in Gyama Township by the mine project, and last year toxic mining wastes were dumped into the river causing many livestock and wild animal deaths. The fifteen villages in the valley depend on the river for their water, but since the destruction of its source by the diversion project, the river has dried up as have many of the area's natural springs. Pastures are parched and drinking water is toxic.
The government of the T-"A"-R sent a group of senior officials and security forces to the area on June 21 for a meeting with the residents. After the meeting, at which the locals demanded an end to the mining activity, security forces left the area along with a large number of the mine workers. The demonstration at the township government office continued until the next day, with people seen laying down and preventing passage to the mine site.
A previous mining dispute is reported to have been settled in Markham County, Chamdo. Radio Free Asia reports that the sacred Ser Ngul Lo site has been saved from becoming an open-pit mine, after four months of local protest.
Both sides agreed June 8 that the mine—which had operated in Markham [in Chinese, Mangkang] county, in the Tibet Autonomous Region’s (TAR) Chamdo prefecture—would cease operations, sources said.There is still no word on the outcome of the strong local resistance in Tawu County, Kardze to the construction of a major hydro-electric project which will displace tens of thousands from their ancestral lands. Protests there have been suppressed with firearms, leaving six women seriously wounded last month.
"It was agreed in writing that there will be no mining in the area," said a local Tibetan man, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"All the Chinese security forces deployed in the area will be withdrawn. The Tibetans who are blocking the road will also return to their respective areas."
"Chinese authorities will build concrete barriers to block the poisonous residue of earlier mining in the area so that this will not filter down into the drinking water," he added.
A reminder of the dangers Tibetans face if they dare to provide information to the outside world was recently provided by the Dui Hua Foundation, a human rights advocacy organisation. Gonpo Tserang, a 32 year old tour expedition guide in the Dechen Tibetan "Autonomous" Prefecture (Ch: Yunnan province), was sentenced to three years imprisonment for "inciting separatism" by sending email and text messages during the unrest last year. At the trial in September 2008, Gonpo Tserang was found to have "used the internet to deliberately fabricate rumours, distort the true situation and incite separatism" in his communications with six named people outside Tibet. An appeal was rejected by a higher court in January.
The Foundation notes that this is the first known case of a Tibetan in Yunnan to be convicted on state security grounds since the latest Tibetan uprising began in March 2008. The content of his messages is never specified in either the original indictment or the appeal rejection (both are translated here). Gonpo Tserang was not represented by counsel. Phayul News adds that he has been well respected in his professional career, having trekked with "foreign celebrities" and participating in high profile mountain rescue efforts. This case demonstrates the extent to which Chinese surveillance is able to monitor Tibetans' communications with the outside world, for which the authorities have zero tolerance.
A Gannan prefecture document obtained by RFA, citing State Council document #129, describes what it calls "unprecedented efforts to collect satellite dishes" to restrict access to long-distance broadcasts in Gansu province, a site of repeated Tibetan protests against Chinese rule during the past year.The destroyed satellite receiving equipment is being replaced with cable which carries only government-produced programming.
Anyone failing to comply with government directives to remove the dishes would be "dealt with in accordance with law," the memo said.
Chinese state-media mouthpiece Xinhua made a rare admission early this month, attributing the recent suicide of a Tibetan Buddhist monk to "stress." Sheldrup, a 43 year old monk in Rebkong County (Ch: Qinghai province) had been detained following protests at his monastery on April 17, 2008, and was severely tortured in custody (a detail Xinhua inexplicably missed). He was later released.
Sheldrup's name then appeared on a PSB wanted poster and he left his monastery to go into hiding, during which time his health deteriorated badly. Earlier this year he returned to his monastery, and soon afterwards he hanged himself according to Xinhua, which specified the sources of his "stress" to "illness and deaths in his family." The monk had spent around 10 years studying at Gaden Monastery in India, returning to Tibet in 2006. A rash of suicides by monks and nuns in Tibet has been described in a report submitted to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Religion.
Suicide is a grave sin in Buddhism, and certainly any monks or nuns who choose death by their own hand have been pushed beyond the limits of endurance. Yet another example of the extreme measures taken against them (especially if they have spent time in India as Sheldrup had) was given by a Tibetan woman who recently reached freedom in exile. Tenzin had previously attended a Tibetan school in India for three years, and then became a nun and studied at a monastery in Dharamsala. In 2005 her father became ill, and her family asked her to return to Tibet to see him. Authorities somehow learned that she had been in India, and they made her three-month home visit intolerable. She prepared to escape again, through the border area of Burang. Her group was intercepted by Chinese border police and taken to an army barracks in that region.
Tenzin was taken into a dark room and asked by a soldier whether she was a nun. She replied that she was. She was then beaten with batons and belts until she felt numb and went unconscious. After five days of interrogation and beatings, the group was taken to a detention centre. There, Tenzin was raped by her jailers.
"For many days they locked me up in a solitary confinement cell which was big enough for only one person. Both my arms and feet were handcuffed to a wooden bed. Then one night the light was switched off, and two prison guards came into the cell and told me that I had to take some medicine. I said I was not going to take any medicine. I thought that time that they were going to kill me by giving me that medicine. So I struggled to shake my head while they were forcing to put the medicine to my mouth but they forced me to swallow it down by pouring water into my mouth and blocking my nose by pressing it. [The type of medicine or drug given to Tenzin is not known.] After that, two guards went out and chatting with each other outside the cell. Then moments later they came in, and I sensed something bad was going to happen, I screamed as loud as I could in the hope that someone would come to stop them. But all was in vain, one of the guards covered my head with his coat and was trying to stop me from screaming while the other raped me. Later I fell unconscious. I dont know if that was because of the medicine they gave me or out of fear. I could not feel anything, especially the lower part of my body."Tenzin was sent to a police department in Ngari (western T-"A"-R) and then on to a "re-education through labour" camp for a three year term of punishment. She was initially kept in solitary confinement. Continuing torture, poor living conditions and lack of sufficient food cause her health to deteriorate, and she was released after about one year because the authorities believed she would soon die. Her family spent nearly all their savings on her medical treatment, and after some months at various hospitals she returned home. Tenzin remained under heavy surveillance and her movements were curtailed. After the outbreak of protests in March 2008, officials visited her home every day pressing her to denounce the Dalai Lama. She re-entered hospital for several months and then resolved to try escaping again. She reached India earlier this year.
The Chinese government conducted another farcical show tour for selected foreign media last week. For the occasion, the large numbers of paramilitary police which patrol the Tibetan capital changed out of their usual military-style uniforms and into fashionably non-threatening black and yellow track suits. The reporters were taken on rushed visits to a primary school, a monastery, and one Tibetan family's home. The marching track suit-clad patrols of crew-cut young men told the journalists that they were "students" — and some even carried school books to prove it — but local residents confirmed that they were the same PAP squads which have become a dominating and constant presence in Lhasa's streets since last spring.
The reporters were taken to the Jokhang Temple on their official tour, and found it nearly deserted. They were permitted only to meet the "chief monk" who gave them the Chinese government's version of the situation. The next day, reporters saw around 100 monks being returned to the Jokhang in buses.
One monk was able to arrange a secret meeting with an Irish radio reporter. He outlined the political indoctrination classes he and his fellow monks are forced to attend, describing them as "painful." They are forced to criticize the Dalai Lama in these classes, he said, and more than half the monks at his monastery had left because "they found the pressure too much."
The landmark report on the Tibetan situation by the Beijing-based academic think-tank Gongmeng (Open Constitution Initiative), which conducted a survey of Tibetan areas last year, has now been translated into English by the International Campaign for Tibet. It is the first Chinese study to find that PRC policy failings are primarily responsible for the high level of discontent in Tibet.
But the Chinese public is as unlikely to see mention of this report as it is to find any coverage of the Iranian freedom movement in any Chinese media.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
NO SOUNDS OF SILENCE, PLEASE
s the Michael Jackson eulogies look set to completely dominate the news cycle for the next few weeks at least, the Iranian revolution's soundtrack could now become the Sounds of Silence.
If that happens, it won't be Jackson's fault. Celebrity still trumps everything else in the pop media, and the loss of the critically important world attention for the Iranian freedom seekers will be on the heads of moronic Western media mavens. And silly politicians like Jesse Jackson Jr., who led a Congressional silence for Michael yesterday. What about all the Nedas in Iran, where's their moment of silence and tribute for dying too young?
As one of the most senior Ayatollahs preached about executing protest leaders during Friday prayers yesterday, and other Iranian officials variously claim that either the CIA or the demonstrators themselves killed Neda Agha Soltan, continuing international attention to the situation is essential to freedom's cause.
One Iranian YouTuber (outside Iran) decided that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. I just couldn't resist this one. [those viewing on tiny laptops may need to scroll down past the sidebar to see the video.]
If you're in the mood for another — "Invincible".
The two photos on this page come via Atlas Shrugs, where Pamela is doing some fantastic coverage. Click on either image to see the large scale versions in her latest article, or go here for all her Iran revolution posts.
It's getting more difficult each day for Iranians to communicate with the outside. The most crucial technology which is helping them to stay connected is TOR. A very good piece by Eli Lake in Washington Times explains how it's done, and offers this interesting background information (I hadn't known that TOR was originally a US military invention):
Designed a decade ago to secure Internet communications between U.S. ships at sea, The Onion Router, or TOR, has become one of the most important proxies in Iran for gaining access to Web sites such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.Invented by the US military and handed over to civil society to use for human liberty. That's the spirit!
The system of proxy servers that disguise a user's Internet traffic is now operated by a nonprofit, the Tor Project, that is independent from the U.S. government and military and is used all over the world.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
THE TYRANT SYNDROME **updated**
t's an evident truism that governments which are operated under the framework of immoral tyranny tend to act alike. Brook no dissent, counter it with brutality, lie about everything — that sort of thing.
The photo shown here was taken on July 19, 2005 in Mashad, Iran. It shows Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, aged 14 and 16 at the time of their "offences" (homosexuality), preparing for Islamic Revolutionary justice. Dinnerjacket's statement was made a couple of years later, in an address at Columbia University. I've written about this previously.
Over the past week and a half, I've been amazed at the familiarity of some of the measures taken by Iran's security forces. Seizing dead bodies and live injured out of hospitals to be carted off to unknown destinations. Refusing to hand over remains to families and disposing of the bodies in secret burials. Ramping up expeditious special courts to deal with the hundreds (or thousands?) of detained dissidents. Persecuting the relatives of those killed, injured or arrested.
They are charging the families for the cost (highly inflated) of the bullet used to kill their loved ones. Detainees are paraded in public, and some are coerced to issue ludicrous public confessions blaming outsiders. The regime launches pathetic, unhinged accusations against foreign scapegoats.
Is any of this sounding creepily familiar? Just change "secret burials" to "secret cremations" and you'll get it.
I've spent most of the past year and a half focusing mainly on the Tibetans' struggle with Communist Chinese rule, and these are all very, very familiar. (If I've left some out, additions are welcome in comments.) At least the CCP doesn't execute teenagers just for being gay, so that's something.
Special courts will "teach protesters a lesson," and a few who "learned" their lesson early have been appearing on state-run television with their "confessions":
"I think we were provoked by networks like the BBC and the VOA (Voice of America) to take such immoral actions," one young man said. His face was shown but his name not given.Neda Agha Soltan was perhaps the first named martyr of this freedom struggle and became its icon, but there are untold numbers of Nedas across Iran. Kaveh Alipour, 19, was one of them. He was returning home from a class on Saturday, and was to be married in a week.
A woman whose face was pixilated said she had carried a "war grenade" in her hand-bag. "I was influenced by VOA Persian and the BBC because they were saying that security forces were behind most of the clashes.
"I saw that it was us protesting ... who were making riots. We set on fire public property, we threw stones ... we attacked people's cars and we broke windows of people's houses."
At the crack of dawn, his father began searching at police stations, then hospitals and then the morgue.Mr. Alipour didn't have that kind of money, for those highly expensive bullets. He was eventually able to take his son's body on condition it was immediately taken out of Tehran for burial. Other families don't know where their loved ones are buried.
Upon learning of his son's death, the elder Mr. Alipour was told the family had to pay an equivalent of $3,000 as a "bullet fee"—a fee for the bullet used by security forces—before taking the body back, relatives said.
The authorities have persecuted the family of Neda Agha Soltan right out of their home, after forbidding them from conducting normal grieving rituals. Regime media have also accused the expelled BBC journalist, John Leyne, of having paid for her assassination in order to make a documentary film.
Neighbours said that her family no longer lives in the four-floor apartment building on Meshkini Street, in eastern Tehran, having been forced to move since she was killed. The police did not hand the body back to her family, her funeral was cancelled, she was buried without letting her family know and the government banned mourning ceremonies at mosques, the neighbours said.The family's former neighbours continue to live in fear.
"We just know that they [the family] were forced to leave their flat," a neighbour said.
Remember the doctor who struggled alongside Neda's music teacher on Saturday, trying so very hard to save her life? His friend, author Paulo Coelho, has just published their email correspondence beginning the day after Neda's death. After getting his wife and son out of the country, the doctor fled to London on Wednesday. In which other countries must a doctor fear for his and his family's safety because he tried to save a life?
*UPDATE*: (26/06/09: 1100) Dr. Arash Hejazi gives an interview to the BBC, in which he explains why he is going public about Neda's death despite the jeopardy it places him in. "Because of the innocent look in her eyes" when she died, he says. He also describes that the crowd actually nabbed the shooter, a Basij member, who cried to them that, "I didn't want to kill her." His identity cards were taken from him, bystanders took his photograph, and he was released. The interview is 19 minutes (video at the link), a riveting conversation with this very fine man. [end of update]
Some former apologists of the regime have been mugged by reality. It's the NYTimes' Roger Cohen vs. the NYTimes' Roger Cohen — separated by less than four months. Remarkable. Faster please!
The previously planned July Fourth parties with diplomatic agents of the murderous thugocracy will have to go ahead without their presence, which one would have thought would be as unwelcome as fire ants at the picnics. After almost two weeks of this — the evident election fraud, a massive and peaceful popular uprising, and the hellishly barbaric crackdown — they've finally been disinvited by the White House. Weanie diplomacy is taken off the grill, and somebody else will have to bring the potato salad.
[In case anyone using RSS or other website feeds of this site hasn't noticed (and these feeds often don't pick up on article changes), the previous couple of posts have been updated since they were published. Last night's was updated three times. Please have a look.]
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
THAT OLD TAM FEELING **updated x3**
nd that stands for Tian An Men. But you knew that.
Citizen journalist persiankiwi was in the square, and I take the liberty of taking his series of tweets out of crimped-speak.
Just in from Baherestan Square, the situation today is terrible. They beat the people like animals. I've seen many people with broken arms, legs or head. Blood is everywhere, and pepper gas. It's like war.An Iranian student, who had been twittering under his own name before things began heating up, stopped broadcasting on Saturday afternoon. His latest entry.
They were waiting for us, they all have guns and riot uniforms. It was like a mouse trap, people being shot like animals. I saw 7 or 8 militia beating one woman with a baton on the ground. She had no defense, nothing. I'm sure that she is dead.
So many people are arrested, young and old. They take people away, we lose our group. People run into alleys, and militia are standing there waiting. From two sides they attack people in the middle of the alleys.
All the shops were closed. Nowhere to go, they follow people with helicopters. Smoke and fire is everywhere.
I'm going to sleep a little before joining with the others, please pray for all people of Iran & wish us peace & freedomMore from persiankiwi just now as I'm about to post this. I'll give them to you raw (hover your mouse over the icon here for current):
5:55 PM Jun 20th from web
rumour they are tracking high use of phone lines to find internet users - must move from here now - #Iranelection34 minutes ago from web*UPDATE*: (23:30)
reports of street fighting in Vanak Sq, Tajrish sq, Azadi Sq - now - #Iranelection - Sea of Green - Allah Akbar29 minutes ago from web
in Baharestan we saw militia with axe choping ppl like meat - blood everywhere - like butcher - Allah Akbar - #Iranelection RT RT RT27 minutes ago from web
they catch ppl with mobile - so many killed today - so many injured - Allah Akbar - they take one of us - #Iranelection25 minutes ago from web
Lalezar Sq is same as Baharestan - unbelevable - ppls murdered everywhere - #Iranelection24 minutes ago from web
they pull away the dead into trucks - like factory - no human can do this - we beg Allah for save us - #Iranelection20 minutes ago from web
Everybody is under arrest & cant move - Mousavi - Karroubi even rumour Khatami is in house guard - #Iranelection -15 minutes ago from web
we must go - dont know when we can get internet - they take 1 of us, they will torture and get names - now we must move fast - #Iranelection9 minutes ago from web
thank you ppls 4 supporting Sea of Green - pls remember always our martyrs - Allah Akbar - Allah Akbar - Allah Akbar #Iranelection6 minutes ago from web
*UPDATE-2*: (01:40) CNN is playing around with the videos — when I posted that at 11:30 pm, it was four minutes long. They cut off the most gripping descriptions of the carnage and her heart-rending pleas for help, right after she tells of the large mob emerging from a mosque to beat people. They trimmed it down to the first minute.
I'll leave it up there in case the following YouTube version doesn't stay up. This is the full segment. It's in a wide format and I can't make it any smaller, so if your browser window is too narrow and it doesn't appear directly below, scroll down past the end of the sidebar to see it:
*UPDATE-3*: (25/06/09: 15:30) I'm feeling really annoyed that CNN has apparently deep-sixed most of this interview. The one-minute family-friendly version replaced the four-minute original, as near as I can tell, within two hours of its first airing. Only the truncated interview has been broadcast today, at least on CNN International.
I know that some people can't view embedded videos, so for the non-clickers here is a transcript, partly done by The Lede Blog and finished by me.
I was going towards Baharestan with my friends…. This was everyone, not just supporters of one candidate or another, everyone — all of my friends, we were going to Baharestan to express our opposition to these killings these days, and demanding freedom. But the black-clad police stopped everyone at Saadi. They emptied the buses that were taking people there and let the private cars go on…. We went on until Ferdowsi then, all of a sudden, some 500 people with clubs and woods, they came out of [Hedayat] mosque and they poured into the streets and they started beating everyone.If anyone is thinking, "Yeah, that axe thing is just a rumour," brace yourself. ThreatsWatch.Org has posted a photograph taken on Saturday, June 20 (the same day Neda Agha Soltan was murdered). Don't click through until you have prepared yourself to witness gruesome barbarity. If you're in doubt of your ability to handle it, don't. You can't unsee something like that.
[This is where CNN has trimmed off the rest of the interview, both from their online video offering and in its broadcasts.]
And they tried to beat everyone on Saadi bridge and throwing them off of the bridge…. And everyone also on the sidewalks. They beat a woman so savagely that she was drenched in blood and her husband, who was watching the scene, he just fainted. And I also saw people shooting, I mean the security forces shooting on people, on Lalezar. And of course people were afraid… the security forces …
They were beating people like — hell. This was a massacre. They were trying to beat people so that they would die. They were cursing — saying very bad words to everyone. They were beating old men. And this was — this was exactly a massacre. You should stop this. You should stop this. You should help the people of Iran who demand freedom. You should help us. …
[Here ends The Lede's transcript, the rest is added by yours truly.]
[nearly speechless interviewer: "How many of you were there in this terrible situation?"]
There were thousands of people on the streets, but it was me and ten of my friends.
[interviewer: "And you said the security forces were shooting at the people? Did you see anybody injured by gunfire?"]
No, as I explained earlier I didn't see, I heard the shooting and my friends and I we just scattered. We heard the shooting near Lalezar and we were near there, and we just ran away. I didn't see again what happened, I'm sure people are dead there but I couldn't see, I couldn't catch the film or anything.
[interviewer relates to her some other received reports of shooting and beating the people "like animals"]
Yes exactly, exactly, exactly. This is what's happening, they beat people so bad. You know in the previous days they are killing students with axe. You know they put the axe through the hearts of young men and it's so... devastating, I don't know how to describe it I can't find the words, but this is horrific. This is genocide, this is a massacre, this is Hitler! And you people should stop it! It's a long time we have been exposed to this and nobody takes action! It's time to act!
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
WHO'S TWEETERING NOW? **updated**
ranian tough-guy Prez Mahmoud has been in a rough mood these days but he's now coming out of his shell to throw down the gauntlet, in a challenge to those who object to shooting lovely and dignified women in the heart on the street.
Take it away President Ahmatwitterjad:
Iran's digital tracking capabilities against online citizens is far more extensive than previously known, far outstripping the snooping capacity of even China's net police, and also aided by western technology companies.
Her passion was travel, and she hoped someday to be a guide for Iranian tour groups to other countries. She had saved up and made trips to Turkey, Dubai and Thailand. She also loved and studied music. Her friend told her not to go out, that it was too dangerous. "Don't worry," she said. "It's just one bullet and it's over." Family and friends remember Neda.
Professor Fouad Ajami on Obama's Persian Tutorial. Please let him be a quick learner. Joe warned us about this, but no one listens to Joe (not the plumber, the other one).
This Friday a new film starring the magnificent Shoreh Aghdashloo ("The House of Sand and Fog") opens in North America. Be there or be square, wider release will follow. Take all your friends. The Stoning of Soraya M.
Hotdogs! Mustard! Diplomatic Action! July Fourth partying with the official agents of Neda's killers will proceed as planned. You guys bring the potato salad, ok? AFP: US says hot dog diplomacy still on with Iran.
The President needs to add a new word* to his vocabulary, and to pair it with another word he uses too much. The latter word is "I", the former is "condemn". Try it out, man. It's not that hard. Beating and shooting people who hunger for freedom is no clerical error. Nothing could be more deserving of clear condemnation, whether in Tibet, Burma, China, Iran, or formerly in South Africa, Poland, Hungary... the list is long. The leader of the free world position has always carried with it certain responsibilities.
*UPDATE* (00:30): Gecko gets results! (Actually, Trita Parsi made the same request earlier in the day.) "I strongly condemn these unjust actions," Obama said in a news conference at the White House.
"She died full of love," Golshad said.From the above LAT story on Neda's family and friends. Golshad is not her real name.
The grey haired gentleman with Neda was not her father but her music teacher, Hamid Panahi. Her family was forbidden to eulogize her, but Mr. Panahi defies them saying he has nothing to lose.
"They know me," he said. "They know where I am. They can come and get me whenever they want. My time has gone. We have to think about the young people."
Neda, he said, was smart and loving. She had a mischievous streak, gently teasing her friends and causing them to laugh. She was passionate about life and meant no one any harm.
In the election unrest, friends found in her an unexpected daring, a willingness to take risks for her beliefs.
"She couldn't stand the injustice of it all," Panahi said. "All she wanted was the proper vote of the people to be counted.
"For pursuing her goals, she didn't use rocks or clubs," he said. "She wanted to show with her presence that 'I'm here. I also voted. And my vote wasn't counted.' It was a very peaceful act of protest, without any violence."
As to the person or persons responsible for her death, they will not be forgiven, he said.
"When they kill an innocent child, this is not justice. This is not religion. In no way is this acceptable," he said. "And I'm certain that the one who shot her will not get a pass from God."