CHINA: Tibetan celebrants face military violence on Dalai Lama’s birthday

WNN Religion & Belief

Celebration of the Dalai Lama's birthday in Sichuan Province, China (Tibetan Autonomous Region)
Tibetans commemorate the 78th birthday of the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, considered worldwide to be the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people,. As they celebrated the birthday, a photo image of the Dalai Lama was held high above the crowd in an open field in the Kham (Sichuan Province) region of the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China. In a region where religious expression is limited, displaying an image like this of the Dalai Lama is something that is considered an illegal and arrestable offense inside the region and throughout the nation of China. Image: VOATibet

(WNN) Kandze Prefecture, Kham, Tawu County (Sichuan), PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA, NORTH-EASTERN ASIA: A Tibetan monk was shot in the head and at least six other people were badly injured when witnesses from inside the region reported that Chinese security forces opened fire on Tibetans who had been offering prayers to mark the Dalai Lama’s birthday on Saturday 6 July. The incident took place in Tawu county, Kandze Prefecture, Kham, Eastern Tibetan Autonomous Region.

Several hundred Tibetans gathered on the sacred Machen Pomra mountain, alongside monks from nearby Nyatso monastery and nuns from the Geden Choeling nunnery, to mark the 78th birthday of the Dalai Lama.

According to reports, security forces thought to be Paramilitary Armed Police (PAP), prevented those honoring the birthday from reaching the top of the hill where incense offering for the event  was taking place. This caused numerous celebrants to turn back as they went to another part of the mountain to ‘offer prayers’. It is believed from their new location that they were able to carry out their own birthday celebration for the Dalai Lama.

The circumstances of what transpired next are still unclear but it is known that security forces opened fire on the unarmed crowd. Two people were critically injured including Tashi Sonam, a monk from Nyatso monastery who was shot in the head.

Tear gas and rubber bullets were also fired upon the gathered crowd. Photos of injured people afterwards appear to show evidence of gunshot wounds, surface level bullet wounds and beatings.

One of the injured has been identified as Jangchup Dorjee, a monk from Nyatso monastery and brother of Palden Choetso – a nun who self-immolated in Tawu in November 2011. A number of the injured are still unidentified.

On the night of 6 July, 17 people were also reportedly arrested. The abbot of Nyatso monastery and other senior monks went to the detention center around 11pm (local time) to appeal for the release of the individuals who had been detained. According to inside reports, authorities did later release those who had been arrested.

This is the largest confirmed mass shooting in Tibet since last January when Chinese forces opened fire on unarmed protesters in Drango killing at least two and injuring more than 30 others.

“We cannot allow this incident to go unnoticed like so many before. The international community must condemn this act in the strongest terms and call on China to recognize the legitimate calls for freedom in Tibet,” said Free Tibet Director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren.

In recent years, Tibetans have assembled on Machen Pomra mountain to mark the Dalai Lama’s birthday, despite Chinese attempts to ban the events. In 2011 an eyewitness reported that hundreds of soldiers with automatic rifles surrounded the top of the mountain and pointed their guns at people but this did not stop the celebrations.


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