Tension in Ngaba County

Thursday, 21 April 2011

The situation in Ngaba county in eastern Tibet has been tense since mid-March when a 21-year- old Tibetan monk from the local monastery died after setting himself on fire. The tragedy took place on the third anniversary of demonstrations in Ngaba Town in 2008 when armed police shot dead at least 13 protestors including a 16- year-old schoolgirl, and it is thought that Phuntsog set fire to himself as a sign of peaceful protest against continuing oppression under Chinese rule.

Following the incident, China stepped up security in the region with armed police and the army surrounding the local monastery, Kirti monastery. 355 monks have been removed from the monastery by armed forces. Monks from Golog, Yushu and Chigdril counties were reportedly released sometimes in June. They are not allowed to return to Kirti Monastery. The whereabouts and wellbeing of the others remain unknown.

A group of mostly elderly women who kept vigil at the monastery were severely beaten and two elderly Tibetans died of unknown causes while trying to stop soldiers from taking monks. A patriotic re-education campaign is ongoing in Kirti and other monasteries in the surrounding area, and authorities will not leave until monks “react favourably”. Homes in Ngaba town have been searched and identity cards were checked as authorities searched for people staying in Ngaba who were not from the area. Over 30 Tibetans have been detained since Phuntsog’s death including two of his relatives.Two monks have been sentenced on unknown charges.

Journalists are now banned from the region and communication with Ngaba is heavily restricted. The mobiles phones of the monks were confiscated. People across Ngaba County report that it is not possible to use SMS service. Internet is disconnected in whole of Ngaba town. Businesses such as restaurants and shops face difficulties with a massive decrease in customers due to the military and police presence and restrictions in Ngaba.

Latest news from Ngaba: According to monks from Kirti Monastery based in India two women who were detained on 21 April while trying to stop the removal of the monks were tortured in detention. Choekho, 45 and Serkyi, 37, were released on 17 May. The monks reported that: “Their heads had been shaved, and they were beaten and abused so badly in detention that they are unable to look after themselves."

On 15 June monks at Kirti monastery reported that camera crews arrived to the monastery to film a religious ceremony they were ordered to take part in. They refused saying that the the government has staged the ceremony for propaganda purposes.