Demonstrations in Gannan City

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Free Tibet Campaign has received two separate eyewitness accounts of a demonstration staged by monks in Tso monastery in Gannan city (Gansu province) today, despite the deadline of midnight last imposed by the Chinese authorities.

One eyewitness was a monk from the monastery who spoke by phone to Free Tibet Campaign's contact in Dharamsala. The monk said that at 11am on Tuesday 18 March 150 monks held a prayer session inside the monastery before unfurling and waving Tibetan flags. The monks called for the return of the Dalai Lama and for the release of the Panchen Lama according to the eyewitness. The protest was peaceful despite the monastery being surrounded by Chinese security officials and the eyewitness confirmed that no clashes took place between the monks and the security forces.

The eyewitness reported that 5000 Tibetan laypeople gathered on a sacred hillside in the town to mark the religious ceremony of 'lungta' or windhorse ceremony. The laypeople were also denonstrating. No clashes were reported with security forces but the eyewitness reported that while he was on the phone, 105 truckloads of armed police arrived in the town from Lanzhou. (This is in accordance with information received independently yesterday by Free Tibet Campaign's contact in Dharamsala. Our contact spoke to a contact in Machu County who had received a telephone call from a "well-placed" source in Lanzhou. The source said that 20,000 troops were leaving Lanzhou and were to be divided amongst 5 destinations in Gansu Province, including Gannan City).

The eyewitness to events in Tso today told Free Tibet's contact in Dharamsala that the people were protesting peacefully but that they were prepared to die if the troops wanted to kill them.

A separate eyewitness account was given to a Tibetan living in exile who has relayed the account to Free Tibet Campaign. That Tibetan spoke by phone to his sister living in Gannan City. The sister said that a demonstration had taken place in Gannan City today and that it had been led by the monks of Tso monastery and that it had been joined by many people from the neigbouring villages, including Bora. The eyewitness said that about 5000 people were protesting on the hillside in Gannan City.

The sister said that her husband had counted 122 trucks arriving in Gannan City and that the trucks were carrying People's Armed Police (PAP) armed with guns and teargas. The Chinese authorities pressured the head lama at the monastery to calm people down and send them home after the protest. The lama did this and the crowd dispersed according to the eyewitness.

The people in Gannan were very angry due to being forced to sign a petition in December last year which opposed the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet. Free Tibet Campaign reported this in a press release: http://www.freetibet.org/press/pr100108.html

After being dispersed following the demonstration the crowds displayed their anger at being forced to sign the petition by smashing up the building where they were forced to sign the petition. The eyewitness also reported that 4 Tibetan boys aged 16-17 had been arrested but that no reason had been given for the arrests.

Matt Whitticase
Press Officer, Free Tibet Campaign

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For further information please contact Matt Whitticase at matt@freetibet.org
Or call on +44 (0) 207 324 4605/+44 (0)7515 788456