Protests of monasteries starved in Lhasa

Thursday, 27 March 2008

The Chinese government's attempts to convince a group of selected foreign journalists that calm had been restored to Lhasa backfired spectacularly today when a group of monks staged an exetremely courageous protest in front of the foreign journalists.

According to the Kyodo news agency, which was invited on the state-managed tour, about 30 monks from the Jokhang temple shouted to reporters that they wanted freedom to leave the temple. Kyodo also reported that the monks shouted "The Dalai Lama is unrelated" and that "What the government is saying are lies", in a direct rebuttal to Chinese government claims that the Dalai Lama had orchestrated recent protests in Tibet.

AP, also on the Chinese government tour, reported that one young monk shouted "Tibet is not free! Tibet is not free!" AP also reported that government handlers, who were escorting the journalists on their carefully planned tour, shouted for the journalists to leave the scene of the protest and even tried to pull the journalists away.

According to AP the monks, speaking in Mandarin so that the reporters could understand them, said that they realised that their action would probably lead to their arrest but that they were willing to accept that as a consequence of making their protest.

AP also reported that the area around the Jokhang had been sealed off following the protest and that reporters had been prevented from visiting "potential hotspots" such as Ramoche monastery which was the scene of protests on March 14.

Free Tibet Campaign and other Tibetan sources have received unconfirmed reports from various Tibetan sources inside Tibet that three main monasteries in Lhasa - Ganden, Sera and Drepung - have been cut off since March 11. The sources have reported that the monasteries have no access to food, water and electricity and that the monks in those monasteries are being starved. The reports have said that Tibetan laypeople have attempted to bring food to the monasteries but have been denied access. This information clearly links to Kyodo's report that the monks protesting at the Jokhang had demanded that they be allowed to leave the temple premises.

Free Tibet Campaign has relayed these reports to the Beijing bureaus of some of the reporters that are on the trip and arranged that the bureaus pass on the reports to their journalists as soon as possible so that the journalists can question the authorities as to why they are cutting off the monasteries.

Matt Whitticase of Free Tibet Campaign said: "Today's protest shows the indomitable spirit of the Tibetan people and their refusal to be cowed by the repression of the Chinese state. This protest happened on a carefully planned state-managed visit showing that the Chinese government is powerless to prevent the protests that are still being staged all over Tibet. The Chinese government must release at once any monks detained as a result of today's protests and must immediately open up Lhasa's monasteries to access to food and water."

Matt Whitticase
Press Officer, Free Tibet Campaign


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