A Second Day of Violence in Kham

The protests have spread to Serthar, which is still in Kardze prefecture but which has been much quieter than Kardze town and Ngaba over the last few months:

Chinese authorities shot dead five Tibetans and seriously wounded 40 others on Tuesday in the second day of bloodshed as protests escalated in the troubled Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) prefecture in Sichuan province, local sources said.

Protests were also reported in neighboring Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba prefecture) as several hundred monks and lay-Tibetans sat along a road crossing to speak out against Chinese rule.

“The laypersons took off their upper clothes and remained half naked reciting mantras and eating [roasted barley] in protest,” one source said.

“They marched to the main town in Meruma and when the Chinese police tried to block them, they refused to stop and marched ahead,” the source said.

Tibetans who tried to attend a 15-day special prayer at the Kirti monastery in Ngaba were also stopped and beaten by Chinese security forces, the source said.

Meanwhile, Kathleen McLaughlin writes about the difficulty of reporting on Tibetan affairs when China prevents journalists from entering troubled regions:

Violence has reportedly rocked Tibetan areas of China again this week, with reports on Chinese police firing on Tibetan protesters in Sichuan and killing at least one. Tibetan rights groups outside of China say Chinese forced turned their guns on unarmed protesters in a remote mountainous area, The protesters had refused to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

And herein lies the crucial problem with reporting on Tibet and getting accurate information. Chinese journalists are constrained by censorship and state-owned media rules. Foreign correspondents require special permits to enter Tibet proper. In cases like this reported violence in a Tibetan area of Sichuan province, journalists are certain to be barred, detained and turned away from reporting on the scene. So how does one verify the facts of what happened in what was certainly a violent outburst in Tibetan parts of Sichuan province?

Many rely on Tibetan groups based outside of China and what contacts they can collect from within the country. China then puts forth its own version of the story. But most often happens, the real truth of events remains clouded in shadows, without independent verification.

I’d say that the real truth remains only temporarily clouded, because as time goes by more and more locals will be able to get their accounts out of the country. Take the 2009 Urumqi protests, for example- although China initially managed to confuse the issue greatly, within a few months hundreds of eyewitness accounts had been gathered by groups outside of China who then reconstructed a pretty solid timeline of what happened.

Oiwan Lam at Global Voices Online writes about how Chinese intellectuals have remained largely silent on the self-immolation crisis:

Since 2009, there have been at least 17 Tibetan self-immolation incidents in China. The latest case was reported on January 15, 2012. The public discussion about the protests of Tibetans has been manipulated and monopolized by state controlled media outlets who blame the Dalai Lama and western media for inciting to violence and terror.

The reaction among Chinese public intellectuals and netizens is practically indifferent when compared to other self-immolation incidents, such as the Yihuang demolition case. Some netizens wonder, where have all the public intellectuals gone?

She goes on to detail conversations between Woeser and a number of Chinese bloggers on the subject.

Finally, the Tibetan Political Review has an interesting piece on recently declassified documents from Canada. The Chinese government loves to remind everyone that every government in the world acknowledges Tibet to be a part of China, but they don’t like to mention how hard of a decision it was for foreign governments. England, India, and the US spent years deciding whether or not they should consider Tibet as a part of China, and the decisions were in the end made using reasons that don’t exactly line up with what China teaches in their history books. Now we have proof that Canada, too, struggled on that issue:

Declassified documents from 1950 through the 1960s show that Canada considered Tibet to be “qualified for recognition as an independent state.” These documents also show how the Canadian government’s concern over the outcome of United Nations votes led Canada to publicly avoid the question of Tibet’s political status in favor of human rights. But while Canada downplayed Tibet’s political status, it also accepted that the issue of human rights includes the Tibetan people’s right to self-determination.

These declassified documents consist of a trove of secret memos, correspondence, and diplomatic cables.

One of the most important documents is a November 21, 1950 cable from Canada’s Secretary of State for External Affairs to the Canadian Ambassador in Washington DC (another identical cable was sent the same day to the head of the Canadian delegation to the United Nations). The Secretary of State discloses that the department’s Legal Division had asked and concluded:

“The question is, should Canada consider Tibet to be an independent state, a vassal of China, or an integral portion of China. It is submitted that the Chinese claim to sovereignty over Tibet is not well founded. Chinese suzerainty, perhaps existent, though ill-defined, before 1911, appears since then, on the basis of facts available to us, to have been a mere fiction. In fact, it appears that during the past 40 years Tibet has controlled its own internal and external affairs. Viewing the situation thus, I am of the opinion that Tibet is, from the point of view of international law, qualified for recognition as an independent state.”

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Filed under ethnic conflict, history, Self-Immolation Crisis, Tibet

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