February 10th: TibetWatch

Phayul is reporting a self-immolation in Yushu prefecture, home of quake-stricken Kyigundo:

Although initial reports are scarce, the Tibetan is being described as a monk in his thirties from the La Monastery in Tridu, Keygudo.

“A monk in his 30s set fire to himself on the main road of La Township, Tridu County, Keygudo Autonomous Prefecture (Ch: Chenduo County, Yushu Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai) yesterday, 8 February, between 1 and 2pm local time,” a release by the London based campaign group Free Tibet said.

Eyewitnesses report that the monk was alive but in a serious condition when he was taken away by Chinese security personnel.

In another protest on February 4 Saturday, four Tibetans were arrested by Chinese security personnel for carrying out a peaceful protest in front of a Chinese police station at Dza Toe town again in Tridu region of Keygudo.

The four Tibetans; Tsering Palden, Tsering Sangpo, Tsering Tashi and Dorjee raised slogans calling for Tibet’s independence and the return of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

The current whereabouts of the Tibetans remain unknown.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has written an article about Chinese efforts to keep the press out of Tibetan regions:

China’s investment in high-tech Internet surveillance technology is well known, and the byzantine rules of its Central Propaganda Department have inspired books and academic treatises.

But among the many tools in the box for media control, there’s one that’s very simple and low-tech: Keep journalists away.

That’s the main tool that the state is employing to suppress news of Tibetan protests against Chinese rule. International journalists have been barred from visiting the site of the protests.

It’s not just international reporters who face travel restrictions. Chinese journalists, already hamstrung by censorship, are similarly barred from visiting places where news is happening. Radio Free Asia points to several microblog posts in the past week by Chinese journalists who have been turned away by authorities in Wukan, in Guangdong province.

Placing travel restrictions on journalists may have one unintended effect. It means that when it comes to unofficial news from China, activists and advocacy groups play a vital role in collecting and disseminating information.

Chinese authorities are hard on activists–even harder than they are on journalists. But by preventing reporters from doing their jobs, Chinese officials all but guarantee that activists are the ones reporting the news.

That’s probably fine by Beijing, because traditional journalism would likely come to the same conclusion that the rest of us have reached. Better to have it come from RFA, TCHRD, and Phayul rather than the Washington Post, NYT, and the Guardian, right?

Finally for now, ChinaDialogue has the next part of their series on Tibetan nomad resettlement:

Fifty-eight-year-old Sonka never dreamed he might one day leave his ancestral village of Cuochi, on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, and move to the outskirts of Golmud, a largely Han Chinese city in northwest Qinghai province. Much less did he imagine his family’s entire way of life would change.

In 2005, this family of five, together with almost 300 other herding households from Sanjiangyuan – Qinghai’s “Three Rivers Source” area, which contains the headwaters of the Yangtze, Mekong and Yellow River – were relocated to a settlement eight kilometres south of Golmud. The move was part of the government’s “ecological migration” scheme, designed to protect the region’s delicate environment.

The government pays each relocated family an annual subsidy of 8,000 yuan (US$1,266). When they first moved, Sonka thought such a large sum would be enough to feed and clothe all five of them. But he soon found out that, in the new village, everything costs.

In Cuochi, it was different: they had meat and milk from their own cattle, used dung for fuel and wore homemade sheepskin clothing. They rarely needed cash. The family was also used to having meat at every meal, but they can’t afford to buy it at the market in the new place. Sonka keeps in touch with relatives back in Cuochi, and asks them to bring beef or mutton when they visit. And when he goes to Cuochi, he brings back as much meat as he can carry.

Sonka is uneducated, unskilled and can’t speak Mandarin. The only work available to him is basic labouring – construction work, for instance, or moving goods. It’s tiring and the hours are long, and Sonka is often the oldest worker on site. But the family needs the money.

The other families in the village face the same problem: a serious shortage of money. I met Kangzhuo, a nun from a Sichuan nunnery, who was visiting her sister. She said she was disgusted with conditions here: “There’s no grasslands, no cows and no sheep – what have they got? Just a cramped house!”

She pointed at the wasteland surrounding the village. “Who are these people now? They’re not Tibetans and they’re not Han. If they were Tibetan, they would have grasslands and livestock; if they were Han, they could speak Mandarin and work. But they can’t herd, and they can’t work.”

After meeting Sonka, I asked myself whether the relocation policy is worth the sacrifice each member of his family – and others like his – has made. Will it bring them happier lives? Will it protect and preserve the precious Tibetan culture and its simple values? If the answer to these questions is no, then the ecological migration policy should be re-examined.

The historic shift from nomadic life to settlement is probably bound to hit Tibet some day, but the way Beijing is forcing the issue is completely wrong. I’ve never seen anyone report even the slightest bit of satisfaction from resettled nomads, with the sole exception of Xinhua ‘journalists’ and official Chinese government ‘researchers,’ and that says a lot.

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Filed under censorship, ethnic conflict, forced relocation, nomads, protests, Self-Immolation Crisis, Tibet

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