Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama appealed today for calm in the standoff between Chinese security forces and local Tibetans at a blockaded monastery in western China.
Meanwhile, a top official of Tibet’s government-in-exile asked the United Nations to help resolve the crisis—a call echoed by Tibetans in the area near the monastery.
“The current situation prevailing at Kirti monastery in northeastern Tibet is extremely grim,” the Dalai Lama said in a statement released on Friday.
“The monastery, housing approximately 2,500 monks, is completely surrounded by Chinese armed forces, who at one point prevented vital food and other supplies from entering the monastic compound.”
On April 11, Chinese armed police using clubs and dogs attacked an unarmed crowd of Tibetans outside the monastery, severely injuring an unknown number.
Recalling that the blockade at Kirti, in the Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of China’s Sichuan province, began following the self-immolation of a monk in protest at Chinese rule, the Dalai Lama said the situation could become “explosive, with catastrophic consequences for the Tibetans in Ngaba.”
“In view of this, I urge both the monks and the lay Tibetans of the area not to do anything that might be used as a pretext by the local authorities to massively crack down on them.”
The Dalai Lama called on “the international community, the governments around the world, and the international nongovernmental organizations” to persuade China’s leaders to use “restraint” in handling the situation.
China’s use of force in the region “has only deepened the grievances and resentment of the Tibetan people,” the Dalai Lama said.
Appeal to U.N.
Meanwhile, Tibet’s exile parliament appealed directly to the United Nations for help in resolving the standoff, calling U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s attention to “the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibet.”
“The security, dignity and human rights of over 2,500 monks of Kirti monastery, one of [Tibet’s] most important monasteries, stand critically threatened,” said the letter dated April 14 and sent to the U.N. by the exile parliament’s deputy speaker, Dolma Gyari.
Speaking to RFA, a Tibetan woman in Ngaba echoed the exile parliament’s appeal to the U.N. for protection and help.
“I hope that the United Nations and international human rights organizations will feel sympathy for us and help us,” the woman said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“We have no equality here,” the woman said.
“We Tibetans have become scapegoats for blame by Ngaba prefecture and county officials, who then seek promotions and recognition,” another woman said, also on condition she not be named.
“Even if they are dealing with a small issue, they present it to higher authorities as a bigger and more serious problem, and then try to cause the situation to flare up,” she said.
State Department ‘concerned’
The U.S. State Department said on Thursday that it had raised the issue of the Kirti siege with Chinese officials.
China’s actions are “inconsistent with internationally recognized principles of religious freedom and human rights,” spokesman Mark Toner said, speaking to reporters.
“We continue to monitor the situation closely and are obviously concerned by it,” Toner said.
And on Friday, Human Rights Watch Asia advocacy director Sophie Richardson said, “The Chinese government has an obligation to protect its citizens’ rights of public expression, assembly, and religious belief as guaranteed under China’s laws and constitution.”
“The use of violence against peaceful, unarmed demonstrators including those [at] the Kirti monastery would be both unjustifiable and completely unlawful,” Richardson said.
Reported by Dorjee Tso for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translations by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney