An eyewitness report from Tibet says monks planning hunger strike

February 21: “Tibetans are disappearing,” “Tibetan living areas have been enclosed with walls and barbed wires,” “Military drill songs can be heard throughout the day,” “Armored vehicles have machine guns aimed at Tibetans,” “All Tibetans are required to carry identification at all times,” “7000 Tibetans pilgrims sent to three months of reeducation camps, lose their jobs and pension,” “Soldiers living in the rooms at the Potala Palace,” “Monks planning hunger strike.”

These are some of the startling revelations that a foreigner who recently visited Tibet has made in a report sent to Phayul.

This eyewitness account could be the last unbiased report by a foreigner on Tibet for the next couple of months, as Tibet will remain cut off from the outside world following a government decree. The duration of the ban encompasses two important national events: the Tibetan new year on February 22 and the anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising Day on March 10.

In order to protect the identity of the friends of the writer in Tibet, the name of the author is not revealed.

Below is a slightly edited version of the report.

Report from Lhasa: February 18, 2012

I have just returned from Lhasa. Tibetans are disappearing; everyone is terrified about the bloodshed which seems inevitable.
Lhasa consists of approximately 1.2 million Han Chinese and approximately 200,000 Tibetans. The majority of these Tibetans live in an area which is now almost entirely enclosed by military compounds with walls between 10-16 feet; some with barbed wire. This isolation gives the impression of what the Warsaw Ghetto was like. Inside the "enclosed" area groups of armed soldiers, S.W.A.T. teams, and police patrol the streets 24 hours a day. Military drill songs can be heard throughout the day. S.W.A.T trucks and rows of 6 to 15 armored vehicles (tanks?) come through the area on a daily basis. Each vehicle has 3 to 4 soldiers at the opening turret, armed with assault rifles or machine guns aimed at the Tibetans.

All Tibetans must carry identification at all times. Tibetans residing in Lhasa are required to register with the police. There are approximately 134 new Police station checkpoints in Lhasa for random searches of pedestrians and vehicles. In addition to the military compounds in and around Lhasa, permanent military posts holding 1-10 armed soldiers have been established throughout the city.

The Kalachakra Ceremony in January 2012, held in Bodh Gaya, India by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, was attended by approximately 10,000 Tibetans from Tibet. Among these were reportedly 3000 Government informants. The remaining 7000 Tibetans, on returning to Tibet via India, Nepal, Hong Kong, etc. were ALL brought to reeducation camps for a minimum of three months. Elderly people begged to go home in the evenings due to the cold, but they were not allowed.

In many instances when family members brought blankets for their elderly family, they were told they were no longer there and the authorities didn't know where they were. Among the 7000 Tibetans in reeducation camps, interrogation from the Chinese police was common practice. Tibetans are made to disclose their jobs (from which they are fired), lose pensions or other such benefits, disclose names of relatives and their contact information, including addresses and professions. Random identification checks and House searches are done; family members are brought in for "questioning".

Approximately 50 nuns going to a retreat on a bus, were detained and held for questioning after an informant accused them of speaking against the government. Their whereabouts are presently unknown.

A Tibetan artist who painted a Tibetan looking upwards towards a clock above their head, titled "Waiting" was arrested for the symbolism used in the painting.

I was told that many people were taken away by the State Security and don’t come back. They just disappear.

Roadside checkpoints in the Tibetan Autonomous Region are used to keep Tibetans that are not residents of Lhasa, away from the city. In addition, if a monk or nun is in a vehicle the police/soldiers will make them return to their monasteries on foot. All Tibetans riding in such vehicles will have their full identification listed. The Potala Palace is a place of pilgrimage for Tibetans, especially during Losar (Tibetan New Year) but the roadside checkpoints prevent this and limit the number of Tibetans in Lhasa.

Approximately 300-400 monks previously resided at the Potala Palace; today the number is around 36. Soldiers and other military personnel now live in the rooms where the monks used to reside. Although it is listed as a World Heritage site, the Chinese government now uses the Potala as a military post. A large Military complex is situated within several blocks. The nunnery, located across from grounds before the Potala Palace, now has Military bunkers.

Jokhang Monastery has such a large military presence in and around the area that you have to be careful not to bump into soldiers and police as they crowd the streets of the surrounding market when they go on patrol.

Drepung Monastery was home to 7 to 10,000 monks now has only between 500-700.

Sera Monastery once had approximately 6,000 monks now has 200-300 monks. Sera Monastery is surrounded by police stations and military compounds. Soldiers and police constantly patrol the grounds of the monastery, including where the monks debate.

Norbulingka Palace has between 6-10 monks from almost 300 in the past. The Dalai Lama’s small personal menagerie has been sold to a Chinese businessman and a separate admission is charged to see the animals, although the entire Norbulingka park is listed as a World Heritage site.

A hunger strike of 100 monks is said to be underway.

Please send this report to anyone who can help, especially US government officials, newspapers, humanitarian organisations, etc.

Thank you for your help!

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