Amateur footage shows tensions still running high in Tibet

 More than a month ago, Tibetans commemorated the bloody revolt against Chinese rule that took place in 2008. But due to the censorship imposed by the authorities in Beijing, not a single image of this event was released from Tibet…until now.   


First images of the Tibetan monastary of Kirti surrounded by Chinese paramilitary troops. Screenshot of the video below.

More than a month ago, Tibetans commemorated the bloody revolt againstChinese rule that took place in 2008. But due to the censorship imposed by the authorities in Beijing, not a single image of this event was released from Tibet…until now.

These videos were broadcast for the first time on April 20 by Voice of America Tibetan Service, a US government news agency dedicated to Tibet. The films were shot between March 16 and 19 2011, near the Kirti monastery in the town of Aba, north of China’s Sichuan province (which borders Tibet). The first video shows a monk from the monastery named Phuntsog, just after he set himself on fire on March 16. The other images bear witness to the deployment of soldiers in the town of Aba following this incident, the arrests, and the total blockade of Kirti monastary by the military.


The violence of these images contrasts with the Chinese authorities' portrayal of the situation at the time: they claimed that the situation in Aba was "normal" and "harmonious".


In March 2008, a number of people from the Aba region protested against Chinese rule, following the example of monks who had risen up in neighbouring Tibet. According to several Tibetan groups, at least a dozen people were killed in clashes with security forces.



Video posted by VOAKunleng.


France 24 journalist Ségolène Malterre was a contributing writer for this article.

"After the self-immolation of Phuntsog, the monks of the monastery got a week of “patriotic re-education"

Zorgyi (pseudonym) is Tibetan. He lives in Dharamsala where he works for the organisation International Campaign for Tibet


Every year around March 10 [the anniversary of the 1959 anti-Chinese and anti-communist Tibetan uprising], the monks attempt to challenge the Chinese domination of the province of Tibet. It is for this reason that Phuntsog immolated himself several hundred metres from the Kirti monastery on March 16. According to several contacts who were present at the scene, when the police saw him they tried to put out the fire all while beating him with sticks. Afterwards, the other monks carried him back to the monastery to treat his injuries. However, Phuntsog was so badly injured that he had to be transferred to the local hospital, where he died. 


"Until today, nobody could enter or leave the monastery"


The Chinese authorities placed the Kirti monks under high surveillance. Military troops were deployed around the monastery [in the video, at 2’39 minutes, one clearly sees the stupa of the monastery in the background. In the foreground are the police vans which were deployed and the barricade which was erected at the entrance. Written on the placard are the words “No entry”]. Nobody could enter or leave the monastery. Government representatives launched a “patriotic re-education” programme to force the monks to respect Chinese laws and institutions. Those who refused to say that they were against the Dalai Lama were punished. All religious activities were banned, even chanting. This programme lasted for more than a week.


"Three hundred monks have just been arrested"


The local authorities then announced to the representatives of the monastery that they were going to get the monks aged between 18 and 40 years old to follow a special education programme. But on 20th March people from the region came to the monastery to protest against this measure. They were not armed and they were beaten up.


The latest news is not good. On 21st April, a mass arrest took place in the monastery. 300 monks were taken by police to an unknown location [the monastery houses 2,500 monks, ed.]. We have had no news whatsoever about them [the information regarding this arrest has not been confirmed by the Chinese media].


"China gives hardly anyone authorisation to enter Tibet"



I don’t know who made these films but this person took a lot of risks. I imagine that he or she used a tiny spy video camera because one can see them getting really close to both the police and the barricades.  


It’s so complicated to get images and eyewitness accounts out of this region. I receive requests from journalists from all over the world who want to get into Tibet but China gives hardly anyone authorisation to do so. They have even stopped journalists from going to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, which is near to Tibet, because a lot of people from the Aba province go to live there. The authorities are very afraid that these people will tell journalists what is happening in Aba.”