China to step up ‘re-education’ of Tibetans

China warned on Saturday it would step up a controversial ”re-education” campaign for Tibetans after a fresh protest showed a huge security crackdown had failed to extinguish nearly one month of unrest.

The statement in the state-run Tibet Daily newspaper called for Buddhist monks to become Chinese patriots, but activist groups said the heavy handed techniques already employed in the campaign were inflaming tensions.

Efforts by authorities to ”re-educate” monks at a monastery in Sichuan province in south-west China led to protests there on Thursday in which at least eight Tibetans were killed, the activist groups said.

China’s communist rulers have been deeply angered and embarrassed over the Tibetan unrest, as it has overshadowed its preparations for the Beijing Olympics and shone a spotlight on a range of other human rights issues.

Tibetans have been protesting to express anger over what they say has been widespread repression suffered under nearly six decades of Chinese rule.

In Xinjiang, a Muslim-populated region of north-west China which neighbours Tibet, there have also been protests in recent days to express similar sentiments, although not on nearly the same scale as the Tibetan unrest.

The jailing of prominent Chinese dissident Hu Jia on Thursday for subversion added to concerns around the world that the human rights situation in China was getting worse instead of better ahead of the Games.

Those concerns were expected to be magnified on Sunday when the Olympic torch passed through London, with Tibetan activists and other groups vowing to add further heat to the flame there.

Top priority

In the Tibet Daily article, Tibet’s deputy Communist Party chief was quoted as telling a group of influential monks that ”reinforcing patriotic education” was now a top priority.

”Guide the monks so that they continue to foster the tradition of love of religion, love of the country and to hold high the banner of patriotic progress,” the paper quoted Hao Peng as saying.

Hao was speaking on Thursday at the ancient Tashilumpo monastery in Shigatse, the seat of the Panchen Lama, who ranks number two in Tibetan Buddhist’s hierarchy behind the Dalai Lama.

”Especially reinforce education of young monks about the legal system so that they become patriots who love religion and observe discipline and law,” he said.

The International Campaign for Tibet said the re-education campaign, a tactic long used by the Communist Party, typically involved forcing Tibetans to denounce the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama fled his homeland in 1959 and remains a revered figure for Tibetans, although China believes he is a dangerous figure bent on achieving independence for Tibet.

China says he is orchestrating the latest unrest, claims he denies.

Such orders to denounce the Dalai Lama helped trigger Thursday’s protest in Garze county of Sichuan province, International Campaign for Tibet spokesperson Kate Saunders said.

China’s official Xinhua news agency reported on the incident late on Friday, saying police were forced to fire warning shots to put down a ”riot” in which protesters attacked a government building and seriously wounded one official.

”Police were forced to fire warning shots and put down the violence, since local officials and people were in great danger,” Xinhua said.

Xinhua did not give other key details in its brief dispatch, such as how many ”rioters” were involved or why they had marched on the government office.

The International Campaign for Tibet, the Free Tibet Campaign and Radio Free Asia reported that police had fired directly into the protesters, killing at least eight of them.

The attempted re-education campaign had taken place at Tongkor monastery, which the Free Tibet Campaign said had about 370 monks.

Independently verifying what happened, as with all the unrest, is extremely difficult because China has barred foreign reporters from travelling to Tibet and the other hot-spot areas and blanketed them with security.

The protests began in Tibet’s capital, Lhasa, last month to mark the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule, then spread to other areas of western China with Tibetan populations, including Sichuan.

China says Tibetan rioters have killed 18 civilians and two policemen. Before the latest unrest, Tibetan exiled leaders said 135 to 140 Tibetans had been killed in the Chinese crackdown.

China has ruled Tibet since 1951, after sending in troops to ”liberate” the Himalayan region the previous year. — AFP



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