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19may20092Dharamsala: The Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR) held a Press Conference at 11:00 this morning in Dharamsala, around 25 Indian, foerign and Tibetan journalist attended the event which introduced by Mr. Sonom Dakpo, Secretary of the DIIR. It featured five Tibetan monks from the Labrang Monastery who initiated and voluntarily engaged in the peaceful protest in Labrang, Tibet on March 14, 2008: Kelsang Jinpa, age 39, Gedun Gyatso, age 37,and Jamyang Jinpa, age 24, from Sangchu County, Jigme Gyatso of Badzong County, age 22, and Lobsang Gyatso of Yulgan County, age 24.

Gedun Gyatso called for a strategic reform of international intervention. “International human rights organizations such as the United Nations are working to improve human rights in general, but their support is currently ineffective in remote areas such as Shying-Jam, Mongolia and Tibet. The Chinese government persistently fails to fulfill its political promises. When subject to pressure by the international community, the conditions improve in one area whilst simultaneously deteriorating in another. I urge representatives of international organizations to conduct systematic long-term research in order to adequately assess the reality of the situation in Tibet.”

Jamyang Jinpa stated, “I wish to address the journalists present at this conference. The state of affairs in Tibet has not been sufficiently evaluated by the international community.”

Kelsang Gyatso spoke of his experience. “First of all, I would like to say ‘Tashi Delek’ to those promoting human rights. I will speak of the torture and abuse inflicted upon Tibetans by the Chinese government to which the international media is as of yet blind. Last year several members of the international press were invited to Tibet, and visited Sangchu County in eastern Tibet. On April 14, 2008 nearly 20,000 military troops were deployed and our monastery was surrounded. It was impossible to leave. The army broke into the monks’ cells, demolished doors and windows, destroyed photographs of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and stole a number of valuables. They proceeded to arrest monks at random; some were handcuffed, others beaten and arranged into groups. The 170-180 monks, aged between 10 and 70 years, were assembled in a yard near the government area. That night the yard was encircled by armed guards.

The monks were forced to stand in rows and columns, kneeling down and stooping low. If a monk raised his head in resistance, he was beaten with the backend of a gun. One guard stepped on a monk’s neck, taunting him: ‘The Americans, the UN, the NGOs will save you. Call them to save you!’ The youngest monks were then rounded up around a pile of photographs of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The guards poured petrol on the photographs and demanded that the children burn it. The ones who refused were beaten and slashed. The remaining monks were led into a room and handed blank sheets of paper on which they were forced to inscribe their names in Chinese script. Many resisted the order and wrote in Tibetan; the soldiers degraded them, demanding to know why they rejected their ‘mother tongue.’ Three months later we were released with bruises on our bodies. This is only one instance of the Chinese policy of violence. I urge foreign journalists to visit Tibet and conduct an in-depth study of the injustice inflicted upon the Tibetan people by the Chinese government.

Last year Beijing attempted to distort the truth concerning the March 10th protests by deemphasizing the number of participants and accusing His Holiness the Dalai Lama of prompting the uprising. I will tell you now, as one of the key instigators of the demonstration, that I was not influenced by any organization and assume full responsibility for the events which occurred. The demonstration was nearly spontaneous. We requested the release of the Panchen Lama and chanted for the right to practice our religion. We were protesting for freedom of speech; we did not violate Chinese Constitutional law.”

Immediately after the protest, we escaped to the mountains and hid. We could not risk taking shelter in local counties. With the help of friends, we acquired information concerning how best to cross the border into India via previously restricted areas. This happened at a time when China was attempting to convince the world of its new-found ‘openness’ by designating areas of entry on the border for foreign tourists. Our journey lasted seven months.”

The monks were unable to elaborate on their escape from Tibet, citing that this would cause much difficulty for subsequent refugees as well as for those who helped them.

The Tibet Post inquired about the fate of the other 50 demonstrators, particularly that of Sangye Drupchen and another monk, Kalsang Gyatso from the Tsayue region. It was revealed that Kalsang Gyatso had been arrested one month prior, and that Kalsang from Tsayue-born monk remains in hiding.  The journalists who covered the protest in March 2008 were not allowed to interview individual demonstrators. Instead they observed a group of monks who were assembled for prayer in the monastery. The monks were assigned no behavior restrictions by the Chinese authorities prior to the arrival of the journalists as their visit was to remain confidential. They were aware of the persecution they would inevitably face as a result of demonstrating in front of the international media. But now the monks have arrived in exile. One of the speakers exercises his freedom to wear a shirt marked with the Tibetan flag in front of the international press.

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