Chinese officials visited the Tibetan nomad villages around two months ago and started a signature campaign in which they tried to force villagers to sign a seven-clause document. When they refused to sign, several villagers of all ages, male and female, were severely beaten and forced to shave their heads.
Two villagers were tricked into signing the document, under the misapprehension that it bound them to behave fairly when staking areas of wild land from which to harvest the valuable Ophiocordyceps sinensis (‘caterpillar fungus').
However, the seven-point document actually denounced His Holiness the Dalai Lama as a ‘splittist,' blamed him for instigating the recent wave of self-immolations in Tibet, and bound the villagers neither to call for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet, nor to support statements issued by Kalon Tripa (Tibetan political leader)Dr Lobsang Sangay.
At some point around April 15 or 16, the villagers realized the contents of the document, threatened to ex-communicate the two signatories from the village and demanded that they pay a fine of 500 yuan each, despite the signatories' protests that they were ignorant of the document's true contents.
When the local government of Lithing County learned of these events, 300 to 400 Chinese police and paramilitaries in black uniforms descended on the three villages, and called a meeting at which they tried to force all the villagers to sign the document. Those villagers who refused were forced to beat each other.
Chinese officials told the villagers that the signing of the document was obligatory, and that if they had any other questions or problems they must report them directly to the authorities, who would address them. None of the villagers responded to this ‘invitation'.
One official approached a village grandmother and asked what problems she faced, apparently offering to help. She replied, "My problem is I cannot get a visa to visit India. My dream is to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama once before I die." The official became angry, and asked the same question of another village grandmother who replied, "In my life, the biggest problem is that I have two siblings, both of whom were killed by the Chinese government. I have no other problems."
The Chinese authorities' ‘mandatory signature campaign' was also implemented at Thangkarma monastery in Lithang County around ten days ago. The monks refused to sign the document and Atruk Tseten described the current situation at the monastery as ‘critical'.
Thangkarma is the monastery of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, who is currently serving a life sentence after being convicted of alleged involvement in a series of unsolved bombings in his region.