Saturday, March 22, 2008

Update 23 March 2008: Situation inside Tibet

Update 23 March 2008: Situation inside Tibet

Dear Friend,

The still unfolding demonstrations and unrest in Tibet are bigger than anything since the Dalai Lama fled in 1959.

After 49 years of rule by China, Tibetans throughout the country are showing how they feel about the "progress" China has brought. And it is a resounding vote of "no confidence."

The size and scope of demonstrations continues to grow -- and have spread from the monks to the laypeople, from central Tibet to eastern Tibet, and now to Tibetan university students throughout China. We are witnessing an amazing display of solidarity between Tibetans from all of Tibet's regions.

The Chinese military brings tanks into the streets of Lhasa during recent protests.

Tibetan demonstrators are taking enormous risks. They could easily be arrested and tortured and spend months or years in prison. Yet they still demonstrate.
Earlier today I received an email with an eye-witness account of events in Lhasa...
"It is not clear how many people were arrested. All of the main streets have been blocked by military. The soldiers have been checking for everybody's ID. Specially, people who were wearing Tibetan clothes were searched thoroughly. Soldiers forced their way in civilian homes to arrest people. They were using stick to beat those who have been arrested, and teargas to drive away onlookers."

In coming weeks, we expect hundreds if not thousands of Tibetans will be arrested and tortured.

Today, we received the first photo showing bodies of Tibetan demonstrators in eastern Tibet. China is rapidly moving tourists, aid workers and journalists out of Tibet so that a much larger and systematic crackdown can begin without witnesses.

As I write this, we know that twenty-five journalists have already been expelled from eastern Tibet and only one is left in Lhasa. Without their coverage, we may never know how many Tibetans have been killed, how many arrested.

Monday night at midnight was the deadline for Tibetans to surrender and be treated more leniently -- but only if they agree to cooperate with Chinese authorities to identify friends, neighbors and relatives involved in protests. You can read more about this, and see the translated Chinese ultimatum at

March 8th, protests begin near Labrang Monestary as monks begin to march.
Photo credit: Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy

China's propaganda machine is working overtime to quash news of the dozens of peaceful demonstrations, to focus on the damage to Chinese establishments by Tibetans in Lhasa, and to constantly broadcast the news and images that most inflame the Chinese people.

No historical civil rights movement can be reduced to the small handful of events that precede a shift in our culture and ethics.

Tibet's movement for justice and freedom cannot be reduced to the burning of Chinese shops.

And now in this emergency, there is a great need for those of us who can stand up without fear of repression to do so.

1. Urge President Bush to speak out publicly and ask China to show restraint, as well as address the fundamental causes that have led to events of the past week. Please call the President at 202-456-1111 or contact him by email at
2. It is urgent that reporters be allowed into Tibet to independently verify what has happened. If you live in the U.S., please contact your member of Congress and ask them to demand that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao honor his promise to open Tibet to journalists.

If you have not already, please make a donation to support ICT's response during this critical time so we will continue to have the resources we need to react quickly and effectively.

In solidarity,

John Ackerly

P.S. Please forward this e-mail to others -- we need as many people with us as possible now.

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