(Originally published by New Internationalist)
The People’s Armed Police have celebrated Chinese New Year by opening fire on unarmed Tibetan protesters in two towns in north-western Kham (Chinese west Sichuan) province.
Last year, 16 Tibetans, monks, nuns and lay people set themselves on fire in protest at the Chinese occupation of Tibet and the exile of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Since the uprising in 2008, Tibet has been under de facto martial law. Columns of the paramilitary People’s Armed Police marching through cities and towns in Tibet are now a common sight.
When posters threatening more self-immolations began to appear in towns in Drango county the Public Security Bureau started arresting people. The posters stated that more protesters would set themselves on fire if the Chinese government did not listen to the concerns of Tibetan people. A large unarmed group that gathered to protest against the arrests were fired on indiscriminately by the People’s Armed Police. It was confirmed on Tuesday that six people had died following the shooting, with a further 30 thought to be seriously injured. Free Tibet Campaign has reported that many wounded Tibetans were too scared of arrest to seek medical treatment. This is likely to increase the numbers of those killed as a result of the shooting.
After this shooting on Monday, news came through on Tuesday of second incident. An estimated 600 security personnel arrived at a peaceful demonstration in the main town of neighbouring Serther county and began firing into the crowd. Five Tibetans have been confirmed dead with more than 40 seriously injured.
So far there has been little, if any, attention from the mainstream media and silence from governments around the world.
The Kalon Tripa1 Dr Lobsang Sangay said: ‘Silence from the world community sends a clear message to China that its repressive and violent measures to handle tensions in Tibetan areas are acceptable.’
The increasing scale of the protests and the level of force the Chinese government is willing to use to suppress them is increasing the desperation of many Tibetans in Tibet. Until global diplomatic pressure is put on China to cease the brutal crackdown on peaceful and unarmed protests, it is feared many more Tibetans may lose their lives.
In response to the shootings, candle-lit vigils are being held by Tibetans and supporters across the world and many Losar2 celebrations have been cancelled.
1. The Kalon Tripa is the equivalent of the Prime Minister in the Central Tibetan Administration aka Tibetan Government In Exile.
2. Losar is Tibetan New Year which this year falls on 22 February.