A peaceful celebration of the Dalai Lama’s 78th birthday ended in violence on Saturday as security forces stormed the crowd of nearly 1,000 Tibetans in eastern Sichuan province, shooting at the crowd and injuring several Tibetans.
The Tibetan monks, nuns and laypeople were gathered at a sacred mountain location in Tawu, in the Kardze region of the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province, to mark the Dalai Lama’s birthday according to a release from International Campaign for Tibet (ICT).
The group was peacefully burning incense, casting prayer flags into the air and making offerings to honor the birthday, with a large photograph of the Dalai Lama displayed, when the troops moved in surrounded the crowd, then tried to prevent them from continuing with their ceremonies, said the report.
One source told ICT that at least seven army trucks and police vehicles were at the scene, and Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported several hundred police on the scene.
The security forces opened fire and used tear gas with no warning, several Tibetan sources told the ICT.
“They smashed doors and windows of our vehicles and started beating Tibetans gathered in the area and dispersed the Tibetans and started shooting at the crowd,” one resident told RFA.
One of the monks who were wounded was Jangchup Dorjee, brother of nun Palden Choetso who self-immolated in 2011, another was identified as Tashi Sonam.
“When Jangchup Dorjee arrived at the site in a vehicle, the Chinese police attacked his vehicle with stones and smashed the doors and windows. Then the Chinese police shot him and the others,” according to a witness.
Most of the other Tibetans who were shot are in hospital and have been identified so far as Tsering Dhondup, a ‘disciplinarian’ monk at Nyitso monastery, a layperson, Tashi Gyaltsen, two other laypeople named as Tashi and Nyandak, and two nuns.
A number of Tibetans were detained after the incident, said the ICT, and “at least 20 remain in custody.”
Earlier in the month, news sources reported that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was allowing limited permissions for Tibetans to display photos of the Dalai Lama, but the CCP immediately denied the reports.