“Chamdo: Villages and Monasteries are Covered in Five-Starred Red Flags” By Woeser

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser written on June 2, 2013 for the Tibetan service of Radio Free Asia and published on her blog on June 14, 2013.

The blogpost focuses on the political situation in Chamdo, an area in Eastern Tibet which falls inside Tibet Autonomous Region. Also in June of this year, Radio Free Asia reported that Chamdo was at “Center of Beijing’s ‘Re-Education’ Campaign” and Human Rights Watch also has details about Chamdo in their report about the “Solidify the Foundations, Benefit the Masses” campaign carried out in the TAR since 2011.

The next blogpost by Woeser on High Peaks Pure Earth will be a follow up piece also about Chamdo.

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“Chamdo: Villages and Monasteries are Covered in Five-Starred Red Flags”

By Woeser

Work groups are stationed in all of the 1700 monasteries of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). I heard that Beijing had planned to station about 3000 members of staff, but in reality the number exceeds 7000. Work groups have also been stationed in the 5400 administrative villages, Tibet’s official media claims that “there are 20,000 cadres stationed in villages”, I don’t know whether this number includes those stationed in monasteries.

The reason why the work groups have been installed in villages and monasteries in the Chamdo region is to implement the TAR policies of the “9 Haves” (namely “to have portraits of the four leaders, to have a national flag, to have roads, to have water, to have electricity, to have a TV set, to have films, to have a library, to have newspapers”); from the end of 2011, on the rooftops of all monasteries, monastery halls and residences of monks as well as on every single farmer’s and herdsman’s house there had to be a five-starred red flag; all monasteries, temples and residences of monks as well as every single farmer’s and herdsman’s house had to hang up portraits of the CCP’s leaders and they had to present these portraits with a Tibetan khata, if not people would face political problems. Farmers and herdsmen had to buy the red-starred flags themselves, depending on the quality, one flag could cost between 3 and 6 Yuan; if they wanted to replace an old flag with a new one, they also had to pay. Only this year, they started giving flags out for free. The work groups would often go to monasteries and families’ homes to carry out inspections.

Today, when one goes into the Chamdo area’s villages and monasteries, one does not see any prayer flags but only a field of scarlet red five-starred flags. What is very strange, however, is that whenever officials from Beijing or other Han Chinese areas come over to inspect the area, the work groups request everyone to temporarily take all the red flags down, and when the officials leave, they ask people to put the flags back. Recently, when cultural officials from Sichuan came to visit Karma Monastery, the red flags were removed from the prayer hall and the monks residences long in advance.

In April this year, the work groups went from house to house and confiscated monks’ or herdsmen’s remaining petrol or diesel used for cars and motorbikes. Since then, if one needs to buy petrol, one has to use one’s ID card to have a refuelling card issued; and only with this card can one now purchase petrol from a petrol station; without it, one will be refused. If Tibetans from other areas such as Sichuan or Qinghai come to get petrol they will definitely be refused.

What is more, all Tibetans, even young children, were required to sign and leave their fingerprints on a document. With this they would declare that if someone in the family self-immolates, any persons from that family who are in official positions would lose their jobs, if there is no one in an official position, the whole family would be arrested; if someone from the village self-immolates, all welfare and allowances would be cancelled and all people from the village would be arrested; if someone from a monastery self-immolates, the monastery will be closed down and all monks arrested. Besides, the monasteries and monks where a self-immolator practiced Buddhism would all be treated as “accomplices of murder”.

Starting from last year, the monks and nuns from the almost 500 monasteries in the Chamdo area have been forbidden to go out, they had to stay in their monasteries; if they have an engagement outside, the work groups grant them only three days. If one wants to leave for up to 15 days, one has to seek approval from the village head or village Party secretary; for one month’s leave one has to seek approval from the county United Front Work Department and relevant security bureaus; and these procedures are relatively difficult. If one does not return within the approved period of time, it is treated as an act of resisting against the government, which is severely punished. According to reports in the whole last year, not a single monk or nun went to Lhasa and this year, so far only 4 monks have obtained permission to go to Lhasa.

If someone from this monastery or village wants to go to another monastery or village, upon arrival the person has to go to the work group and report and register, otherwise if it is found out, the person will not only be expelled but also has to expect severe punishment.

If Tibetans from other areas such as Sichuan or Qinghai want to enter the Chamdo region, they have to get at least five different kinds of certificates. Apart from an ID card, they need certificates issued by the village, county, police and security bureau. Nuns and monks even need one more: a monk/nun certificate.

On all roads in Chamdo (apart from the airport route and the main tourist roads) we find checkpoints. Within the 170 kilometres distance between Chamdo and Menda County alone, we find three massive checkpoints and one smaller one. Motorbikes are not allowed to pass. When a village or monastery car wants to pass through a checkpoint called “Dedang”, they have to pay 200 Yuan, this must be the regulations of that specific checkpoint. Big cars also need to pay, yet the sum remains unknown. All Tibetans passing through checkpoints have to undergo body searches, and their luggage and mobile phones are also checked, if they have a photo of His Holiness or “forbidden songs” saved in their phone, they will be arrested on the spot.

June 2, 2013

The photos below were found online:

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This post is also available in: Chinese (Simplified), Tibetan

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