Updated at 10:10 a.m. EST on 2012-03-21
About 100 Tibetan monks marched in protest Tuesday against Chinese rule in China's northwest Gansu province as authorities began slapping stiff jail sentences on protesting Tibetans.
After morning prayers, the monks marched to the Bora township center in Kanlho (in Chinese, Gannan) prefecture demanding freedom and human rights, triggering a crackdown on the Bora monastery from which the monks had come, local Tibetan residents told RFA.
"They held Tibetan flags in their hands, and called for human rights for Tibetans, freedom to practice religion, and freedom to use their own language," one resident said.
“Now the Chinese police and paramilitary forces have surrounded Bora monastery. It is difficult to know what has happened there."
Another Tibetan said he was informed that police were demanding that the monks who protested "plead guilty" or face arrests.
Local residents said the Chinese authorities had given 5,000 yuan (U.S. $790) to each family in Bora area to take part in New Year festivities last month but also restricted the display of Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama’s photo in the monastery during the Chotrul—or Butter Lamp festival—that followed the New Year.
Gansu is among three key Tibetan-populated provinces where tensions have risen recently following a wave of protests challenging Chinese rule and calling for the return of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader.
There have been 30 Tibetan self-immolations in protest over Beijing's rule in Tibetan-populated areas, triggering ramped-up security across Gansu, Sichuan, and Qinghai provinces as well as in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Reports surfaced Tuesday that at least 12 Tibetans had been sentenced to up to 12 years in jail in the Sichuan and Qinghai provinces for participating in anti-Beijing protests.
Seven Tibetan were sentenced last week to between eight and 12 years for participating in protests in Nyagrong (in Chinese, Xinlong) county in Sichuan's Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, a native of Nyagrong who resides in India said, quoting local residents.
They were detained three days after participating in a protest rally in Nyagrong on Jan. 23 calling for freedom of Tibet and the return of the Dalai Lama.
"The seven were among 17 Tibetans who were brought from Chengdu to Nyagrong and paraded in the town to deter others from protesting against Chinese rule," according to the source.
Three Tibetans, in a separate case, were taken into custody last week by Chinese authorities and severely beaten after they expressed their protest on a government document that was distributed to Tibetans to air any grievances.
"At that time, three Tibetan youths in Nyagrong—Rigzin Dorje, Tashi, and Tashi Tsering—wrote on their forms that Tibet is independent. So all three of them were severely beaten and taken into custody. They were detained for about six days, and they are still not released,” the Nyagrong source said.
In Qinghai province, five Tibetans were sentenced last week to between one and three years in jail for participating in protests on Jan. 24 in Pema (Banma) county in Golog (Guoluo) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, a local resident said.
“They carried the photo of the Dalai Lama and staged a massive rally. The Chinese police and paramilitary who came in a huge force overwhelmed them and detained them," the resident said.
Also in Pema county, a Tibetan man, identified as Anak Dorjam, was found to be in a serious condition after he was released Tuesday following two days of detention, a local source said, accusing the Chinese authorities of torturing him and his son, a monk, while in custody.
“On March 18, the father and his son were detained for no apparent reason in Bobha town of Pema county. The father was released on March 20 but his health condition is reportedly extremely serious due to torture under detention," the source said.
"He could not even speak when he was released due to severe torture and beating while in custody. His son is still in Chinese custody, and he was also tortured so severely that his body was seriously damaged.”
Reported by Lumbum Tashi, Kunsang Tenzin, Tenzin Wangyal, and Chakmo Tso for RFA's Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.