Thousands of Tibetans, including small children, have marched on the streets of Rebkong today in a peaceful demonstration following emotional gatherings of Tibetans after two self-immolations in the area in the past two days.
Tibetan students and children from middle and high schools in Rebkong (Chinese: Tongren), Qinghai, began to gather for the protests from 5 am this morning, according to Tibetan exile sources in contact with the area. They recited long life prayers for the Dalai Lama, and called for freedom in Tibet, rights for the Tibetan people, and the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet.
Traffic was stopped because of the number of students on the streets. They went first to two main government offices in Rebkong and, still chanting prayers for the Dalai Lama’s long life, began to gather in Dolma Square where Jinpa Gyatso self-immolated and died yesterday (November 8).
The demonstrations today follow a gathering of thousands of Tibetans at the cremation of Tibetan nomad and former monk Jinpa Gyatso, who set himself on fire and died yesterday (November 8) in the Dolma Square in front of the Rongpo monastery, pictured. After his cremation, Tibetans then gathered at Dolma Square. (ICT: Tibetan self-immolations escalate in number on eve of China’s Party Congress; Tibetans gather en masse in Rebkong). Photographs circulated online of two monks at the cremation holding a banner made of cardboard that read: ‘Let the Dalai Lama return to Tibet; equality for minorities and language rights; environmental protection’.
According to exile Tibetan sources, armed forces have now been deployed outside the Chinese government offices where the students demonstrated, and students remained in Dolma Square into the evening chanting prayers. Although Chinese troops had at that point restrained from breaking up the protests, tension is increasing.
A Tibetan from Rebkong, in Malho (Chinese: Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai (the Tibetan area of Amdo), said that students from all schools and colleges in the area had joined the protest, including children aged between seven and 11 from village schools and college students in their late teens.
In addition to the thousands of Tibetans who gathered to mark Jinpa Gyatso’s passing yesterday, large numbers of Tibetans also gathered at the scene of the self-immolation of young mother Tamdrin Tso, who set fire to herself near her home in a small village in Rebkong county on Wednesday (November 7).
Tibetans students and laypeople in Rebkong have initiated large peaceful protests in defence of their language, the bedrock of Tibetan religion and culture, and national identity before. In 2010, protests by Tibetan school and college students over plans to restrict the use of their language that spread from several areas of Qinghai to Beijing began in Rebkong. On October 19, 2010, hundreds of students and some monks marched through the streets of Rebkong to express opposition to new measures under discussion in Qinghai about downgrading further Tibetan as a medium of instruction in schools. Students from the teacher training college in Malho (Chinese: Huangnan) held a banner with the slogan: “Return the authority of the Tibetan language.” (ICT: Protests by students against downgrading of Tibetan language spread to Beijing).
In August (2012), Tibetans in Rebkong held a bold peaceful protest to complain about brutality by local police after four Tibetans were beaten up. Footage (uploaded to YouTube) and images from Rebkong on August 14 depict crowds of Tibetans gathering peacefully and displaying banners in both Chinese and Tibetan saying: ‘Rebkong county police brutal beatings of Tibetan people’. Photographs of the four Tibetans who were beaten were also displayed. (ICT: Tibetans in Rebkong gather to protest police brutality).