A Tibetan Buddhist monk was detained by security police on Tuesday, March 17 in Ngaba town after carrying out a lone protest in the town’s main street. Lobsang Kalsang, a 19 year old monk from Kirti monastery is reported to have walked for several minutes holding a portrait of the Dalai Lama in one hand and throwing paper prayer flags into the air with the other.
Kanyang Tsering, a monk at Kirti monastery in India which has its home monastery in Ngaba, told VOA that Lobsang Kalsang had shouted, “Freedom for Tibet” and, “Let the Dalai lama return to Tibet,” before he was subdued and taken into custody.
March is a significant month for protests across Tibet because of the March 10, 1959 National Uprising against Chinese occupation, but in Amdo Ngaba, it is most recently remembered for the police shooting of peaceful protesters on March 16, 2008, where up to 20 people are reported to have been killed and hundreds more wounded.
The inflamed emotions and pain generated by the shooting, referred to by local Tibetans as the, “‘March 16, 2008 Massacre,” is seen by many Tibetans as being the catalysts for the first self-immolation in Tibet which took place in same town in February 2009, one year after the shooting.
There have been four more self-immolation protests in the same town, carried out by monks of the same monastery, and falling on March 16th of 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.
Kalsang’s street protest on Tuesday is the second solo protest carried out in Ngaba this month. On March 8, eighteen year old Gendun Phuntsok took to the same street, also carrying a portrait of the Dalai Lama and calling for his return to Tibet. The condition and whereabouts of both monks are unknown at present The Ngaba region, located in today’s Sichuan province, has been under severe crackdown for years, especially since the Tibet wide protests in 2008. China has accused outside forces aligned with the Dalai Lama of inciting the unrest in the region but have not been able to prove their allegations. Exile Tibetan rights groups almost unanimously point to China’s intolerant and repressive policies, often implemented violently, such as with the case of mass shootings of protesters in Ngaba, as being the main cause of Tibetan discontent.