Central Asia Theater
A fire in the ancient Tibetan town of Dukezong, Yunnan province, destroyed hundreds of buildings, including one with Chinese-recognized "monument status" dating to the early 17th century, on Jan 11. The town is in Shangri-la county, and is a tourist attraction, as it was apparently the inspiration for the fictional Shangri-la. Two days earlier, a mysterious blaze badly damaged the Larung Gar Institute in Serthar, Sichuan province, one of the world's largest Tibetan Buddhist learning centers and home to some 10,000 monks and nuns. On Nov. 16, the Lithang Monastery, Sichuan, was also badly damaged in a fire, said to have been caused by faulty wiring. The string of incidents has caused Tibet solidarity websites to speculate on a possible arson campaign. The India-exiled Central Tibetan Administration only said it "prays for quick restoration" of the Larung Gar Institute, "which became one of most influential Tibetan Buddhist learning centres in Tibet following liberalisation of religious practice in 1980s after the Tibetan culture and religion suffered systematic annihilation during China's Cultural Revolution." Dukezong, Serthar and Lithang and all lie within the "Greater Tibet" claimed by the Central Tibetan Administration. (AP, CTA, SCMP, Shanghaist, Jan. 11; Save Tibet, Tibet Truth, Jan. 10; Tibet Post, Nov. 18)
A French court in Aix-En Province on Jan. 9 ordered the extradition of Mukhtar Ablyazov, Kazakhstan's former energy minister, accused of misappropriating $6 billion from BTA Bank. The French court agreed to the extradition requests from Russia and Ukraine, which both house BTA Bank branches, partly because France does not have an extradition agreement with Kazakhstan. In 2011 Ablyazov gained political asylum in the UK after alleging that he faced prosecution in Kazakhstan because he was the leading figure in the opposition against Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev. Ablyazov also claimed that he had been imprisoned for political reasons prior to these charges. Amnesty International urged against Ablyazov's extradition after the court's ruling. Julie Hall, AI expert on counter-terrorism and human rights, said, "Not only do we have fears that Ablyazov would not get a fair trial in Russia or Ukraine, there is a real danger that he will eventually end up in Kazakhstan, where he will be at risk of torture and other ill-treatment." She cited a report (PDF) on the routine cooperation of Russia and Ukraine with Central Asian republics, including Kazakhstan, to transfer suspects, often at risk of their human rights.
Sources in China's Sichuan province told the Tibetan exile media that a Tibetan monk in Ngaba county (Chinese: Aba) was sentenced to four and a half years in prison on charges of promoting efforts to "split the nation." The sentence was reportedly handed down against Shal-ngo Hortsang Tamdrin on Oct. 29, after he led a public prayer in Zamthang town for Tibetans who have self-immolated, and allegedly called for uniting "the traditional provinces of Tibet." Ngaba county is part of the traditional Tibetan region of Amdo, which is not recognized as an administrative entity by Chinese authorities. The public prayer reportedly took place in April at the Tsangpa Monastery, which was subsequently placed under heavy surveillance by a large contingent of security forces. The number of Tibetans who have self-immolated now stands at 122, with 104 fatalities, according to a count by exile organizations. (Tibet Post, Nov. 21)
New violence is reported from China's far western province of Xinjiang Nov. 16, when a group of Uighur youths attacked the police station in Siriqbuya (Chinese: Selibuya) township, Maralbeshi (Bachu) county, Kashgar prefecture. Two auxiliary officers were bludgeoned to death, and all nine of the attackers were reported to be killed. The youths were said to be armed with knives, swords and sickles The same town was also the scene of deadly clashes in April. Radio Free Asia, citing eyewitness accounts (presumably via cellphone), reported that "residents pleaded with the police not to kill the young Uyghurs"—implying at least some of the deaths may have been extrajudicial executions carried out after the attackers were pinned down or subdued. (Al Jazeera, Nov. 17; RFA, Nov. 16)
Ethnic Uighurs from around the world gathered in Washington DC this week to commemorate the anniversary of two short-lived independent republics set up by their forefathers within what is today the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China. Around 100 Uighurs attended a ceremony Nov. 12 at Capitol Hill to remember the establishment of the East Turkestan republics on Nov. 12 in 1933 and 1944. Rebiya Kadeer, president of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress, praised those who founded the republics, and called on the Uighur people to remain strong in the face of what she called a policy of "repression" under the current Chinese government. "The Uyghur people have been suffering under the oppressive government of China since the destruction of the Uyghur republics; however, the level of repression has since been extended to our beliefs and customs," she said at the ceremony at the Rayburn House of Representatives Office Building.
Security forces in China's far western Xinjiang region last month shot and killed at least 12 men and wounded 20 others during a raid on what authorities described as a "terrorist facility," Radio Free Asia reported Sept. 17. Local officials told Radio Free Asia that the men had been building and testing explosives at a desert encampment near Jigdejay village, Poskam county (Chinese: Zepu), outside the city of Kashgar. One resident said the police were tipped off to the presence of the encampment after a rocket launcher the men were trying to build accidentally exploded, killing one of them.
Over 100 ethnic Tibetans were injured and one man committed suicide in Yulshul (Chinese: Yushu) prefecture* in the Kham region of Eastern Tibet (officially in Qinghai province), as Chinese military forces broke up protests against diamond mining in the area Aug. 19. As in similar protests elsewhere in Qinghai earlier that week, protestors put up large banners printed with President Xi Jinping's recent speech on environmental protection, and charged that the mines have not been approved by China's central government. The clash apparently began when some 1,000 protesters occupied two traditional Tibetan sacred sites, identified as Atod Yultso and Zachen Yultso, at a mine in Dzatoe (Chinese: Zaduo) township, and security forces fired tear-gas to disperse them. Eight protesters were detained, but two identified as leaders are reported to have "disappeared."
Ethnic Tibetans protesting what they called illegal mining operations clashed with Chinese security forces in Gedrong Zatoe county, Qinghai province, Aug. 16. Exiled Tibetan activists with contacts in the region told Phayul news service that the protesters have pledged to block the mining operations, citing the threat to local watersheds. Hundreds of troops arrived at the three townships where protesters were mobilzing, and issued an "ultimatum" to call off the campaign or face arrest. Local Tibetan leader Khentsa Soedor reportedly said, "You can kill us but we will not let the mining take place here. It is our responsibility to protect our environment which is a source of water to many other countries." Authorities detained Soedor's wife for interrogation, and his whereabouts are now unknown.