Ed Wong of the New York Times has a simply brilliant article documenting stories from Tibetan monks who have recently escaped into exile following participating in protests in the spring of 2008 in support of Tibetan independence.
“If we monks hadn’t seized the opportunity to express our feelings, which are feelings in all Tibetan monks, then we would have missed a chance to tell the world,” said Lobsang, 24, a squat man with a thin goatee who now lives in India. Following Tibetan custom, he goes by his given name.
The journalists left later that afternoon without knowing the names or the fates of the protesters. Some would be arrested and beaten, Lobsang said. For him and two other monks, it was the start of a harrowing year of flight from the Chinese authorities that ended only last month, when they arrived in this Himalayan hill town where the Dalai Lama lives in exile.
Over that year, the monks slipped out of their monastery, trekked into the mountains, slept in nomads’ tents, sneaked into Lhasa aboard a high-altitude train and crossed a raging river to Nepal. It was only here in a refugee center that they could tell their tale to a reporter, opening a rare window into the deep-rooted resentment that bloomed last year into the largest Tibetan uprising in decades.
Chinese officials insist that the protests were orchestrated by the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetans. The monks from Labrang say harsh Chinese policies sparked the tinder, especially limitations on Buddhist practice.
“I and my friends decided on our own to protest,” Lobsang said. “The protests were caused by human rights issues and Chinese policies toward Tibet. We couldn’t tolerate it anymore.”
He added, “I joined the protests with the idea of saving Buddhism, which is endangered by Chinese policy. I want His Holiness the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet, but the Chinese don’t even allow us to display his picture.”
Wong goes on to relay the incredible details of Lobsang’s protest and subsequent escape from authorities, as well as those of other monks involved in protests. It’s a must read.