Source: The New York Times
Lobsang Gyatso and his fellow Tibetan monks had been biding their time, walking around the main square of the monastery nestled in the barren hills of northwestern China. Now the moment had arrived.
As a group of 20 foreign and Chinese journalists climbed out of minivans, Lobsang and the other monks unfurled banners they had wrapped inside the folds of their crimson robes and held aloft the banned flag of Tibet.
“We have no human rights now,” one monk told reporters in Chinese.
That daring protest, in April 2008, was transmitted around the world by the journalists on the government tour, putting a dramatic face on Tibetan defiance. Chinese officials had brought the journalists to the sprawling Labrang Monastery, in the town of Xiahe to show that Tibetans were content under Chinese rule, despite the widespread Tibetan uprising the previous month. The enraged monks, about 15 in all, punctured the official narrative.
“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.