By Phuntsok Yangchen
Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay lead the Central Tibetan Administration in observing the 24th anniversary of the declaration of martial law in Tibet in 1989. Prayers were offered at the Tsug-la Khang on March 8, 2013. (Phayul photo/Phuntsok Yangchen)
DHARAMSHALA, March 8: The exile Tibetan administration today held a special prayer service to mark the 24th anniversary of the declaration of martial law in Tibet’s capital Lhasa on March 8, 1989.
Hundreds of Tibetans including all staff members of the Central Tibetan Administration led by Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, the elected head of the Tibetan people and school students attended the prayer service at the Tsug-la Khang, the main temple in Dharamshala.
Speaking to the media, Ngawang Choedak, Secretary of the Department of Religion and Culture said the prayer service was held in “solidarity with all the Tibetans martyrs who were killed, jailed, and tortured during the martial law imposition in Lhasa.”
China under the then Tibet communist party Secretary Hu Jintao imposed martial law in Lhasa on March 8, 1989 after three days of protest by Tibetans against Chinese rule. 16 Tibetans died in the protests and thousands of armed forces were deployed in the city.
The martial law continued for 13 months and ended on May 1, 1990. All foreign journalists, tourists, and diplomats were banned from the region for two years. In total, around 2000 Tibetans were killed during the entire period of the imposition of martial law.
The exile Tibetan administration has been holding similar annual prayer services since 1990.
A former political prisoner, Venerable Bhagdro, who was in Lhasa during that time, shared his memories of the unrest and martial law in Tibet.
“It was sometime before I was jailed when I was hiding up in the mountains,” Ven. Bhagdro recalled. “I heard from people about the declaration of martial law in Lhasa. But I had to go to Lhasa for treatment as I was shot in my leg by Chinese armed forces. I faced lots of problem as the city was completely under lockdown.”
Ven. Bhagdro expressed further remorse that the situation in Tibet has not seen any improvement.
“Presently, the situation in Tibet is very critical. CCTV cameras have been put in most of the monasteries and Potala Palace. Monasteries are no more monasteries, it is more like prison and monks are treated like prisoners.”