Seven Tibetans Held in Crackdown Over Self-Immolation Protest

2013-11-24
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A Chinese paramilitary policeman guards the entrance to Pema county in Qinghai province, March 10, 2012.
AFP

Chinese authorities have detained seven Tibetans, including three monks, as they stepped up a security crackdown following the latest self-immolation protest against Beijing's rule in a Tibetan-populated county in China’s northwestern Qinghai province, according to sources.

The seven were accused of being involved in the Nov. 11 self-immolation death of Tsering Gyal, a 20-year-old monk from the Akyong monastery in Pema (in Chinese, Banma) county in the Golog (Guoluo) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, the sources said.

Three of those detained were from Akyong monastery, where Gyal burned himself calling for freedom for Tibetans and an end to Chinese rule.

“Recently seven Tibetans were detained on suspicion of involvement in the self-immolation by the late Tsering Gyal," a Tibetan with close contacts in the area told RFA's Tibetan Service.

"Details such as the names of the seven are not available due to a comprehensive security clampdown in Pema County," the Tibetan said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"However, their detention is certain and confirmed and they comprise three monks of Akyong monastery and four laypersons from the county."

Several other monks from the monastery have also been questioned.

Gyal's self-immolation had led to a security crackdown in Pema where, according to one source, groups of 15 Chinese armed paramilitary police are stationed "at every turn of the road in the county, and thoroughly searching Tibetan travelers.”

Internet service to the area has now been disconnected and local Tibetans are being restricted in their movements, with some searched at gunpoint, the source said.

“The Tibetans' movements are being restricted and the officials are warning that if a self-immolation happens again, those involved will be severely punished," according to the Tibetan who spoke about the seven detentions.

Self-immolator's home monitored

Chinese authorities have also prevented Tibetans from visiting Gyal’s family to offer their condolences. His home has come under constant government monitoring and the movements of his family members are being closely watched.

“The elder brother of Tsering Gyal was ordered to report to the local police station but he was not detained and allowed to return home after interrogation," the Tibetan said. "The home of Tsering Gyal is under direct surveillance of the government officials."

Gyal’s self-immolation brought to 123 the number of Tibetans in China who have set themselves on fire calling for Tibetan freedom and the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in 1959 following a failed national uprising against Chinese rule.

The protest came as Tibetans in several areas in Sichuan and Qinghai provinces as well as in the Tibet Autonomous Region refuse orders to fly China’s national flag from their homes, prompting security alerts.

Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.

Chinese authorities have arrested and jailed many Tibetans accused of being linked to self-immolation protests, some of whom received imprisonments of up to 15 years.

Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA's Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.