Authorities in northwestern China’s Qinghai province briefly detained a Tibetan monk at the end of last year over his plans to publish a book about his travels in India, threatening him with re-arrest if he moves ahead with plans to distribute the politically sensitive work, Tibetan sources said.
Lu Konchog Gyatso, a monk at the Lhamo Dechen monastery in Qinghai’s Malho (in Chinese, Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, was taken into custody on Nov. 7 after local authorities became aware that a manuscript of his book was ready to go to print, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“Chentsa [Jianzha] county police barged into his living quarters at around 2:00 a.m. and ransacked his room,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“He was taken to the Chentsa county police station for interrogation, and was then transferred to the Malho state security office, where he was held for six days,” the source said.
Security officials warned Gyatso not to publish his book, called Fifty-four Days, or to distribute it in any form, threatening him with imprisonment and a jail term for noncompliance with their orders, he said.
“His mobile phone and laptop computer were also confiscated,” he said.
News of Gyatso’s detention—reported by one Tibetan news outlet as taking place on Dec. 18—was delayed in reaching outside sources because of communication blocks imposed by Chinese authorities in the area.
Record of escape
Gyatso’s book was described by one source as a collection of the journal entries of Gyatso’s 54-day escape over the Himalayas to Nepal and India in 1994 to seek an audience with exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
Chinese police frequently investigate and arrest Tibetans deemed to be supporters of the India-based Dalai Lama, whom Beijing considers a dangerous separatist bent on “splitting” Tibet from Chinese control.
After studying for some years at Drepung Gomang monastery in South India, Gyatso returned to Malho in 2000 and began two years ago to write his book, said the source, who sent a copy of the manuscript to RFA.
“He was preparing to publish his journal this year, and police in Chentsa and security officials in Malho got wind of this, and banned him from publishing the book,” he said.
Speaking separately, Lobsang Khedrub—a monk in South India’s Drepung monastery who had read the book's manuscript—said that Gyatso had been concerned about the possible consequences of the book’s release.
“He was determined to finish work on it, though,” he said, adding that Gyatso had said he would hold himself solely responsible for anything that happened.
Reported by Sangye Gyatso for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.