A popular Tibetan religious figure detained by police nearly a month ago has urged his followers to remain calm, citing a “clash” between the authorities and 16 of his supporters who are being held for protesting for his release, according to sources.
“I heard that there was recently a clash between police and Tibetans. Please make sure such incidents do not happen again,” Khenpo Kartse, 38, said in a letter dated Dec. 27 and apparently sent from jail.
“Please be more broadminded and maintain good relations with the authorities,” Kartse wrote six days after authorities in the Yulshul (in Chinese, Yushu) prefecture of northwestern China’s Qinghai province detained 16 Tibetans, including monks, who had protested for the release of the well-respected religious teacher.
Kartse, who uses the religious title “Khenpo,” denoting a senior religious teacher or abbot in Tibet’s monastic system, was detained on Dec. 6 in Chengdu, the capital of nearby Sichuan province, when he went to buy a statue for his monastery in Yulshul’s Nangchen (Nanjian) county.
Sources said that Chinese authorities had suspected him of involvement in anti-state activities in Karma town in the neighboring Tibet Autonomous Region’s Chamdo (Changdu) prefecture.
He was taken into custody by Chamdo security officials who traveled all the way to Sichuan to detain him, sources said.
Religion, 'daily activities'
Instead of launching further protests for his release, monks and Tibetans living in villages in the area should now continue with their “daily activities,” with the monks focusing especially on religious practice, Kartse urged in his letter, a copy of which was recently obtained by RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“I am well and have not been physically harmed,” Kartse wrote. “Please assure my relatives they should not worry about me.”
The authenticity of Kartse’s letter, which was written out by hand, could not be immediately verified.
Kartse, who is also known as Karma Tsewang, had been active in social work in the Yulshul area, including in relief efforts following a devastating April 2010 earthquake, and was well-respected among Tibetans for his work to protect and promote the Tibetan language, culture, and religion.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the area in 2008.
A total of 125 Tibetans have also set themselves ablaze in self-immolation protests calling for Tibetan freedom since February 2009, with another six setting fire to themselves in India and Nepal.
Reported by Lobsang Choephel for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.