Authorities are increasing surveillance and detaining protesters in three Tibetan-majority counties in China’s southwestern Sichuan province, according to residents and Tibetans living in exile.
Tibetans in Dege (in Chinese, Dege), Tawu (in Chinese, Daofu), and Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) counties in Kardze prefecture have held protests against Chinese rule in recent weeks calling for Tibetan independence and the return of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who has been living in exile in India since 1959.
A resident of Dege county, who asked to remain anonymous, said that police there had recently detained a Tibetan involved in protests in March.
“Among the three Tibetans who put up pro-independence posters in the Dzatoe area of Dege county … one was recently detained by the Chinese authorities sometime in June,” the reporter said.
He identified the three protesters as Jampa Konchog, Tsering Kyipo, and Lo Thubten, adding that the men had hung posters on the windows and doors of several local government buildings, including area police stations.
“They distributed hundreds of such protest fliers. On the fliers, they demanded the return of Dalai Lama and independence for Tibet with their names clearly written on the posters,” the source said.
“Several hundred government staff and security personnel were deployed in pursuit of the three for about 10 days. When they couldn’t catch them, one family member of each protester was detained for about three months,” he said.
“However, sometime in June this year, Dege county police detained Tsering Kyipo.”
Another resident of Dege confirmed Tsering Kyipo’s detention.
“He was detained about a month ago, in June this year. No one knows where or how he was detained. Many people saw Tsering Kyipo being escorted to the sites where [the protesters] had placed posters,” the resident said.
“Jampa Konchog and Lo Thubten are still missing.”
Geshe Lobsang Phuntsog, a Tibetan exile living in southern India, said that police in Sichuan had also targeted Tibetans burning incense in celebration of the Dalai Lama’s 76th birthday on July 6.
“In Tawu … many Tibetans marked the birth anniversary of the Dalai Lama. To block the celebratory activities of the monks and nuns, the authorities cut power off in the Nyasa Dargyeling monastery and two local nunneries,” he said.
“Government officials were also stationed in the monasteries to watch the activities of the monks and nuns.”
And a Tibetan caller from Kardze county said he saw a young Tibetan taken away by authorities in the county seat, where a large police presence had been stationed in recent weeks.
“On July 7, I was in a tea shop in Kardze town sipping a cup of tea when I heard a big commotion. When I went with some others to check on the crowd, I saw a young Tibetan being taken away by police and escorted into a police vehicle,” said the Kardze resident, who asked to remain anonymous.
“He was severely beaten and even when he was put in the vehicle, the police [continued to] hit him with iron rods and sticks. He was a young male in twenties. I don’t think he was able to protest for very long.”
Another resident of Kardze confirmed the detention, but said few details were available about the identity of the young man.
“The local Tibetans are very hesitant to give information about the detained person. The detained protester was surrounded by police and security forces,” the man said.
“I saw personnel at army checkpoints guarding major crossings check all who passed through the area. The town has a huge presence of security.”
Meanwhile, according to a Tibetan in exile in India, authorities in Qinghai province’s Yushu prefecture detained eight monks who held a protest on July 12 against planned official celebrations in Nangchen county.
“The eight monks belonged to Zurmang monastery and had distributed fliers calling upon Tibetans not to participate in the official program of celebrations which include horse races and other cultural festivities, including songs and dances,” he said.
“They claimed that because of the deaths caused by the earthquake tragedy, there is nothing to celebrate.”
A devastating earthquake struck Yushu county in April 2010, destroying the Tibetan town of Jyekundo, also called Gyegu, and killing an estimated 3,000 people there and in surrounding areas.
“On the suspicion of the monks’ involvement, a group of police entered Zurmang monastery on the night of July 12 and detained the eight,” the Tibetan in exile said.
The latest security crackdown in the Tibetan-populated regions of Sichuan and Qinghai provinces follows weeks of unrest aimed at Chinese rule.
Authorities in Kardze have detained more than 60 people in the wake of protests which began on June 6 and have escalated since June 17. Most of those detained are lamas or local people, according to Tibetan sources in exile.
In addition to calls for Tibetan independence, protesters have also demanded the release of political prisoners who were detained in Kardze the previous year.
Meanwhile, the Kirti monastery in Sichuan’s Ngaba prefecture has been under siege by Chinese security personnel since a young monk from there set himself ablaze and died on March 16 in a protest against rule by Beijing.
More than three months after the self-immolation death, the monastery is surrounded by hundreds of police, soldiers and government officials, with the activities of the monks tightly monitored by security cameras.
At least 300 monks have been taken away from the monastery and sent for "political re-education" while local Tibetans seeking to protect the monks were beaten and detained, drawing worldwide condemnation.
Reported by RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.