Detained Tibetan Monk in 'Critical' Condition

2014-01-23
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'Khenpo' Kartse in an undated photo.
'Khenpo' Kartse in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of Tsering Woeser.

A popular Tibetan religious leader held in jail for more than a month in China’s Tibet Autonomous Region is in critical condition despite a letter purportedly sent by him to his followers last month that he is in good health and being well treated, sources say.

Khenpo Kartse—the title “Khenpo” denotes a senior religious teacher or abbot—is seriously ill with an inflamed liver following his detention on Dec. 6 in Chengdu, the capital of nearby Sichuan province, on suspicion of involvement in “anti-state” activities in Tibet’s Chamdo (in Chinese, Changdu) prefecture.

His lawyers and relatives have been unable to see him since he was taken into custody by Chamdo security officials who traveled all the way to Sichuan to detain him.

“[Now], the health condition of Khenpo, who is under detention in Chamdo, is reported to be critical,” a source with contacts in the area reported to RFA’s Tibetan Service on Thursday.

“He is suffering from an inflamed liver, and more than 40 days have now passed since he was first detained,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“His lawyer and relatives have not been allowed to see him,” the source added.

Khenpo Kartse had earlier sent a letter dated Dec. 26 to his monastery in Nangchen (Nangqian) county in Qinghai province’s Yulshul (Yushu) prefecture, saying that his health was good and asking followers to avoid clashes with the police.

'Worried and concerned'

Though relatives were later told they could bring medicine to the Khenpo, “when they went to Chamdo to deliver the medicine, they were told to hand it over to officials responsible for its distribution,” RFA’s source said.

“The monks of [Khenpo Kartse’s] Japa monastery and the local Tibetan community in Nangchen are reported to be extremely worried and concerned about him.”

Sixteen Japa monastery monks who had been held since the end of December after protesting in Nangchen against Khenpo Kartse’s detention have meanwhile been released, with the last group freed on Jan. 21, the source said.

One group of nine freed in early January “told others that during their detention, they were asked about Khenpo Kartse’s means of contacting outsiders” regarding area protests and conditions under Chinese rule, one source said.

“They had the impression that [the Chinese] are seeking excuses to impose harsh punishment on the Khenpo.”

Khenpo Kartse, who is also known as Karma Tsewang, was 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 Dolkar for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.

CH. 1: MANDARIN | CANTONESE

CH. 2: VIETNAMESE | BURMESE | KOREAN

CH. 3: KHMER | LAO | UYGHUR

CH. 4: TIBETAN

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