Tibetan Culture Advocate 'Detained'
Chinese authorities continue crackdown as self-immolations rage in Tibetan-populated areas.
Updated at 12:00 p.m. EST on 2012-02-15
A popular advocate of Tibet’s traditional culture and language is believed to have been detained by Chinese authorities, sources in exile and in Tibet said Monday, as another Tibetan self-immolated in protest against Chinese rule.
One source, calling from inside Tibet, told RFA that Dawa Dorje, age 27 or 28 and a government researcher in Nagchu (in Chinese, Naqu) prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), was detained last week after expressing concern over the closure of Tibetan monasteries.
He was picked up at Tibet's capital Lhasa's Gonggar Airport, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"There is hardly anyone in Nagchu who doesn't know about this young Tibetan Dawa Dorje," the source said.
"He was detained at Gonggar Airport. He was arrested and taken away but details are not known. His family members could not locate him and are desperately trying to find out where he has been detained," the source said.
An India-based friend of Dorje, who identified himself only as Rabgye, told RFA that Dorje had flown into Tibet from China’s southwestern Sichuan province where anti-Beijing protests have escalated in recent weeks.
Dorje had taken a flight to Lhasa from Sichuan’s capital Chengdu after organizing a conference there promoting Tibetan culture, said Rabgye, a monk at the Sera Je monastery in southern India.
Local authorities inside Tibet and in Chengdu could not be immediately contacted over Dorje's whereabouts.
“He called for a conference of Tibetan singers and other Tibetans in Chengdu on Feb. 1 and asked them to write and sing songs with themes that would promote the Tibetan language, race, and culture,” Rabgye said.
“He advised the Tibetan singers that songs are a powerful medium for influencing people’s thoughts.”
After resting for a day following the conference, Dorje received a call from his office in Tibet ordering him to return to work, and he took a flight from Chengdu to Lhasa, Rabgye said.
“To his family’s surprise, he did not emerge from the Gonggar airport in Lhasa,” he said.
Rabgye added that he had received a communication from Dorje on Jan. 28, a few days before the conference in Chengdu.
“He told me that his biggest concern was about the closing of [Tibetan] monasteries in Driru,” a county in the TAR, he said.
Monks and nuns in many of the monasteries in Driru have left their facilities in recent months, citing intolerable interference in their daily activities by Chinese authorities, sources have said.
“The local people are also unhappy about the monasteries closing, but if they protest, the Chinese will have an excuse to crack down on the Tibetans. So this was his biggest worry,” Rabgye said.
Dawa Dorje graduated from Tibet University in Lhasa and works as a researcher in the office of the county prosecutor in Nyanrong county in Nagchu prefecture, Rabgye said.
“He has written several books on the preservation of the Tibetan language, the proper practice of Tibetan religion, and the importance of sending children to school,” he said, adding that Dorje had also organized many conferences on these subjects.
Writers, singers, and artists promoting Tibetan national identity and culture have frequently been detained by Chinese authorities, with many handed long jail terms, following region-wide protests against Chinese rule that swept Tibetan areas in 2008.
News of Dorje's alleged detention came as a 19-year-old Tibetan monk set himself ablaze on Monday in Sichuan province amid escalating protests against Chinese rule in Tibetan areas and as Beijing poured more security forces into the region to keep a lid on the situation.
It was the second self-immolation by a Tibetan teenager in two days and brought to 24 the number of Tibetans who have burned themselves in protest since February 2009 when Beijing stepped up a clampdown on monasteries and rounded up hundreds of monks.
Lobsang Gyatso, a monk from the restive Kirti Monastery in Ngaba (Aba, in Chinese) prefecture, set fire to himself in Ngaba town in the afternoon and was beaten and taken away by Chinese security forces, according to sources.
Following the incident, Chinese security forces set up checkpoints around the town and were searching residents, according to London-based Free Tibet, an advocacy group.
Ngaba town has been the scene of repeated demonstrations against rule by Beijing during the last year.
Elsewhere, about 200 Tibetans protested at the weekend in Kyegudo town in nearby Yulshul (in Chinese, Yushu) prefecture, while posters calling for independence for Tibet were put up in Kardze town in Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) prefecture, sources said.
In Kardze town, Chinese police detained a Tibetan youth on Saturday after a poster warning that three more Tibetans were preparing to self-immolate "for the Tibetan cause" appeared on the wall of the local police station, a local source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The youth, Tashi Palden, 21, was detained as he shouted slogans in the town center calling for Tibetan independence and for the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, the source said.
Reported by Rigdhen Dolma for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translations by Rigdhen Dolma and Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney and Parameswaran Ponnudurai.