Chinese authorities in Qinghai province detained two Tibetan monks accused of involvement in a self-immolation protest challenging Beijing’s rule, but one of them was released due to illness, according to Tibetan sources this week.
The detentions came a week after Chinese courts sentenced eight Tibetans for their alleged role in inciting or abetting other burnings in Sichuan and Gansu provinces, drawing criticism from human rights groups.
“On Saturday, Feb. 2, two monks of the Yershong monastery in Rebgong [in Chinese, Tongren] county in the Malho [Huangnan] prefecture were called to the local Public Security Bureau office and subjected to intensive interrogation,” a Swiss-based Tibetan named Sonam told RFA’s Tibetan Service, citing contacts in the region.
The detained monks were identified as Yarphel, 22, and Drayang, age unknown, Sonam said.
“After they were questioned, Yarphel was told he will be sentenced to jail,” Sonam said, adding “He is currently being held in the prison located at Drokmar Kha in Rebgong.”
“The other monk, Drayang, was released and allowed to go home because he himself is ill and is also caring for his ailing mother,” Sonam said.
The two were detained and questioned over their involvement in events connected to the Nov. 4 self-immolation of Dorjee Lhundup, 25, who shouted slogans against Chinese rule and calling for the return of Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama before burning himself to death in Rebgong’s Rongwo township.
When Lhundup’s body was carried to his home, Yarphel—Lhundup’s maternal uncle—was found to be carrying a photo of the deceased self-immolator, while Drayang was found in possession of a photo of the Dalai Lama, Sonam said.
No explanation was given for the apparent delay in the detaining and questioning of the two men.
Wave of protests
Tibetan regions have been rocked in recent years by a wave of self-immolation protests by Tibetans challenging Chinese rule and calling for the return from exile of the Dalai Lama.
Ninety-eight have set themselves ablaze so far as they highlighted Tibetan calls for freedom and for cultural, religious, and language rights.
China has defended its rule of Tibet and has accused the Dalai Lama and his supporters of orchestrating the self-immolations from their exile base in India.
But Tibetan exile leaders, while publicly honoring what they call the “sacrifices” made by self-immolators, have denied involvement in the burnings and have called on Tibetans in Tibet to refrain from “drastic actions.”
On Jan. 31, Chinese courts convicted eight Tibetans accused of encouraging self-immolation protests against Beijing’s rule or of blocking government efforts to stop the burnings.
One of them was handed a suspended death sentence, believed to be the first time such a harsh sentence has been imposed on offenses linked to the self-immolations, while the others were given long terms in prison.
China director for Human Rights Watch Sophie Richardson described the convictions as “problematic, particularly in a context of extremely poor legal proceedings and a history of politicized prosecutions.”
“The Chinese government appears to be expending considerable resources on prosecuting and criminalizing immolations, but not on understanding or ameliorating the concerns that appear to be driving them,” Richardson said.
Reported by Lumbum Tashi for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.