Three young Tibetans suspected of burning the Chinese flag are among scores held in a recent wave of detentions in a county in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) that has been resisting forced displays of loyalty to the Chinese state, according to sources.
The whereabouts of the trio—a teenage boy and girl as well as a 27-year-old woman—are still unknown following their separate detentions this month in Driru (in Chinese, Biru) county in the TAR’s Nagchu (Naqu) prefecture.
The latest detentions came amid warnings by sources in Driru that the situation in the restive county has worsened following a crackdown launched in September when Beijing began a campaign to force Tibetans to fly the Chinese national flag from their homes.
Bumchok, the 16-year-old boy, was detained by armed police on the night of Dec. 11, “allegedly for burning the Chinese flag,” a source in Driru told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Tuesday.
“After being held for a few days, he was brought back to his home escorted by 20 policemen pointing rifles at him who then searched his house,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“He was taken away again when police found a photo of [exiled spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama in his house,” he said, adding that the teen’s current whereabouts and the extent of his injuries suffered in a beating by police are still unknown.
Five days later, two young Tibetan women were also taken into custody, RFA’s source said.
“On Dec. 16, a girl named Yangchen, 27, and another young girl named Choedron, who is just 16, were also detained on suspicion of burning the Chinese flag,” he said.
Over 1,000 detained
Over 1,000 Tibetans have now been detained in Driru since authorities launched the September crackdown.
The campaign intensified in early October when villagers refused to fly the flags, throwing them instead into a river and prompting a deadly security crackdown in which Chinese police fired into unarmed crowds.
The situation in Driru has now gone “from bad to worse,” RFA’s source said, adding that Tibetans as young as 10 or 12 are now being detained and beaten in attempts to force them to confess to anti-state activities.
“One boy named Apho, 12, is being held in the Shakchu township detention center,” one of a group of 70 detained over the last three months from that township alone in which the oldest is 72 and the youngest is 10, he said.
“A young mother from Driru was also recently taken away, leaving behind her one-month-old child,” the source said. “She is alleged to have cursed the [ruling Chinese] Communist Party because of its unjust actions.”
And on Dec. 23, a Tibetan named Phakchok, 36, was also detained, leaving behind his father, the only surviving member of his family.
“Conditions in Driru are so tense that it has become difficult to live in the area,” RFA's source said.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.
A total of 125 Tibetans in China have also set themselves ablaze in self-immolation protests calling for Tibetan freedom, with another six setting fire to themselves in India and Nepal.
Reported by Yangdon Demo for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.