Authorities in southwestern China’s Sichuan province have released five Tibetans taken into custody last month in connection with a petition over confiscated land, holding back five others deemed key leaders of the protest, a source living in the region said.
The five who were released—Tsering Kyab, Tsering Tashi, Patra, Dobe, and Tabe—were freed on Oct. 2, a local Tibetan source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“However, the five who had written up the original appeal have still not been released,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The source identified those still held in custody as protest organizers Jigje Kyab, Tsepak, Phurko, Sonam Gyatso, and Shetruk.
Jigje Kyab, 39, was reported earlier as having gone missing at the time the others were detained, with his sister Tsokyi reportedly being beaten in detention and then released.
“Those who were freed said that they had not been tortured or punished during their detention,” the source said, adding, “However, the dispute over the land has still not been resolved.”
Those freed and those still held were part of a group of at least a dozen residents of Thangkor town in Dzoege (in Chinese, Ruo’ergai) county in Sichuan’s Ngaba (Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture who had briefly reoccupied land taken from them five years ago for a government development project that was never completed.
In April, Jigje Kyab, also known as Jigme Kyab, went into hiding after a Thangkor official and local government employees visited his home, and said via video at the time that he had “evaded capture” and was in a safe place.
Entrusted by community members with documents supporting Tibetan claims to the confiscated property, Kyab said he had gone into hiding so that he could present the community’s case to higher provincial authorities.
Kyab had also played a role in organizing a Jan. 28 protest by 20 Thangkor-area Tibetans in the Sichuan provincial capital, Chengdu, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
In that incident, authorities quickly broke up the protest and detained 11 Tibetans, later releasing all but two, after the group petitioned in front of government buildings during a meeting of the Sichuan Provincial People’s Congress for the return of their land.
The requisitioning of rural land for lucrative property deals by cash-hungry local governments triggers thousands of “mass incidents” across China every year.
Many result in violent suppression, the detention of the main organizers, and intense pressure on the local population to comply with the government’s wishes.
Reported by Lobe Socktsang for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.