Hundreds of heavily armed Chinese security forces raided a Tibetan monastery in the northwestern province of Qinghai at the weekend, taking away four monks previously targeted for detention and holding another monk for taking photographs of the raid, Tibetan sources said.
Local Tibetans believe at least three of the monks were picked up during the Saturday raid for providing foreign media outlets with details about two nearby self-immolation protests in June, an India-based Tibetan told RFA, citing sources in the region.
Monks who intervened to stop the detentions were beaten, the sources said.
“On Sept. 1, Chinese police and Public Security Bureau officers in about 60 vehicles suddenly arrived at Zilkar monastery in the Dzatoe township of Tridu county in Qinghai’s Yulshul [in Chinese, Yushu] prefecture,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The monastery, the scene of unauthorized funeral ceremonies following the self-immolations, had been told in a phone call earlier in the day to expect an official “visit,” believed by the monks to be routine, the source said.
“Shortly afterward, the monastery’s electricity and all means of communication were cut off,” he said.
The fully armed security forces in riot gear surrounded the monastery, the source said, adding, that “they came to detain four monks whose names and other information about them were already known.”
Police 'filled the monastery'
Chinese police conducting the raid were so numerous that they “filled the monastery” and appeared to outnumber the monastery’s own 500 monks, the source said.
Detained in the raid were Lobsang Jinpa, 30; Tsultrim Kalsang, 25; Ngawang Monlam, 30; and Sonam Yignyen, 44.
A fifth monk, Sonam Sherab, 45, was taken into custody when he was observed filming the police operation, the source said.
Computers and DVDs were seized from the monks’ rooms by the police, who also beat and pointed guns at other monks who pleaded with them not to take the men away, he said.
“Locals suspect that three of the monks were taken away because they had contacted outside media about the recent self-immolations of two Tibetans in Yulshul,” he said.
“Another is believed to have been detained for possessing photos of [exiled spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama.”
Monk seized in town
Separately, police in China’s northwestern Gansu province last week took into custody a Tibetan monk believed to have been involved in a March 20 protest against Chinese authorities, according to a local source.
“On Aug. 28, Kalsang Gyatso, 28, a monk at the Bora monastery, was detained and taken away from a bathhouse in Tsoe town,” the source said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.
Gyatso, with permission from senior monks who were supervising a retreat, had gone to the nearby town and was bathing with friends when he was detained, the source said.
“The police, who were not in uniform, asked which of the men was Kalsang Gyatso, but his friends refused to identify him,” he said.
“The police then pointed directly at him, overpowered his friends, and took him away in a police vehicle,” he said, adding that no explanation was given for the detention.
When family members later sought word from county and prefecture offices on Kalsang Gyatso’s condition and place of detention, “no information was given to them,” he said.
Kalsang Gyatso comes originally from Yagpa Yarne village in Labrang (in Chinese, Xiahe) county in Gansu’s Kanlho (in Chinese, Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, the source said.
“His father is Kalsang Tsering, and Dronpu Thar is his mother,” he said.
The day after Kalsang Gyatso was detained, a group of 30 county, prefecture, and provincial-level officials, together with a press team, arrived at Bora monastery to conduct a “legal education” session for the monks, the source said.
Human rights groups have expressed concern over the increasing number of Tibetan detentions amid the 51 self-immolations in protest against Chinese rule since February 2009.
Last week, police also detained a monk from the restive Kirti monastery in Sichuan province, which has been the epicenter of the burning protests, along with another Tibetan, possibly in connection with the deadly self-immolation protests in the area.
The London-based Free Tibet said it "has grave concerns for the well being of the hundreds of Tibetans who we know are in detention following protests, often in locations unknown to their families, without any legal rights and at very serious risk of being tortured."
“Tibetans’ fundamental human rights are being ignored by international leaders who are afraid of risking their relationships with China. The time has come for each one of us to speak up and demand Tibetan freedom,” Free Tibet Director Stephanie Brigden said last week.
Separately, the U.S.-based advocacy group International Campaign for Tibet has asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who began a two-day visit to Beijing on Tuesday, to “continue to insist on demonstrable improvements in the human rights situation [in Tibet].”
Reported by RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee and Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.