Authorities in southwestern China’s Sichuan province detained three family members of a Tibetan protester who was taken into custody last week, later releasing the three after questioning them over suspicions they had played a role in supporting the protest, a local source said.
The three were identified as Gonpo Kyab, a brother of the protester who was detained; Yeshe, the protester’s fraternal uncle; and a maternal uncle, Lobpon Kyab.
Police picked the men up for questioning on Dec. 20 after suspecting them of having prompted their younger relative, Tashi Dondrub, to stage a solitary protest opposing Chinese rule three days before, a resident of the area told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Tuesday.
“They were taken from Thangkor township to the Dzoege [in Chinese Ruo’ergai] county center, where they were held and questioned for one day,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“They were then taken back to Thangkor and released,” the source said, adding, “There were no reports they had been beaten or tortured during their detention.”
Tashi Dondrub, age unknown, staged his protest on Dec. 17 on the main street in the Dzoege county seat in the Ngaba (Aba) Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, the source said.
“He carried a photo of [exiled spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama and wore a Buddhist flag on his back,” he said.
Earlier reports, also from the region, had given the date of Dondrub’s protest as Dec. 19, the day before his relatives were detained.
No information has been released regarding Dondrub’s present condition or where he is being held.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Chinese rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 143 Tibetans to date setting themselves on fire to oppose Beijing’s rule and call for the Dalai Lama’s return.
Lone protests like Dondrub’s—the 14th reported in Ngaba since July—may now be replacing self-immolations, though, as authorities increasingly seek to punish the families of self-immolators, the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) observed in a Dec. 21 statement.
“The desire to protect families and friends from repercussions may be a factor in [this] new wave,” ICT said.
Reported by Lobe Socktsang for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.