Police in northwestern China’s Gansu province beat and tortured the wife and daughters of Tibetan self-immolator Tashi Rabten after taking them into custody for questioning following Rabten’s fatal protest last week, local sources say.
The abuse followed authorities’ demands that the three sign a document declaring that Rabten had set himself ablaze not in protest of Chinese policies, but because of problems at home, a Tibetan living in the area told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“When his wife and two daughters refused to comply, the authorities beat and tortured them,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Finally, they put their thumb prints on a document they did not understand, and only then were they released on Dec. 9,” the source said.
“Many who met Tashi Rabten’s wife and daughters after their release saw marks of physical abuse on their bodies,” he said.
Authorities also raided the family home, “looking everywhere and taking photos as they searched,” he said.
Tashi Rabten, 33, set himself ablaze on Dec. 8 at about 7:00 p.m. local time on a road leading from the Machu (in Chinese, Maqu) county center to the Machu Bridge, local sources said following the protest.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Tibetan living in the area told RFA next day that witnesses to the protest heard Rabten “call out for freedom for Tibet and for the return of [exiled spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama.”
“He also called out for the release of the [detained] Panchen Lama, Gendun Choekyi Nyima,” RFA’s source said.
Others also detained
Following Rabten’s protest, Chinese police raided teashops and restaurants in Machu and took nine area residents into custody on suspicion of involvement, a second source said.
“Among them, three younger Tibetans were detained on suspicion of having taken photos and video of Rabten’s fatal protest,” he said.
Also detained was a Tibetan woman who had witnessed the self-immolation and prayed aloud for the Dalai Lama’s blessings, another local source told RFA.
“Four of her family members were detained with her, but were later released,” the source said, adding, “The lady, named Tsedzin Lhamo, is still being held.”
Though Rabten’s family had wanted to take his remains to Labrang monastery for a traditional burial, “their wishes were denied,” one source said.
“Instead, authorities took his body to Tsoe [Hezuo] city, where it may have been cremated on Dec. 9,” the source said.
“Later, a bag of ashes said by authorities to be his burnt remains were handed over to his wife and family.”
Prayers being held
Prayers for Rabten are now being held in Machu, with “Tibetans coming from near and far away to offer their condolences to the family,” a Tibetan source said.
“The police are not stopping those who visit from nearby villages except to register their names, but they are blocking everyone coming from distant places.”
Rabten’s protest brings to 146 the number of self-immolations by Tibetans living in China since the wave of fiery protests began in 2009.
Most protests feature demands for Tibetan freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama from India, where he has lived since escaping Tibet during a failed national uprising in 1959.
Reported by Lhuboom and Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.