Tibetan Monk Arrested for Dalai Lama Picture, Flag


KATHMANDU — ; Chinese police in a county near the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, have arrested a young monk for keeping in his quarters a photograph of the Dalai Lama and a Tibetan national flag.

"A team of Public Security Bureau officials of Taktse County, Lhasa City, secretly raided the room of Choeden Rinzen, a monk at Gaden Monastery located in the vicinity of Lhasa city, on Feb. 12, 2004," a Tibetan source who recently arrived in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, told RFA's Tibetan service.

Sources inside Tibet who asked not to be named confirmed the refugee's report. Phone calls during business hours to the Lhasa City Public Security Bureau and the Taktse County Public Security Bureau went unanswered March 30-31.

"In this raid, they first found a photo of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and a Tibetan national flag. He was arrested immediately and taken away," the source said, adding that Choeden Rinzen was probably being detained in the Gutsa detention center outside Lhasa. "Nobody knows for sure his whereabouts, including his family members and monks of Gaden Monastery."

Police detained two of Choeden Rinzen's friends, identified only by their family names Tsuchung and Thargyal, at the same time but later released them and allowed them to return to Gaden Monastery, the source said.

Five days after the arrest, six Chinese police officers called a meeting of some 500 monks at Gaden, telling them that Choeden Rinzen had been arrested for "possessing anti-government materials," the source said. "They also informed the congregation of monks that he was involved in criminal activities and warned that if any other members of the monastery possessed a photo of Dalai Lama, they would face the same consequences."

Choeden Rinzen, who is in his early 20s, has been enrolled as a monk at Gaden since 1991. His father is a local government official in Medo Gongkar County, where Choeden Rinzen's birthplace, Thaya Township, is located.

The arrest preceded a crackdown at a local television station, Tibet Television 3, after it inadvertently showed footage of a man in Kathmandu with a Tibetan national flag behind him. The head of the station, a Tibetan, was questioned and forced to acknowledge his "mistake." Staff at the station were forced to undergo re-education and to write self-criticisms acknowledging their error.

Beijing has also recently outlawed a book, written by a Tibetan writer in Chinese, touching on sensitive religious issues, including how the exiled Dalai Lama is still revered by Tibetans inside Tibet. Author Oser (Eds: one name) found her Notes on Tibet essay collection banned after she tried to publish it in the freewheeling southern province of Guangdong.

The Dalai Lama, Tibet's religious and political leader, fled Lhasa in 1959 after an unsuccessful revolt against Chinese rule. He leads the Tibetan Government-in-Exile in Dharamsala, India.

According to the State Department's 2003 report on human rights around the world, released in February, Chinese officials maintained last year that "possessing or displaying pictures of the Dalai Lama is not illegal." But it added that "pictures [of the Dalai Lama] could not be purchased openly in the [Tibetan Autonomous Region, or] TAR, and possession of such pictures has triggered arrests in the past; therefore, Tibetans in the TAR were extremely cautious about displaying them. Diplomatic observers saw pictures of a number of Tibetan religious figures, including the Dalai Lama, openly displayed in Tibetan areas outside the TAR."

After an August 2003 incident in which presumed activists hung the banned Tibetan national flag from a radio tower, "private displays of Dalai Lama pictures were confiscated in urban areas of two Sichuan counties," the report said. Also in August 2003, five monks and an unidentified lay artist received sentences of 1 to 12 years' imprisonment for alleged separatist activities, including painting a Tibetan national flag, possessing pictures of the Dalai Lama, and distributing materials calling for Tibetan independence.


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