DHARAMSALA, India—Authorities in China’s western Gansu province have detained a monk for allegedly accessing banned media content and maintaining contact with exiled Tibetans, a month after student protests there prompted several firings, Tibetan sources say.
Plainclothes prefecture authorities and security officials took Tashi Gyatso, 36, into custody April 8 at around 4 a.m., before dawn prayers in Sarma monastery in Machu town [in Chinese, Maqu], according to two Tibetans based here who cited local contacts.
“He was taken to the Machu county police detention center,” Tashi Gyatso's brother Jampa said.
Jampa and another Dharamsala resident, Dolkar Kyab, said witnesses described seeing Tashi Gyatso being taken away one day after authorities visited the monastery April 7 and warned the Sarma monks in a morning meeting to exercise caution and avoid "causing trouble."
“They said they had learned that several monks from Sarma had been engaged in disturbing state and public security and had been involved in separatist activities, so from now on they would be held responsible and all should be very careful—or they would suffer consequences in the future,” Jampa said.
“The next morning, the monks saw two cars outside from the police and the security section, with several people inside. They came into his room and detained him [Tashi Gyatso], while most of the monks were sleeping,” he said.
Protests in March
The authorities gave no reason for the detention, but local sources said Tashi Gyatso was cited for allegedly accessing and sharing banned Tibetan content on the Internet, speaking by phone with foreign contacts, and connecting a television in his room to watch foreign broadcasts.
The town where Sarma monastery is located, Machu, was the site of student protests in mid-March that led to the sacking of a middle-school headmaster, along with his assistants and the head of the county Public Security Bureau.
Dozens of students at the Tibetan Middle School in Machu staged a protest March
14 on the second anniversary of a region-wide uprising against Chinese rule in
Tibetan-populated areas of western China.
“[They] were joined by 500 to 600 other Tibetans,” a local resident said. “They
were shouting against their lack of freedom, and were calling for Tibetan
independence,” the source said.
Following the protest, the school’s headmaster, Kyabchen Dedrol, and two assistants—Do Re and Choekyong Tseten—were dismissed from their jobs, sources said.
“[The Chinese authorities] also relieved Sonam Tse, head of the Machu Public
Security Office, of his title. It is feared that another seven or eight
teachers from the Machu Tibetan Middle School will also lose their jobs,” a source said.
On March 16, students at a second school, Kanlho Tibetan Middle School No. 3, also protested, but were stopped from leaving school grounds by school security officials and teachers.
Security has been tight inside Tibetan since a peaceful protest in March 2008 prompted a crackdown and ignited a region-wide uprising.
Original reporting by RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated from the Tibetan by Rigdhen Dolma. Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo. Written in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.