Tibetan Monks Arrested Over Blast

Three Tibetan Buddhist monks are arrested on suspicion of causing an explosion.

TibetMap052808-305.png Map of Tibet Autonomous Region, showing prefectures and site of alleged blasts.
Graphic: RFA

KATHMANDU—Chinese authorities in Tibet have arrested three young Tibetan Buddhist monks in connection with a September blast at a local power station, Chinese and Tibetan sources say.

Ngawang Tenzin, 20, Tenzin Norbu, 19, and Tenzin Rinchen, 17, are now in police custody on suspicion of causing an explosion Sept.  8 at a local power station that knocked out television broadcasts but caused no casualties, the sources said.

The explosion, in Markham county, Chamdo [in Chinese, Changdu], in China’s Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), came less than six months after simmering anti-China resentment erupted in massive protests and rioting throughout Tibetan regions in China.

Tibetan sources, who asked not to be named, cited resentment among local Tibetans over television programming in the Kham dialect in August and September that condemned Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, as a “splittist” committed to dismantling China.

There is no way to escape from us."
Chinese PSB officer

On Oct. 24, police found Tenzin Rinchen, shot him in the leg, and arrested him, Tibetan sources said. Ngawang Tenzin and Tenzin Norbu "were detained yesterday, Oct. 30," one source said. "They were arrested yesterday night and taken away."

An official with the Chamdo PSB, contacted by telephone Oct. 31, said Ngawang Tenzin and Tenzin Norbu “have been arrested and they are being investigated.”

Authorities have moved the three monks from Markham to Chamdo and ordered their family members to remain in the Markham area, another Tibetan source said.

Tensions ‘intense’

“The tensions and restrictions on Markham are very intense. The Chamdo police chief is here, and they're still holding meetings. There's a huge presence by security forces here," the source said.

On Oct. 26, Dechen Dorje, 49, the father of Ngawang Tenzin, was detained and questioned, one source said. He remains in detention. Lobsang Tenzin, 26, Tenzin Norbu’s older brother, was also detained Oct. 19 while ploughing a field, one source said.

He refused to talk under questioning and was unable to move his hands or feet when he was released on Oct. 27, the source said.

In an interview Oct. 30, a Public Security Bureau (PSB) officer in Markham county confirmed that the three youths were wanted in connection with the explosion.

“Those culprits have been hiding out somewhere for a little over a month and 20 days," the official said. “We caught one. There is no way to escape from us. If the other two culprits surrender on their own, China’s legal system might show leniency."

Previous blasts

On Sept. 23, the Chamdo Intermediate People's Court sentenced four monks to jail terms of four to nine years for "terrorist actions" in connection with a series of small blasts during massive anti-China protests in the region earlier this year.

The mostly teenage monks were among dozens who were detained in Markham county on or around May 14 and were charged with "obstructing the Olympics" and "damaging national stability."

All the monks are believed to have been from Markham county's Oser monastery or one of its branches.

Tibetan sources in the region reported eight separate explosions in the Markham area during the Tibetan protests early this year. No one was hurt in the blasts.

Chinese authorities have made numerous arrests and launched a “patriotic education” campaign aimed at Tibetans after protests and riots that began in Lhasa in mid-March and spread to other Tibetan areas.

Beijing says 22 people were killed in the rioting. Tibetan exiles say at least 140 people died in the region-wide crackdown that followed, while more than 1,000 were detained.

Chinese authorities have blamed the Dalai Lama for instigating the protests and fomenting what they regard as a “splittist” Tibetan independence movement. The Dalai Lama rejects the accusation, saying he wants only autonomy and human rights for Tibetans.

Original reporting in the Kham dialect by Lobsang Choephel for RFA's Tibetan service.Translated by Karma Dorjee.Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo.Written and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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