China Tightens Controls After Tibetan Self-Immolation

Tsering Gyal in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

Chinese authorities have further tightened controls in a bid to prevent Tibetan self-immolation protests in a Tibetan-populated county in Qinghai province, detaining two monks and a government worker on suspicion they were supportive of a monk who burned himself to death in protest against Chinese rule last month, according to sources.

The detentions came amid a crackdown following the Nov. 11 self-immolation death of Tsering Gyal, a 20-year-old monk from the Akyong monastery in Pema (in Chinese, Banma) county in the Golog (Guoluo) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

The two monks were dragged at night from their quarters, while the government worker was beaten and detained for possession of Gyal’s photo on her mobile phone, the sources said this week.

“On Dec. 9, several paramilitary police stormed into the rooms of two sleeping monks of Akyong monastery and took them away,” an area resident told RFA’s Tibetan Service, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The names and present condition of the two monks who were seized were not immediately available, sources said.

Although it was not clear on what charges they were detained, it is believed that they were picked up in connection with the crackdown following Gyal’s self-immolation.

Seven other Akyong monks detained early in December on suspicion of supporting Gyal’s self-immolation protest are also still unidentified, sources said.

Burnings continue

Gyal’s self-immolation was the 123rd burning protest by Tibetans in China demanding Tibetan freedom and the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in 1959 following a failed national uprising against Chinese rule.

On Dec. 3, Konchok Tseten, a Tibetan father of two in China’s Sichuan province, set himself ablaze, bringing the total number of self-immolations to 124.

Meanwhile, a government worker in Qinghai’s Pema county was detained and assaulted by police “for carrying a photo of Tsering Gyal on her mobile phone,” one source said.

“A woman named Yangtso, a government employee in Chokru village, was called to the police station several times and was finally detained for carrying a photo of Tsering Gyal on her mobile phone,” the source said.

“She was beaten and severely injured and was taken to hospital,” the source said, adding, “She was also dismissed from her government job.”

Area residents believe that monks at another local monastery have now also been targeted for detention, and equipment for monitoring phone calls has been set up at the Pema county center, RFA’s source said.

Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protest swept the region in 2008.

Chinese authorities have arrested and jailed many Tibetans accused of being linked to self-immolation protests, with some receiving prison terms of up to 15 years.

Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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