HONG KONG—Authorities in the western Chinese province of Qinghai have now formally arrested a Tibetan writer who signed an open letter critical of the government’s quake relief efforts in the region. This step almost always precedes a conviction in China.
“As we were directed by the local authorities, my mother and I went to police station to receive the formal arrest letter for my father on May 28, 2010, around 6 p.m.,” Yeshi Tsomo, daughter of the Tibetan writer Tagyal, said in an interview.
“The contents of the letter were very similar to what the Chinese officials had said earlier. My father was accused of instigating to split the motherland. This and the letter we were given earlier, when he was first detained, are almost the same except for the mention that his case had been transferred for prosecution,” she said.
Tagyal is detained in Xining Metropolitan Detention Center No. 1, the letter said.
Tagyal publishes under the pen name Shogdung and was first detained in late April.
He was one of eight intellectuals who signed an April 17 letter that expressed sorrow over the disaster that left more than 2,000 people dead, mostly Tibetans, and urged wariness of Chinese government relief efforts.
The letter Tagyal signed had urged people to help victims by offering food, clothing, and medicine, but warned them to avoid official relief channels.
“Better to send [money] to the disaster zone with people you trust, because nobody can tell where there will be corruption,” said the letter, which was posted on several Web sites, including the overseas-based Boxun.com, which is critical of the Chinese government.
“Just as the news from the mouthpiece for the [Communist] Party organizations cannot be believed, we dare not believe in the Party organization, which issued the order stopping people from going to the disaster zone for political reasons,” it said.
Legal aid needed
Yeshi Tsomo said the family is currently looking for a lawyer to defend her father.
“We asked whether we can hire lawyers, but they didn’t make that clear. We are searching for lawyers,” she said. “Our whole family is worried. We were told that he is detained in Xining, but it is extremely difficult to say for sure whether he is still detained in Xining or not.”
“We’ve heard nothing, and we are worried about his health and the possibility of beatings in detention that could further jeopardize his health,” she said, adding, “Our grandparents are tough.”
Tagyal worked at the Qinghai Nationalities Publishing House, in the provincial capital, Xining.
The Xining police department has declined to comment on the case, and whether the open letter was the direct cause for his detention was unclear—although Chinese authorities have been at pains to quash any criticism of its relief efforts in the Tibetan region.
Tagyal’s wife, Lhatso, has said authorities had ordered the family bookshop closed on April 12, two days before the deadly quake.
Tagyal, 45, is a leading intellectual who in the past has written books that largely aligned with the Chinese government’s views on modernization, religion, and culture in Tibet.
However, he published a book this year that was far more critical of the government in the wake of widespread protests against Chinese rule that swept through Tibet in 2008.
Tibetan residents of Yushu, where more than 2,000 people—mostly Tibetans—died in the April 14 quake, said state-run media coverage of the rescue and clean-up operation was already far from reflecting the situation on the ground.
Original reporting by Palden Gyal for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated from the Tibetan by Karma Dorjee. Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo.Written and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.