Chinese police have detained a resident of a restive Tibetan county for speaking out against a local Beijing-backed religious figure, as authorities further tighten controls over Tibetan assertions of national and cultural identity in the region, according to sources.
Tsokye, a resident of Akchen village in Nagchu (in Chinese, Naqu) county’s Tarchen township in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), was taken into custody on Dec. 13, a Tibetan living in exile in India told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Friday.
“Local Tibetans believe he was detained for speaking out strongly against the enthronement of the Chinese-backed reincarnation of Shak Rongpo Choje,” the senior-most lama, or religious teacher, of the local Rongpo monastery, Ngawang Tharpa said, citing sources in the region.
“No word has been received regarding his present condition or place of detention,” Tharpa said.
Chinese paramilitary police have now surrounded Tsokye’s village, he added.
The selection of Tibetan reincarnate lamas is officially subject to approval by the Chinese government, with the ruling Chinese Communist Party often seeking to cultivate high-ranking monks as politically reliable figures who will not call for Tibetan independence from Beijing's rule.
In 2010, Lama Dawa, a leading Rongpo monk, was handed a seven-year jail term by a Chinese court on charges he had contacted exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama regarding the search for the previous Rongpo Choje’s reincarnation, Tharpa said.
“Local Tibetans and the monks appealed to county authorities for his release, but the authorities refused to listen and shut down the monastery,” he said.
The move led to clashes between local Tibetans and government work teams sent to monitor the monastery’s affairs, leaving several Tibetans detained, according to Tharpa.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Chinese rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.
A total of 125 Tibetans in China have also set themselves ablaze in self-immolation protests calling for Tibetan freedom, with another six setting fire to themselves in India and Nepal.
Reported by Lobsang Sherab for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.