Updated at 12:40 p.m. EST on 2014-02-07
Hundreds of Tibetans staged a silent sit-in this week in Nangchen (in Chinese, Nangqian) county in northwest China’s Qinghai province to demand the release of popular religious leader Khenpo Kartse and monks detained from his monastery.
They ended the protest temporarily on a promise by authorities that monks in the crowd would be allowed to visit some of those held.
The crowd of about 500, including 60 monks from Japa monastery in Nangchen in the Yulshul (Yushu) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, gathered at around 11:00 a.m. local time on Wednesday in front of the county detention center, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“They demanded the release of all the monks and also the opportunity to meet them in jail and provide them with clothes and food,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The head of the Nangchen Public Security Bureau agreed to allow the 60 protesting monks to visit the detained monks from Japa monastery in two groups on condition that they end their silent protest,” the source said, adding that the laymen in the crowd were told they would not be allowed to enter the facility.
The crowd then dispersed after four hours to give security officials time to implement the agreement, the source said.
“The Tibetans threatened to resume their protest if no result comes from this."
Religious leader held in Chamdo
Japa monastery’s Khenpo Kartse--the title "Khenpo" denotes a senior religious teacher or abbot--was detained on Dec. 6 in Chengdu, the capital of nearby Sichuan province, on suspicion of involvement in “anti-state” activities in the neighboring Tibet Autonomous Region’s Chamdo (Changdu) prefecture.
He was taken into custody by Chamdo security officials who traveled all the way to Sichuan to detain him and remains in Chamdo in detention.
At the end of December, 16 Japa monks were then detained in Nangchen, with nine of those later released during the first two weeks of January, RFA’s source said.
“The monks who were released told others that during their detention, they were asked about Khenpo Kartse’s means of contacting outside sources,” the source said.
“They had the impression that [the Chinese] are seeking excuses to impose harsh punishment on the Khenpo.”
Khenpo Kartse, who is also known as Karma Tsewang, was active in social work in the Yulshul area, including in relief efforts following a devastating April 2010 earthquake, and was well-respected among Tibetans for his work to protect and promote the Tibetan language, culture, and religion.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the area in 2008.
A total of 125 Tibetans have also set themselves ablaze in self-immolation protests calling for Tibetan freedom since February 2009, with another six setting fire to themselves in India and Nepal.
Reported by Dolkar for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect caption for the accompanying photo.