Police in China’s western Qinghai province have detained a young Tibetan man who disseminated material online marking the 80th anniversary of the birth year of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, as authorities clamped down on celebrations in the region.
Tsering Dondrub, 25, was arrested in Rebgong (in Chinese, Tongren) county in Qinghai’s Malho (Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture on June 20 after posting the material on a popular messaging application called WeChat, a Tibetan source told RFA’s Tibetan Service Tuesday.
“A young Tibetan named Tsering Dondrub of the Dugkar family in Rebgong’s Manggo village was detained for posting an image of the Tibetan flag and a photo of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on his WeChat account,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity from inside Tibet.
“At this point, no one knows where he is detained.”
According to the source, Chinese authorities have placed serious restrictions on activities related to the Dalai Lama’s July 6 birthday in Rebgong, as well as in other Tibetan-populated regions, posting warnings against celebrations of the politically sensitive event and blocking public gatherings that could be linked to it.
“Many vehicles equipped with devices to monitor online activities have been seen patrolling the area to monitor Tibetan activities,” the source said.
“Tibetans in Rebgong were instructed not to assemble in large groups, organize celebratory picnics or use social media during the 80th anniversary. They were also instructed not to share photos or videos with others.”
According to the source, Tibetans in Tsering Dondrub’s Manggo village had planned a variety of activities for June 20-21 to mark the 80th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s birth year, “but the Chinese [authorities] stopped them.”
“They had no choice except to celebrate within the confines of their homes,” the source said.
“The Tibetan families placed photos of the Dalai Lama on the altars in their homes, made offerings of food and flowers, and recited prayers for his long life,” he said.
A France-based Tibetan in exile, who maintains contacts inside Tibet, told RFA that monks at Rebgong’s Riwo and Palden Gyurme monasteries also held prayer recitals for the long life of the Dalai Lama and made offerings to photos of the spiritual leader over the weekend.
“However, when the public tried to attend the monasteries to participate in the celebration, the Chinese authorities blocked them from doing so,” the source said.
“Even mobile phones carried by members of the public were confiscated and their contents searched.”
Successful prayer bid
Another Tibetan in exile told RFA that efforts by Chinese authorities to obstruct celebrations honoring the Dalai Lama in Chone (Zhuoni) county, in Gansu province’s Kanlho (Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, have been largely unsuccessful.
“Tibetans in Tsawushi in Chone county accumulated several hundreds of thousands [of prayer recitals] over a one month period from May 5 to June 5 for the long life of the Dalai Lama,” the source said.
The Dalai Lama, who turns 80 this year, fled Tibet into exile in India in the midst of a failed 1959 national uprising against Chinese rule, and displays by Tibetans of the Dalai Lama’s photo or public celebrations of his birthday have been with harsh punishment in the past.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Chinese rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 141 Tibetans to date setting themselves ablaze to oppose Beijing’s rule and call for the Dalai Lama’s return.
Reported by Sonam Wangdu, Kunsang Tenzin, and Sonam Topgyal for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.