Chinese police in the remote western province of Qinghai on Friday rejected claims that three Tibetan spectators at an international archery competition were tortured in detention earlier this month, saying the men were "drunk" and had been taken into custody for assaulting a police officer.
The assault allegedly occurred on the second day of the annual event held from Sept. 10-12 at Markuthang town in the Malho (in Chinese, Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture's Chentsa (Jianzha) county.
A police officer who answered the phone at the Chentsa county police department denied claims the three men had been abused, saying they had been drunk and aggressive.
"That day, there were three of them who were brought in for picking quarrels and stirring up trouble because they were drunk," the officer said.
"From what I heard, they had assaulted a police officer."
According to Jamyang Dargyal, a Tibetan living in exile, a group of county police turned up drunk on the second day of the festival and demanded that the Tibetans join them in drinking toasts, on pain of having the after-festival dinner shut down.
They later threw a Tibetan man who challenged their behavior into a truck, along with two others who tried to come to his aid, before taking them to a detention center and hanging them up, striking them with empty bottles, and urinating on them, Jamyang told RFA's Tibetan Service last week.
Those detained were local businessman Wangchuk, his younger brother, and Tenzin Rinchen, a resident of Bayan (Hualong) county in neighboring Tsoshar (Haidong) prefecture.
Around eight policemen beat them on the way to the detention center and after they arrived, while drinking their way through a case of beer, Jamyang said.
Police deny account
Asked to account for this alleged behavior, the Chentsa police officer denied the account.
"No, that's not likely," the officer said. "How could such a thing happen? The archery competition was an international event, with people from overseas coming to take part, not just locals."
He added: "This wouldn't happen, because the detention center is guarded by armed police, and we regular police can't just go in whenever we want to. We have to go through certain formalities."
Dargyal said Tenzin Rinchen is now in critical condition in hospital.
"He was taken to the hospital in Rebgong [Tongren] county, Malho, on Sept. 12, where a CT scan showed that he had six broken ribs," he told RFA's Mandarin Service.
"The police didn't inform the relatives, and when they went to look for him the next day, the police said they had released him a while ago," he said.
The officer also denied this aspect of Dargyal's account, however.
"I don't think that's very likely, is it?" the officer said.
According to Dargyal's account, Tenzin Rinchen was taken to the Malho prefecture hospital for treatment on the morning of Sept. 12, after he was found to be so badly hurt that he couldn't move.
He was moved to a hospital in the provincial capital Xining, which reported on Sept. 13 that he had suffered six broken ribs.
But after being treated there for a week, a group of Chentsa police suddenly arrived and took him back to a hospital in the county to be treated, Dargyal said.
His condition was reported as critical, and he could neither eat nor speak, although his family were initially unaware of his situation.
Meanwhile, Wangchuk and his brother, who had also been assaulted in detention, were released from custody on Sept. 22, although their medical status remains unknown, Dargyal said.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.