Police in western China’s Sichuan province have detained a Tibetan man suspected of organizing a prayer festival in March in which flags bearing photos of Tibetan exile leaders were publicly displayed, sources said.
Sonam Dargye, a resident of Suwa village in Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) county in the Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, was taken into custody “while running errands to buy provisions for his family,” a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“He was detained about 20 days ago, and there is still no information about his present condition,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Word of Dargye’s detention was delayed in reaching outside contacts because of communication blocks imposed by Chinese authorities in the area, the source said.
Local Tibetans believe that Dargye was detained because of his role in organizing a prayer festival on March 4 at Ngaba’s Gomang monastery in which photos of prominent Tibetan exile leaders—including Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama—were openly displayed, one source said.
“The festival is organized by six different villages in rotation,” the source said. “This year, it was Suwa village’s turn, and Sonam Dargye was a key person involved in the organization.”
Call for unity
Participants in the festival shouted slogans calling for Tibetan unity and paraded flags with photos of the Dalai Lama, the Sikyong Lobsang Sangay, and former exile prime minister Samdhong Rinpoche, another source said in earlier reports.
Other flags bore images of the world and of doves of peace, the source said.
Lobsang Sangay, who was elected Tibet's exile prime minister in 2011, now holds the title Sikyong or "political leader" of Tibet's India-based exile government, the Central Tibetan Administration.
Dargye, believed to be in his late 20s, now manages a small shop in Pema (Banma) county in Qinghai province's Golog (Guoluo) prefecture with his wife Yangdzom, one source said, adding that the couple have three children.
“His father and relatives have been trying to find out about his condition, but so far have not had any success,” he said.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Chinese rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 140 Tibetans to date setting themselves ablaze to oppose Beijing’s rule and call for the Dalai Lama’s return.
Reported by Chakmo Tso for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.