Authorities in western China’s Sichuan province arrested four Tibetan monks on Nov. 7 for scattering leaflets calling for Tibetan independence in the courtyard of a Chinese government office in Sershul county, RFA’s Tibetan Service has learned.
Identified as Kunsal, 20, Tsultrim, 18, Tamey, 18, and Soeta, 18, the four were seized in their rooms at Dza Wonpo Ganden Shedrub monastery in the Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Jampa Yonten—a monk at India’s Sera monastery—told RFA, citing sources in the region.
The group had allegedly scattered hundreds of leaflets in the courtyard of the Chinese administrative office in the Dza Wonpo village of Dza Mey township in Sershul, Yonten said.
“Besides calling for freedom for Tibet, the leaflets called for human rights in Tibet, and especially for respect for the rights of local Tibetans,” Yonten said, adding, “They also called for an end to the illegal acts of local officials and for an end to the stage-managed political campaigns that were disrupting the lives of the local people.”
Police later detained the monks’ religious instructor, Shergyam Yang, a teacher at Dza Wonpo Ganden Shedrub monastery in Sichuan’s Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, but released him after holding him for 11 days, Yonten said.
Another monk, still unidentified, was taken into custody on Nov. 18 after posting online expressions of support for those still held.
The monks’ protest is believed to have been prompted by propaganda performances imposed by local authorities on nomads who were moved off their grazing land and forced into resettlement towns, Yonten said.
“There, without their livestock, the nomads’ livelihoods have gone from bad to worse, and without other sources of income, they have to depend solely on government subsidies for their survival,” he said.
During tours to the area by Chinese officials, the resettled nomads are forced to put up pictures of Chinese national leaders and praise China’s ruling Communist Party in public speeches which are then filmed and distributed to Chinese mass media, Yonten said.
“But many nomads have also refused to participate in these government propaganda exercises, saying they will not take part, even at the cost of their lives, and this has caused tensions between the Tibetans who take part and those who refuse,” he said.
“In this way, the Chinese have created divisions among Tibetans in the local community,” he said.
Already tightly restricted following widespread protests in Tibetan regions in 2008, Dza Wonpo monastery drew increased police scrutiny in 2012 when monks refused to hoist Chinese national flags on the monastery’s roofs, and an ensuing crackdown led to scores of arbitrary detentions, arrests, and searches of Tibetan homes, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
Tibetans say Chinese authorities regularly restrict their political activities and peaceful expression of ethnic and religious identity in the Tibetan region, and subject them to persecution, torture, imprisonment, and extrajudicial killings.
Reported by Pema Ngodup and Guru Choegyi for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.