China arrests Tibetan monk for possession of Dalai Lama photo

But authorities have not issued information on his whereabouts following his arrest in July 2023, sources say.
By Pelbar and Tenzin Pema for RFA Tibetan
2024.02.15
China arrests Tibetan monk for possession of Dalai Lama photo An unidentified monk holds a picture of the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in his room in Labrang Monastery in Xiahe county, western China's Gansu province, in 2012.
Carlos Barria/Reuters

A Buddhist monk in a Tibetan-populated area of Sichuan province was arrested last July for possessing a photo of the Dalai Lama and since then his whereabouts have remained unknown, two sources from inside Tibet told Radio Free Asia.

Chinese authorities arrested Tenzin Khenrap, 29, in July 2023 on a charge of having a portrait of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader on his mobile phone, along with other books and documents published outside Tibet.

Khenrap, whose pen name is Dhong Rangchak, is from Nyagchu county in Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

China regards the Dalai Lama and Tibetans who live in exile abroad as separatists, and being caught with a picture of the spiritual leader or having contact with Tibetans abroad is considered an act of separatism and a punishable offense.

Authorities in China maintain a tight lockdown on the flow of information in and out of the country’s Tibetan regions, and it can often take weeks or months to learn of arrests and other incidents inside Tibet.

After his arrest, authorities detained Khenrap in Sichuan province, known as Kham in Tibetan, but his current location and circumstances are unknown, said the sources who requested anonymity, citing safety reasons. 

Authorities also revoked access to his social media accounts, they added. 

Chinese authorities have not allowed Khenrap’s immediate family members to meet with him since his arrest or provided information on where he is being detained, one of the sources said. 

“Khenrap’s mother remains very worried about her son, and her health has deteriorated since his arrest last year,” said the source.

The monk, who speaks fluent Tibetan and Mandarin, is known for intensely following developments about Tibetans’ struggle against Chinese-government repression and for writing articles online, the same source said. 

Khenrap was a student at several monasteries in Sichuan province, including Lithang Gonchen, Sershul, and Nalendra, which was the single largest monastery founded by popular Tibetan religious teacher and activist Tulku Tenzin Delek and which served as the primary institution for his increasing network of branch monasteries, monks and activists, the two sources said. 

Tulku Tenzin Delek was 65 when he died under mysterious circumstances on July 12, 2015, while serving a life sentence following what rights groups and supporters called a wrongful conviction on a charge of bombing a public square in Sichuan’s provincial capital of Chengdu in April 2002. 

Widely respected among Tibetans for his efforts to protect Tibetan culture and the environment, he was initially sentenced to death, but his term was later commuted to life imprisonment. 

Chinese authorities maintain a tight grip on Tibet, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of cultural and religious identity. Tibetans frequently complain of discrimination and human rights abuses by authorities and policies they say are aimed at eradicating their national and cultural identity. 

In Feb. 2023, Chinese authorities arrested Tsultrim, a Tibetan from Tsaruma township in Ngaba’s Kyungchu county, after they discovered pictures of the Dalai Lama on his mobile phone. 

He was detained until April, after which he was sentenced to two years in prison by the People's Court of Ngaba, a Tibetan region in southwestern China’s Sichuan province, also known as Aba in Chinese.

Translated by Tenzin Pema for RFA Tibetan. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.

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