Updated at 10:45 a.m. EST on 2012-04-09
Authorities in southwestern China have detained a senior Tibetan monk they suspect of having organized January protests that led to a deadly crackdown by security forces, according to a Tibetan source in exile.
Geshe Tenzin Pelsang, who is also a high-ranking official at Draggo Monastery where the arrest took place, was detained Monday by police officers from the Sichuan Province Public Security Bureau.
Draggo (in Chinese, Luhuo) county is located in the Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan province, and was the site of a Jan. 23 protest against Chinese rule that left at least six Tibetans dead, and an unknown number injured, when security forces fired on the crowd.
The shooting sparked wider protests and raised tensions in Tibetan-populated regions of China following a wave of self-immolation protests against rule by Beijing.
Kalsang, a monk living in exile at the Drepung Monastery in South India, said Geshe Tenzin Pelsang’s whereabouts were unknown.
“Geshe Tenzin Pelsang was detained on April 2 on suspicion that he was the main organizer of the Jan. 23 Draggo protests. No one knows his present condition or location,” he said.
Kalsang said that since the Jan. 23 protest, the number of police and public security bureau operatives in Draggo has increased significantly and the activities of the monks are being closely watched.
“One government official was assigned to a group of four monks, and the monks had to seek approval from their officials for every movement. Without approval no one is allowed to leave the monastery,” he said.
He said that after the protest, many Tibetans from nearby villages and townships were also taken into detention by the public security bureau.
“They were subjected to intense interrogation sessions over their roles in the protests, and for offering scarves in blessing to those who died in the shooting,” he said.
“They were only released after paying 1,500 to 3,000 Chinese yuan (U.S. $240 to $480) for their freedom.”
According to the India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, Geshe Tenzin Pelsang, also known as Tenga, was born in 1965 in Norpa village in Draggo county to Dhondup Tashi and Dewang.
After learning both the Tibetan and Mandarin Chinese languages in primary school, he went on to become a monk and study Tibetan Buddhism.
In 1986, he joined the Drepung Loseling Monastery in South India, but after graduating with a doctorate degree in Tibetan Buddhism in 2009, he returned to Tibet and rejoined the Draggo Monastery.
He was serving as a “chagzoe,” or administrative official, at Draggo Monastery at the time of his arrest.
Reported by Ugyen Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.