A young Tibetan monk taken into custody this week by authorities in southwestern China’s Sichuan province had been photographed with a banned Tibetan national flag, leading to his investigation and eventual detention by police, sources in exile said.
Jampa Gelek, believed to be about 23 years old, was seized by police at about 8:30 p.m. on May 16 in Tawu (in Chinese, Daofu) county in the Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, one source told RFA’s Tibetan Service in an earlier report.
A first-year student at the Tawu Institute of Buddhist Studies, Gelek was detained while walking in prayer around a Buddhist stupa near his monastery, the source said.
Though no explanation for his detention was immediately available, exile sources with contacts in Tawu now say that Gelek had been photographed with a Tibetan national flag and may have expressed a wish to immolate himself in protest against Beijing’s rule in Tibetan areas.
“Gelek was detained after authorities obtained a photo he had taken in his room with a Tibetan flag hanging in the background,” Sonam, a Tibetan living in Switzerland, told RFA.
“Another reason may have been that he had declared his intention to stage a self-immolation protest last year, though family members later stopped him from doing so,” Sonam said.
Slogan found on wall
Separately, a second Tibetan source with contacts in Tawu confirmed Sonam’s account of Gelek’s detention, adding that police on searching Gelek’s room had found a Free Tibet slogan written in English on a wall.
“After Gelek was taken away at around 8:30 at night on May 16, another group of security officials raided his room again at around 11:00 p.m.,” the source, a monk living in South India named Yama Tsering said.
“That very night, Gelek was moved to Dartsedo [Kangding] county and is now being held in a detention center,” Tsering said.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule and calling for the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.
A total of 145 Tibetans living in China have now set themselves ablaze in self-immolations since the wave of fiery protests began in 2009, with most protests featuring calls for Tibetan freedom and the Dalai Lama’s return from India, where he has lived since escaping Tibet during a failed national uprising in 1959.
Reported by Lhuboom and Sonam Wangdu for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.