Chinese authorities have detained two Tibetan villagers who took photos of a protest in Sichuan last month during which police fired on a crowd, seriously wounding nearly a dozen people of whom four later died of untreated wounds, with another committing suicide, sources said.
Many Tibetans were also detained and beaten in the violent crackdown in the Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture's Sershul (Shiqu) county on Aug. 12, a day after police took local village leader Denma Wangdrak into custody after he complained to authorities over Chinese officials’ harassment of Tibetan women at a local cultural performance, according to the sources.
“Two Tibetans were detained for taking photos when Tibetans marched to demand the release of Wangdrak, the leader of Shukpa village in Denma town, who had been taken away by police,” a Tibetan living in exile told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Tuesday, citing local sources.
The two men who were detained, Tsekhok and Pagya, were natives of Yundok village, also in Sershul county, RFA’s source, named Tenpa, said.
“It is not clear if they are being held in the local detention center now or have been moved to the county detention center,” Tenpa said.
The date on which the two were detained is also unknown, due in part to communication blocks imposed by Chinese authorities in sensitive, protest-hit areas.
Though some of those detained were later released, “the fields belonging to Tibetans who were detained were left unattended while they were being held,” Tenpa said, adding, “Other Tibetan farmers in the area had already harvested their fields by the middle of August.”
The present condition and whereabouts of Wangdrak are still unknown almost a month after he was detained, Tenpa said.
Deaths in custody
On Aug. 18, the pregnant wife of a detained teenage protester, Jinpa Tharchin, hanged herself after learning that her husband had died in detention from wounds suffered in the police shooting a week before and from torture suffered while in custody, sources said.
Tharchin, 18, was among five Tibetan protesters who died in detention after Chinese authorities refused to treat their gunshot wounds, triggering alarm among Tibetan advocacy groups who called the move a blatant human rights violation.
One among the five had committed suicide in detention amid claims that some of those held had bullets still embedded in their bodies a week after the shooting.
Tibetans in Kardze prefecture are known for their strong sense of Tibetan identity and nationalism, and “the political climate in the region has been deeply oppressive,” the International Campaign for Tibet, an advocacy group, said in an August report.
Last year, at least eight Tibetans were injured when Chinese police fired gunshots and used tear gas to disperse about 1,000 monks and nuns who had gathered in a restive county in Kardze in July to mark the birthday of Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Chinese rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.
Reported by Pema Ngodup for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.