KATHMANDU—Three Tibetans protesting Chinese rule in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) have been beaten and detained by police amid rising tensions in the run-up to politically sensitive anniversaries in the Himalayan region.
Separately, police officials in the same part of Tibet confirmed an explosion earlier this month at a government building near the Jan. 20 protest. Sources said no one died in the blast.
Tensions in the Tibetan region are expected to escalate around the one-year anniversary of a crackdown in March 2008 on anti-China demonstrations and the 50th anniversary, also in March, of a failed national rebellion.
“On Jan. 20, three Tibetan youths protested in Dzogang [in Chinese, Zuogong] county of the Chamdo [in Chinese, Changdu] prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region,” according to a local Tibetan man, who asked not to be named.
“They carried a white banner reading ‘Independence for Tibet,’ threw paper fliers in the air, and shouted slogans,” the man said.
The source identified the three as Thinley Ngodrub, 24; his brother Thargyal, 23; and Pema Tsepak, 24. All had come from Punda town in Tsawa Dzogang, he said.
“They began their protest in Tsawa Dzogang and walked for about 45 minutes toward the local police headquarters. Before they could get there, they were attacked and detained by the police.”
“They were severely beaten,” he said.
A Tibetan girl named Dechen Wangmo, found in possession of Pema Tsepak’s mobile phone, was also detained, the source said.
“At this point, no one knows where they were taken,” he said.
“The next day, the women of Punda town marched toward the county seat to demand the release of those detained,” an exile Tibetan said, citing contacts in Dzogang.
“But they were stopped on the way and told to go back."
A local police official confirmed the protest had taken place.
“The protest did happen,” he said, before declining further comment. “I am busy in a meeting.”
Meanwhile, Tibetan sources reported an explosion on Jan. 5 in nearby Jomda [in Chinese, Jiangda] county, also in Chamdo.
“There was an explosion at a government complex, but there were no fatalities,” Jamcho, a monk at Drepung monastery in South India, said, citing sources in the region. “Some buildings and cars were damaged, but no suspects have been detained.”
“Local people suspect the bombing was a reaction to attempts to force celebrations of the 50th anniversary of ‘democratic reforms,’” he said, referring to China’s 1959 takeover of Tibet.
“The Tibetans in Jomda have been told to prepare a special cultural performance for the celebration,” he said. “But they have shown they dislike the assignment.”
A Chamdo police official confirmed the explosion.“It happened in Dengkok in Jomda county … We don’t know who did it or why it was done.”
“Officials from Chamdo have gone to the area to investigate,” he said.
Original reporting by Dorjee Damdul, Dolkar, and Lobsang Chophel for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo. Written in English by Richard Finney and edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.