Chinese Authorities Detain 16 Tibetans Rallying for Religious Leader's Release

'Khenpo' Kartse in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of Tsering Woeser.

Chinese authorities have detained 16 Tibetans, including monks, involved in a mass protest pushing for the release of a detained popular Tibetan religious leader, according to Tibetan poet and writer Tsering Woeser.

They were detained last week in Nangchen (in Chinese, Nangqian) county in Qinghai province’s Yulshul (Yushu) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture after they staged a rally joined by hundreds of Tibetans seeking the release of Kartse, who has been actively involved in social work and promoting Tibetan national and cultural identity.

Kartse, who uses the religious title "Khenpo" denoting a senior religious teacher or abbot in Tibet’s monastic system, was detained on Dec. 6 in Chengdu, the capital of nearby Sichuan province when he went to purchase a statue for his Japa monastery in Nangchen.

Kartse, 38, who is also known as Karma Tsewang, was held on suspicion of his involvement in several incidents in Karma town in the Chamdo (in Chinese, Changdu) prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).

“On Dec. 21, 16 Tibetans were detained in Nangchen area and taken away towards Yushu [in Tibetan, Kyegudo] county center [in Yulshul prefecture]," Woeser said on her website.

"Those 16 Tibetans comprised monks and laypersons from Nangchen who staged a rally on Dec. 18 calling for the release of Khenpo Kartse, who was detained on the night of Dec. 6 in Chengdu town, where he went to purchase a statue for his monastery in Nangchen."

Assurance and then detentions

A group of county officials intervened and assured them that efforts would be made to release Khenpo Kartse and advised the Tibetans to go home but three days later, the 16 Tibetans were detained, Woeser said.

Immediately after Kartse was detained, several hundred monks and villagers in Nangchen area had warned the authorities that there would be mass protests if he was not released.

She also said that there was a "clear indication" of collaboration between the Chinese authorities in TAR and Sichuan as Chamdo security officials had traveled all the way to Chengdu to detain Kartse.

Kartse has been actively helping Tibetans in his area. He had led a relief team of monks to Yulshul after a devastating earthquake in April 2010, which state media reported left nearly 2,700 dead and 270 others missing. He had also helped in efforts to protect Tibetan language, culture and religion.

Another monk, Gyurme Tsultrim, who was taken away from Takna monastery in Nangchen on Nov. 29, has been released from detention but placed under house arrest, sources said.

Local Tibetans suspect he was detained because of a speech he gave during a prayer festival in Nangchen in which he urged the promotion of Tibetan Buddhism, the Tibetan language, and moral ethics, the sources had said.

Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the area in 2008.

A total of 125 Tibetans have also set themselves ablaze in self-immolation protests calling for Tibetan freedom since February 2009, with another six setting fire to themselves in India and Nepal.

Reported by RFA's Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.


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