Chinese Authorities Reject Calls for Tibetan Religious Leader's Release

tibet-kartse-dec2013.gif 'Khenpo' Kartse in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of Tsering Woeser.

Updated at 10:45 EST on 2014-0203

Chinese authorities in Tibet have rebuffed calls by monks from neighboring Qinghai province for the release of a popular local Tibetan religious leader detained nearly two months ago.

Chinese officials said that Khenpo Kartse, who is being held in Chamdo (in Chinese, Changdu) prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), faces “serious” accusations of “disturbing stability” in the prefecture and that the jailed monk cannot be freed, according to sources.

Tibetan security officers from Nangchen (Nangqian) county in Qinghai’s Yulshul (Yushu) prefecture, made the request for Kartse's freedom at the urging of local supporters, a Tibetan living in California told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Thursday.

“For the last 10-11 days, many monks from Nangchen monastery and Japa monastery went to the county Public Security Bureau [PSB] and police department, asking that they help to secure Khenpo Kartse’s release,” former Japa monastery monk Khenpo Karten said, citing sources in the region.

PSB officers then went to Chamdo to ask that Kartse be freed and allowed to go home, Khenpo Karten said.

“But PSB officials in Chamdo said that the charges against Khenpo Kartse are too serious for him to be released,” he said.

Because he had carried out activities “disturbing stability” in Chamdo, he must remain in custody there, Khenpo Karten said the Nangchen officers were told.

“So, there is no chance that he will be handed over,” he said.

'Anti-state activities'

Khenpo Kartse-—the title "Khenpo" denotes a senior religious teacher or abbot-—was detained on Dec. 6 in Chengdu, the capital of nearby Sichuan province, on suspicion of involvement in “anti-state” activities at a monastery in Chamdo.

Kartse’s lawyers and relatives have been unable to see him since he was taken into custody by Chamdo security officials who traveled all the way to Sichuan to detain him, and he is reported to be suffering from an inflamed liver and in critical health.

Sixteen Japa monastery monks who had been held since the end of December after protesting in Nangchen against Khenpo Kartse’s detention have meanwhile been released, with the last group freed on Jan. 21, sources said.

One group of nine freed in early January “told others that during their detention, they were asked about Khenpo Kartse’s means of contacting outsiders” regarding area protests and conditions under Chinese rule, one source said.

“They had the impression that [the Chinese] are seeking excuses to impose harsh punishment on the Khenpo.”

Khenpo Kartse, who is also known as Karma Tsewang, was active in social work in the Yulshul area, including in relief efforts following a devastating April 2010 earthquake, and was well-respected among Tibetans for his work to protect and promote the Tibetan language, culture, and religion.

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 and translated by Rigdhen Dolma for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story gave the incorrect Chinese name for Chamdo prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

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