A Tibetan businessman held since last month by authorities in China’s Sichuan province for the second time in less than a year has been freed after being warned of “severe punishment” if he speaks out about his detention, according to Tibetan sources.
Pasang Wangchuk, 37 and a father of three, was detained on July 7 after making offerings in public to mark the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday a day earlier in defiance of Chinese bans, sources said.
“After being detained for one month, [Wangchuk] was released on Aug. 6, around 11:00 a.m., ” a Tibetan living in Tibet told RFA’s Tibetan Service Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Before his release, he was told that he cannot travel or say anything about the detention, and so on. If he does, he was warned that he could be punished more severely than what he faced during his last detention.”
It was not immediately clear why authorities had decided to release him.
According to the source, on July 6, Wangchuk “put on his best Tibetan traditional dress, burnt juniper and performed an incense offering for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” despite a ban on observing the exiled spiritual leader’s birthday by Chinese authorities.
He was detained the following afternoon and taken to a prison in Sichuan’s Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, sources told RFA at the time.
Wangchuk had also been detained in October 2014 after staging a solo protest in the market area of Kardze town in which he had shouted slogans calling for Tibetan freedom and the return to Tibet of the Dalai Lama.
When he was released a month later, a source told RFA that “police warned him they would be watching his behavior for a year.”
The source said that his contacts could not say whether Wangchuk had been beaten or tortured during the month he spent in jail—a punishment many detained Tibetan protesters say they undergo.
A day after Wangchuk’s release, authorities in Kardze’s Sershul county raided the living quarters of detained monk Sonam Yangphel, confiscating a variety of items related to the Dalai Lama, a second source from Tibet, who also declined to provide his name, told RFA.
“On Aug. 7, the residence of Sonam Yangphel was searched in his absence and police took away photos of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and books written by the Dalai Lama,” the source said.
According to RFA’s source, Yangphel—who is a monk of Mangge monastery in Sershul—was detained on Nov. 26 last year for a solo protest in Sershul county center, during which he donned a white scarf and carried a portrait of the Dalai Lama, calling for the return of the spiritual leader to Tibet.
“Soon after that, he was detained in the Sershul county detention center,” the source said.
“His relatives have seen him performing labor at the detention center, but they have not been allowed to see him,” he said, adding that they were able to pass food to Yangphel through facility staff.
Authorities have not provided any information about whether he has been tried or sentenced, the source said.
Tibetans in Kardze prefecture are known for their strong sense of Tibetan identity and nationalism and frequently stage protests alone or in groups opposing rule by Beijing.
The Dalai Lama, who is regarded by Chinese authorities as a dangerous separatist intent on splitting Tibet away from China, fled Tibet into exile in India in the midst of a failed 1959 national uprising against Chinese rule.
Chinese authorities tightened restrictions across Tibetan-populated regions this year in advance of the Dalai Lama’s birthday on July 6, posting warnings against celebrations of the politically sensitive event and blocking public gatherings that could be linked to it.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Chinese rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 142 Tibetans to date setting themselves ablaze to oppose Beijing’s rule and call for the Dalai Lama’s return.
Reported by Sonam Wangdu and Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.