A Tibetan man linked to a restive Buddhist monastery in Tibet’s Nagchu county has been taken into custody by Chinese authorities on suspicion of activities challenging Beijing’s rule, according to sources in the region and in exile.
Ngawang Gyaltsen, aged about 41, was seized on Feb. 24 in Sog (in Chinese, Suo) county in the Nagchu (Naqu) prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region, a Tibetan living in India told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“He could have been detained for political reasons, seeing how he was taken away in the middle of the night,” the source, Ngawang Tharpa, said, citing contacts in Tibet.
Gyaltsen was later traced by friends to a detention center in Sog’s neighboring Nagchu county, but his current whereabouts and condition are unknown, Tharpa said.
News of his detention was briefly blocked from reaching outside sources due to communication clampdowns imposed by Chinese authorities in the area.
Gyaltsen, a resident of Tarchen village in Nagchu county’s Gongsum township, had formerly been a monk in Nagchu’s Shak Rongpo monastery, Tharpa said.
“While he was in the monastery, he had occasionally confronted Chinese government workers who conducted ‘patriotic education’ programs,” Tharpa said.
“So he was forced to withdraw from the monastery and live as a layperson.”
“He was also subjected to restrictions on his movements, and limits were placed on the people he was allowed to contact in the community,” Tharpa said.
“He had to seek prior permission from the authorities if he wanted to travel or meet other people, and the local police constantly watched his activities,” he said.
Sog, Nagchu, and Driru (Biru) are three neighboring counties in Tibet’s eastern Nagchu prefecture from which Chinese authorities fear political unrest may spread unchecked to other parts of the region.
On March 14, police took seven monks from Sog’s Tsenden monastery into custody on suspicion of activities opposing Chinese rule, leading to tightened restrictions at the monastery, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
“The monks are now watched closely around the clock, and they live in a constant state of fear and intimidation,” one source said.
“They even complain of police harassment at night when they go to use the bathroom.”
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Chinese rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 137 Tibetans to date setting themselves ablaze to oppose Beijing’s rule and call for the Dalai Lama’s return.
Reported by Tsering Norbu and Tenzin Wangyal for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.