Chinese police have detained two Tibetan singers popular for their songs describing the plight of Tibetans under Beijing’s rule, as authorities continue to clamp down on assertions of national identity in a protest-hit county in Tibet, according to sources in the region and in exile.
Trinley Tsekar, 22, and Gonpo Tenzin, 25, were taken into custody on Nov. 20 and Nov. 30 respectively, one source told RFA’s Tibetan Service in an e-mail on Friday.
Authorities left no word on the men’s whereabouts for their parents, wives, and children living in Driru (in Chinese, Biru) county in the Nagchu (Naqu) prefecture of China’s Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Tsekar, a resident of Driru county’s Serkhang village, was picked up by police in Nagchu town where he had gone to apply for a driver’s license, a second source said, citing contacts in the area.
“He had written many songs on Tibetan themes, and his CD titled “Links of Unity” was especially well known,” the source, a Tibetan living in Europe, said, adding, “His melodious voice and excellent academic background had gained him many fans.”
Though Tsekar’s father is now deceased, “his mother is still alive, and he has a wife and son,” the source said.
Gonpo Tenzin, a resident of Driru’s Septra village and already on a police wanted list, was taken into custody in Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa after “evading detention by hiding in different places in the city,” one source said.
Many of his recordings were focused on themes involving Tibetan unity and the promotion of the Tibetan language and education in Tibetan, the source said.
“His CD entitled “How Can We Have New Year’s Celebrations in Tibet?” is said to have been the main reason for his detention,” he said.
“Both his parents are still living, and he has a wife and a child,” he said, adding, “No one has any information concerning his place of detention or present condition.”
Separately, the Dharamsala, India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy confirmed the singers’ detentions, saying the title song of Tenzin’s CD had become especially popular among Tibetans concerned over Chinese policies and “repression” in the region.
“ [The song] had touched a chord among many Tibetans who felt that celebrating Losar (Tibetan New Year) would be inappropriate given the situation inside Tibet,” TCHRD said.
“Gonpo Tenzin’s popularity increased after the song became a major hit,” the rights group said.
Sources told RFA earlier this week that nine Tibetans, including a writer, had been jailed for “anti-state” activities in Driru county, which has been at the center of a campaign by Tibetans resisting forced displays of loyalty to the Chinese state.
The campaign began in early October when villagers refused to fly the Chinese flag from their homes, throwing them instead into a river and prompting a deadly security crackdown.
Shootings in Driru’s Sengthang and Trinring villages on Oct. 8 left at least four dead and about 50 injured, sources said.
Two days earlier, Chinese security forces shot and wounded at least 60 Driru-area Tibetans demanding the release of a villager who had led protests against Chinese orders to hoist the flags.
China has jailed scores of Tibetan writers, artists, singers, and educators for asserting Tibetan national and cultural identity and language rights since widespread protests swept Tibetan areas in 2008.
A total of 124 Tibetans in China have also set themselves ablaze in self-immolation protests calling for Tibetan freedom, with another six setting fire to themselves in India and Nepal.
Reported by Lobe Socktsang and Rigdhen Dolma for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.