Popular Tibetan Singer Detained

The singer is taken into custody soon after he dedicates his songs to the Dalai Lama.

A Tibetan music concert on the sidelines of the Kalachakra Buddhist festival in India in January 2012.

Chinese authorities have detained a popular Tibetan singer after he released an album of songs dedicated to Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, sources said Monday.

The 25-year-old singer, Ugyen Tenzin, was detained last month soon after the release of his album titled, “An Unending Flow of My Heart’s Blood,” the sources said. Information flow has been severely restricted from troubled Tibetan-populated areas in recent months.

Unconfirmed reports said that Ugyen Tenzin has been beaten in custody and is disabled.

“He released the album about a month ago, and he was arrested soon after that,” said a source in New York who recently traveled to Tibet.

On the album, he had dedicated songs to the Dalai Lama as well as the third highest ranking Buddhist leader the Karmapa, and the Kalon Tripa, the prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

“It has thirteen songs, and some of songs are dedicated or in praise of the Dalai Lama, Karmapa, and [Kalon Tripa] Lobsang Sangay,” the source said.

Wave of protests

Ugyen Tenzin is from Sugma in Nangchen (in Chinese, Nangqian) county in Yulshul (Yushu) prefecture of China's northwestern Qinghai province, among three key Tibetan-populated provinces where tensions have risen in recent months following a wave of protests challenging Chinese rule and calling for the return of the Dalai Lama.

There have been 30 Tibetan self-immolations in protest against Beijing's rule in the Tibetan-populated areas of Gansu, Sichuan, and Qinghai, triggering ramped-up security across the areas as well as in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Another Tibetan, Duldak Nyima, who is originally from the same county and now lives in New York, said that he heard from a friend back home that Ugyen Tenzin had been arrested because of the album.

“A friend of mine received the letter from Tibet few days ago, stating the singer was arrested. I believe the arrest was connected to the release of the album.”

“Before the release of the album, [other Tibetans were worried about] the album’s consequences and advised the singer against distributing it,” Duldak Nyima said.

“The singer also said in the DVD that he is doing this for the religious and political cause of Tibet; he was … discussing the Tibet issue and Tibetan identity,” he said.

In one song on the album, part of which was posted on YouTube, the singer alludes to Tibetan independence and repression: “The unity of the three provinces of Tibet, that is what I have repressed in my heart for 50 years and what I am now going to share through songs, until I breathe my last,” he says.


A letter sent by an anonymous source in Tibet said that Ugyen Tenzin is being mistreated in prison and is in ill health.

“None of his relatives or friends are allowed to reach him,” according to a copy of the letter.

“We learned from the police sources that he was so severely tortured under detention that his body and faculties are disabled. He was recovering from surgery prior to his detention and the torture made it worse,” it said.

China has jailed scores of Tibetan writers, artists, singers, and educators for asserting Tibetan national identity and civil rights since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.

Another popular Tibetan singer, Tashi Dhondup, was released from jail last year after serving most of a 15-month sentence for recording songs calling for Tibetan independence.

The singer was convicted for violating laws by singing songs in support of Tibetan independence and the Dalai Lama.

Reported by Norbu Damdul for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.


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