Tibetan Singer Held After Belting Out Song Calling for Language Protection

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Tibetan singer Gebe in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

A Tibetan singer who rendered a song calling for the protection of the Tibetan language at a weekend concert in China's Sichuan province has been detained, a local resident said, amid concerns by authorities that community organized Tibetan language classes may stoke opposition to Chinese rule.

Singer Gebe was detained as he was leaving the musical concert on Saturday night at Zungchu (in Chinese, Songpan) county in the Ngaba (Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture,  according to the county resident, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"He was taken away allegedly for singing a Tibetan song entitled, 'Not Yet Done' themed on the strong feelings of Tibetans calling for the protection of the Tibetan language," the source told RFA's Tibetan Service. "The audience present applauded the title and the theme [of the song]."   

Police who detained Gebe were from Ngaba's Barkham (in Chinese, Ma'erkang) county, sources said.

"He was detained by the Chinese police who were waiting outside the concert hall," the resident said.

"When other artists who were present with Gebe appealed to the authorities about his innocence, they refused to listen. The organizer of the event also appealed but it did not stop the authorities [from detaining Gebe]."

Gebe's latest DVD release in 2012 contained, among popular songs, "Victorious Deities, Victorious Tibet," sources said.

Cultural identity

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

One song by jailed popular singer Lolo, “Raise the Tibetan flag, Children of the Snowland,” was seen as a direct challenge to Chinese rule.

Aside from Lolo, at least nine other known singers are in Chinese custody. They were detained since 2012, with some already tried and sentenced to jail terms as long as six years, rights groups say.

Community gatherings

Authorities in Sichuan's Kardze (Ganzi) county recently ordered local leaders to monitor and discourage community gatherings held to study Tibetan language and religion, fearing the popular classes may fuel opposition to Chinese rule, local sources said last week.  

No move has yet been made though to forcibly close the classes, which are being taught by area monks and nuns, sources said.

Chinese officials in Kardze are viewing the program to teach Buddhism and language skills to local Tibetans with suspicion, “and plan to impose restrictions,” an area resident told RFA.

Taught by monks and nuns led by senior religious teachers of Kardze monastery who had returned to the area after studying in India, “the program has become very popular in the community, and on special auspicious days the lay students have participated in religious debates,” he said.

County officials concerned at the growth in popularity of the classes have now held meetings with local town and village leaders, “warning those present that they should be aware of such large gatherings and should monitor their activities,” RFA’s source said.

Reported by Lumbum Tashi for RFA's Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.


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