Public security authorities in Tibet have recently banned songs deemed to be “reactionary” and are detaining young Tibetans found in possession of the songs on their mobile phones, according to sources in Tibet.
More than 20 young Tibetans have been rounded up for downloading the songs since a “Strike Hard” campaign was launched this winter in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), sources told RFA.
“Voice of Unity,” “My Lama,” “I Miss the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars” are among the titles of the prohibited songs, sources said.
“Yes, it’s true. ‘Voice of Unity’ is one of the banned songs,” a Tibetan identifying himself as Tenzin said.
The punishment can be severe as the authorities step up their crackdown in the region.
“If someone has this song [on their mobile phone], they are detained, jailed from 10 to 15 days, heavily fined, and even brutally beaten.”
“Chinese authorities are coming down very hard now on Tibetans,” Tenzin added.
“They target Tibetans coming from Kham and Amdo and check to see if they have permits to stay in Lhasa,” the regional capital, he continued.
“They confiscate mobile phones from young Tibetans and open them, and if they hear songs sung by singers like Kunga in Tibet, or by singers in exile, they detain them.”
The authorities have deployed fresh graduates from the police academies to round up those with the songs, guaranteeing the graduates hiring in the future if they performed their duties well.
"These policemen crack down on Tibetans ruthlessly,” Tenzin said.
He said that the lyrics of the songs only contained themes of unity among Tibetans "and are not a protest against the government.”
Another caller from Tibet, speaking on condition of anonymity, said “Yesterday, I went to a restaurant and heard one man ask another, ‘Where have you been?’, to which his friend replied, ‘I was in Drapchi prison for 15 days for possessing banned songs.’”
Chinese human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong, speaking to RFA, said that guarantees protecting religious freedom and cultural identity are “clearly stated” in China’s constitution.
“What the authorities have done is not lawful at all,” Jiang 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.
Popular Tibetan singer Tashi Dhondup was released from jail in early February after serving most of a 15-month sentence for recording songs calling for Tibetan independence.
The 30-year-old singer was convicted for violating laws by singing songs in support of Tibetan independence and exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
One song entitled "58" evoked the failed 1958-59 Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule during which thousands of Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, fled across the border to India.
Reported by RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Benpa Topgyal. Written in English by Richard Finney.