Chinese authorities in the southwestern province of Sichuan have detained a group of dissident Tibetan students in their school, forbidding them from returning home, even for summer vacation, Tibetan sources in exile said, citing contacts in the region.
The students at the Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) prefecture upper middle school, in Sichuan’s Barkham (in Chinese, Ma’erkang) county, have been held incommunicado at the school for nearly two months.
They had gone on hunger strike on March 17 in support of a Tibetan monk at nearby Kirti monastery who set fire to himself in protest at Chinese rule.
“The students were then forcibly confined, had their mobile phones confiscated and Internet access cut, and were forbidden from making outside contact,” said Kanyag Tsering, a monk living at the Kirti branch monastery in exile in India.
On or around April 22, Chinese officials checked the students’ textbooks and other reading materials, confiscating and burning any books deemed “not approved,” Tsering said.
Students whose homes are in Ngaba have been told they may not return home for an indefinite period, he added.
The self-immolation death nearly two months ago of the monk, named Phuntsog, led to a severe crackdown by the Chinese authorities.
About 300 monks from the Kirti monastery have been missing since April 21 after being taken into custody by Chinese security forces and forcibly removed from the monastery.
Prayer service blocked
Meanwhile, authorities in Ngaba and nearby Kardze prefecture have blocked large religious gatherings and detained Tibetans suspected of dissident activities, Tibetan sources say.
On April 29, Chinese security forces stopped monks and nuns in the Kardze area from marking the second anniversary of the death of a well-respected lama, Geshe Sonam Phuntsog, a local resident said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Geshe Sonam Phuntsog was a popular Buddhist teacher in the Kardze region,” he said. “He was sentenced to five years [in a Chinese prison], but his condition deteriorated following his release due to torture and hardship while in jail.”
A prayer service honoring Geshe Sonam Phuntsog was to have been held at Chusar town in the Rongpa subdistrict of Kardze, the man said.
“However, the monks and nuns were stopped on the way,” he said. “There were about 700 monks and nuns, and many of them could not participate when they were blocked.”
Protest slogans found
And on May 1, Chinese police in Dzakhog in Dege county in Kardze prefecture detained a man named Lobsang Palden, a Tibetan in exile said, citing sources in the region and speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Local people suspect the reason he was detained is that police found protest slogans—“Freedom for Tibet” and “Long Live the Dalai Lama”—written on a wooden plank near his tent,” the man said, adding that Lobsang Palden had been helping build a Buddhist stupa, or religious monument, at the time he was detained.
Speaking from India, Kanyag Tsering said that a man named Chogyam, age about 33, of the Chogyam Tsang family in the Chugle Gongma nomad area of Ngaba disappeared on or around April 15.
Around May 3, State Security Bureau officers from Sichuan’s capital, Chengdu, came to search his mother’s house and his own residence in the pastoral area, Tsering said.
“At that time, it became clear that he is being held in detention in Chengdu,” Tsering said. “He leaves behind his wife and one-year-old child.”
“There are many other cases of people who have gone missing for long periods … about whom no information as to their whereabouts or circumstances can be found,” and who are presumed to be in the custody of Chinese authorities, Tsering said.
“The popular Tibetan writer Go Sherab disappeared while he was traveling from Xining to Ngaba in April of this year,” Tsering said.
“Now, he has been found in Chengdu after he was released from Chinese detention. However, he has been forbidden to go to Ngaba.”
“His book Time to Wake Up is very popular among young Tibetans,” Tsering added.
Meanwhile, on May 2, two monks from Kirti—Lobsang Dargye, 31, and Konchog Tsultrim, 33—were sentenced to three-year prison terms by Chinese authorities, Tsering said.
The whereabouts of the 300 Kirti monks who were removed from the monastery by Chinese security forces on April 21 are still unknown.
Reported by Rigdhen Dolma and Chakmo Tso for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translations by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.