A walnut-seller visiting Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa eight years ago has been kept by Chinese authorities ever since under travel restrictions after being found with a photo of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on his mobile phone, Tibetan sources say.
Jampa Sonam, now 59 and a resident of Lhachu village in Chamdo (in Chinese, Changdu) prefecture’s Dzogang (Zuogong) county, was found in possession of the photo during a random street inspection by police, Lobsang Tashi—a Tibetan living in Canada—told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“A Lhasa Public Security Bureau officer took him into custody on Nov. 20, 2012 and held him in detention for five days,” Tashi said, citing contacts in the Chamdo region.
“He was accused of associating with separatists and accomplices of the Dalai Lama, and since then he has remained under Chinese surveillance, with his freedom of movement severely restricted,” Tashi said.
“Now, whenever Jampa Sonam needs to go outside his place of residence, he needs to ask permission from the Chinese authorities first at the village and then at the township level,” Tashi said, adding, “Thus, he has remained in a virtual prison for the last eight years.”
Displays by Tibetans of the Dalai Lama’s photo or public celebrations of his birthday and calls for his return from exile have been harshly punished in the past, and authorities frequently search mobile phones belonging to Tibetans for images of the exiled spiritual leader or other politically sensitive content.
At the end of 2019, an elderly Tibetan man and his son were detained in Tibet for listening to teachings by exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
Jampa Dorje, 75, and his son were taken into custody by Chinese police on or around Dec. 30, 2019, in Dzogang (Zuogong) county, Geshe Jampa—a Tibetan monk living in south India said, also citing source in Dzogang.
Meanwhile, a Tibetan resident of western China’s Sichuan province was taken into custody in July 2019 for sharing a photo of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on the popular social media platform WeChat, Tibetan sources said.
Rinso, a resident of Thangkor township’s Village No. 3 in Dzoege county, a part of Tibet’s historical eastern region of Amdo, was held for just over a week and then released, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
Regarded by Chinese leaders as a dangerous separatist, the Dalai Lama fled Tibet into exile in India in the midst of a failed 1959 national uprising against rule by China, which marched into the formerly independent Himalayan country in 1950.
Reported by Lobe Soktsang for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.