Concern grows over Tibetan women detained amid COVID lockdowns

The four women were arrested in Sichuan’s Kardze prefecture after returning from the provincial capital Chengdu.
By Sangyal Kunchok
2022.12.22
Share on WhatsApp
Share on WhatsApp
Concern grows over Tibetan women detained amid COVID lockdowns Kelsang Dolma, Zamkar and Delha are seen in undated photos.
Courtesy photos

UPDATED AT 9:27 p.m. ET ON 12-22-2022

Concern is growing over the fate of four Tibetan women detained by China for protesting strict COVID lockdowns in Sichuan, with no word given yet by authorities concerning their whereabouts, according to Tibetan sources.

Zamkar, Kelsang Dolma, Dechen and Delha — all in their 20s and residents of Dardo (Kangding, in Chinese) county in the Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture —were arrested on December 5 and are now being held somewhere in Kardze, sources told RFA.

“Their exact location is still unknown, but we have heard that they are being given political re-education sessions by the Chinese government,” a source living in the region said, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

The women were taken into custody in their hometown after returning from Sichuan’s provincial capital Chengdu, where they had participated in anti-lockdown protests, RFA’s source said.

“They had also written a letter to their employer, complaining they hadn’t been paid while the lockdown was in force.

“Only one of them reported to the police when they were summoned for questioning, but the rest were taken from their homes and brought to the police station by force,” he added.

Also speaking to RFA, a Tibetan living in exile said the four women had worked at a Chinese-owned restaurant in Chengdu before their arrest. “But the Chinese authorities have refused to provide any information to their relatives regarding their arrest or current whereabouts,” the source said, citing contacts in the region.

Gonpo Kyi stages a sit-in in front of the People's Court in June 2022.

Political prisoner’s sister also held

Chinese authorities in Tibet’s capital Lhasa have meanwhile arrested the sister of a Tibetan businessman now serving a life sentence on what rights groups and supporters call politically motivated charges of loan fraud, a Tibetan advocacy group said on Wednesday,

Gonpo Kyi, also called Gontey, was taken into custody on Dec. 19 shortly after staging a peaceful protest in front of the Higher People’s Court in Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa, the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet, or ICT, said in a statement.

Elder sister of businessman Dorjee Tashi, jailed since 2010, Kyi had also staged a sit-in in June in front of the People’s Court calling for her brother’s release. Tashi had first been charged with secession, a charge frequently used by authorities to silence Tibetans promoting Tibetan national identity or criticizing Chinese rule in Tibet, ICT said.

ICT research analyst Tenzin Norgay told RFA it was no surprise that Kyi was detained only minutes after she began her latest protest.

"As we all know, Dorjee Tashi was unjustly sentenced to life imprisonment and framed by the Chinese government," he said.

“Dorjee Tashi has spent almost 14 years in Drapchi prison and his health condition is unknown. His family members initially discretely appealed for his release from prison, but there was no outcome, so in the past few years we have seen his family members openly calling for his release in front of the court.”

Formerly an independent nation, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force more than 70 years ago. Chinese authorities maintain a tight grip on the region, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of cultural and religious identity.

Translated by Tenzin Dickyi for RFA Tibetan. Written in English by Richard Finney.

This story was updated to include comments by ICT's Tenzin Norgay.

POST A COMMENT

Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.