Tibetan Writer Detained For 11 Days, Released

Pema Gyatso, a student at Lanzhou's Northwest University for Nationalities, had previously been warned that his writings were politically sensitive.

Tibetan writer Pema Gyatso is shown in an undated photo.

Police in northwest China’s Gansu province have released a Tibetan university student and contributor to an online literary journal after holding him for 11 days on unspecified charges, Tibetan sources say.

Pema Gyatso, aged 35 and a student at the Northwest University for Nationalities in the provincial capital Lanzhou, was taken into custody on May 25, a Tibetan source living in exile told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“But today, on June 5, he was released,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

No reason was given for Gyatso’s detention, the source said.

Gyatso, also called Sota, had for several years run a Tibetan Literary Forum on the social medial platform WeChat, and police had warned him in the past that some of his writings were politically sensitive, the source said.

“In this way, he had come to the attention of the authorities,” he said, adding that it was not clear if the police who detained Gyatso were sent by the province or by his home county of Machu, also in Gansu.

Also speaking to RFA, a reporter at the India-based Tibet Times said that friends had attempted to reach Gyatso through WeChat on May 25 and again the next day, but had received no response.

“Later, when they learned of his arrest, they thought that if the news of his detention was made public, there would be more trouble, so they decided to keep quiet,” the Times said, quoting a Tibetan source named Lhachab Jinpa living in Australia.

“But later they thought that if they didn’t speak out, something might happen to him, and they decided to release the news,” Jinpa said.

Speaking separately, a Tibetan living in exile in India confirmed Gyatso’s May 25 arrest, citing sources in Gansu.

'A Burning Flame'


On Feb. 8, 2016, Gyatso wrote an article titled “Tibet Under a Burning Flame,” recalling what he said was the courage and sacrifice of the many Tibetans who have perished in self-immolation protests in recent years.

“They have exposed the naked truth of the suppression and suffering of the Tibetan people,” read the article, a copy of which was obtained by RFA.

“Any person of conscience and feeling would never forget why those [protesters] sacrificed their lives, or the reasons for their actions.”

In March, a Tibetan man named Tsekho Tukchak self-immolated in Sichuan's Ngaba county in an apparent protest against Chinese rule and policies in the region, bringing to 153 the number of self-immolations by Tibetans living in China since the wave of fiery protests began in 2009.

Gyatso, who has worked as a teacher at a private school in Qinghai’s Yulshul prefecture, has also taught Tibetan language to illiterate Tibetans during his winter and summer vacations from school, and has published poems in many Tibetan literary journals and magazines, sources said.

Writers, singers, and educators promoting Tibetan national identity and culture have frequently been detained by Chinese authorities, with many handed long jail terms, following region-wide protests against Chinese rule that swept Tibetan areas of China in 2008.

Language rights have become a particular focus for Tibetan efforts to assert national identity in recent years, with informally organized language courses typically deemed “illegal associations” and teachers subject to detention and arrest, sources say.

Reported by Chakmo Tso and Guru Choegyi. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.