WASHINGTON—Chinese authorities have arrested a Tibetan monk and tightened security in a traditionally Tibetan part of Sichuan Province after a fire they suspect was the work of separatists opposed to Chinese rule.
"Chinese officials are treating it not as an accident but as an arson committed by people sympathetic to separatists and terrorists. Therefore they [have] deployed additional forces in Karze [in Chinese, Ganze] Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and imposed tighter restrictions," one source told RFA’s Tibetan service.
Sonam Phuntsok, aged about 30 and identified as a monk, remains the only suspect linked to the Dec. 23 blaze, which destroyed the Karze Prefecture People's Congress Hall, according to sources who asked not to be named.
Chinese officials are treating it not as an accident but as an arson committed by people sympathetic to separatists and terrorists. Therefore they [have] deployed additional forces in Karze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and imposed tighter restrictions.
Police in Karze, where the fire occurred, have confirmed that the fire occurred but declined to be quoted about their investigation or any arrests.
Sonam Phuntsok is a resident of Tsang Chu town in Dardo [In Chinese, Kandin] County, Karze Prefecture. "He was a monk at Karze Monastery but was expelled… in 1992 because of his alleged political activities," one source said.
The Karze Prefecture People's Congress Hall burned to the ground in the early hours of Dec. 23, sources said. Posters and fliers advocating Tibetan independence were found strewn around the area at the time.
The fire occurred during periodic meetings of the People's Congress of Karze Prefecture, although no one was inside the building at the time of the blaze, sources said. No casualties were reported.
During their December meeting, Karze Prefecture People's Congress delegates were said to have been discussing ways to crack down on separatists opposed to Chinese rule. Without a suitable venue after the fire, the delegates concluded their meetings. "They couldn’t find a proper place for the meeting to go on," one source said.