China Detains Tibetan Who Saved Sheep


2007-01-07
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Tibetan monks. Photo: AFP

Chinese authorities in the western Tibetan county of Dingri have detained a prominent local figure after he saved large numbers of sheep and goats from the slaughterhouse, sources in the region said.

The reason for the arrest of Pempa, known by a single name, was not immediately clear, one source said.

“The reason for his arrest is unknown. The officials gave no reasons to his family for his detention,” the source said. “But I heard that the local Tibetans are presuming that the Chinese authorities suspected his action to save sheep and goats from the slaughter was meant as an action to ensure the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.”

Pempa, who is in his fifties, was the head of Tsakor village in Dingri county, where he was detained for a few days before being taken to the region’s second city, Shigatse.

Head of village

One source said Chinese police searched Pempa’s house and found two audio CDs of the Kalachakra teachings of the Dalai Lama in India in 2005.

“They also took away all the sheep and goats that Pempa saved from the butchers, or that were donated by those Tibetans in Nepal and border areas who were sick and old, in order to acquire merit,” he added.

A second source in the area confirmed Pempa’s detention. “He is certainly detained in Shigatse though no decision was made about his sentence or punishment,” the source said. “I also heard that he was detained for saving sheep from slaughter.”

Local Tibetans are presuming that the Chinese authorities suspected his action to save sheep and goats from the slaughter was meant as an action to ensure the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

A local county leader said he didn’t know the details of the case. “You should ask the head of Dingri county’s political and legal affairs committee,” he told RFA’s Tibetan service. The head of Dingri county is not here. He has gone for the Chinese New Year celebrations.”

But the head of that committee said he too was unfamiliar with Pempa’s case. “I recently joined Dingri county,” he said. “I don’t know about it. I reported for my new assignment at Dingri county but I am presently in Shigatse. Therefore I don’t know about that case.”

Officials 'unaware'

Calls made during working hours to police offices in Dingri and Shigatse went unanswered.

Local residents said a teashop run by Pempa had been closed since his detention, and that his family had been unable to visit him. His detention happened shortly after a change of government in the county, they added.

The Dalai Lama appealed to Tibetans inside China during his traditional Kalachakra teachings in Amaravati, northern India, in 2006 to protect endangered animals in Tibet and stop using animal skin on their costumes.

Sheep- and goat-saving is common among Tibetan Buddhists, who believe saving the lives of other sentient beings will bring them powerful positive karma. Saving the lives of animals destined for slaughter is frequently prescribed by lamas as a form of spiritual practice.

Original reporting by RFA’s Tibetan service. Director: Jigme Ngapo. Translated by Karma Dorjee and written in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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