China detains seven Tibetans over self-immolation videos
October 30, 2017

Radio Free Asia, October 23, 2017 – China has detained seven Tibetan men in Yushul (Yushu, in Chinese) prefecture’s Tridu (Chenduo) county on charge of producing and distributing videos about self-immolation protests that took place several years ago, sources in the region told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“In the past 10 ten days alone, China has detained at least seven Tibetans. They are currently being held in Tridu County,” said a source from Tibet.

“According to the local Tibetans, the reasons for their arrest and detention is due to sharing and dissemination of a new video that these Tibetans made two years ago, highlighting the hardship and agonizing suffering of those Tibetans self-immolators, and it is being shared via WeChat,” the source told RFA.

“Although it was not widely circulated, the newly made video highlights the Tibetan self-immolators’ ordeals that took place several years ago,” added the source.

“Due to the heavy clampdown and scrutiny on internet usage, and on WeChat, it is difficult to further verify the status of those Tibetans held by the Chinese through their families and friends,” said a source.

According to a written list obtained by RFA from another source, the detainees are Tashi Damdul, Kalsang Gyaltso, Tsering Chophel, Tenzin Namgyal, Choephel, and Tsering Norbu from Khanra village in Tridu County. The seventh detainee, Tsegyam, is from Kamyi village in the county.

“Chinese authorities accused those Tibetans of making contact outside Tibet, via the internet, and also charged them with engaging in many unlawful activities,” said the first source.

“Since the Chinese authorities arrested these Tibetans under a secret operation, the exact date of detention, and how it took place could not be ascertained,” added the source.

The detentions came amid the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s 19th Party Congress in Beijing, which opened on Oct. 18 for one week brought a wide crackdown on communications and travel.

During the congress, the source said, “Tibetan WeChat users come under threat, as Chinese spies have infiltrated into many chat groups under fake names for the purpose of keeping an eye on user activities.”

“These restrictions and scrutiny have caused big inconveniences to even simple harmless chats between family members and friends,” said the source.

It was not immediately clear which self-immolation protests featured in the videos.

A total of 150 people have now set themselves ablaze in Tibet and Tibetan-populated counties in western China. Their protests have featured demands for Tibetan freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama from India, where he has lived since escaping Tibet during a failed national uprising in 1959.

Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Paul Eckert.