Eleven Tibetans beaten and arrested by Chinese authorities in January for spreading news of the destruction of a 99-foot-tall Buddha statue and dozens of prayer wheels in southwestern China’s Sichuan province. China, were sent to labor camps in the region, Tibetans with knowledge of the situation said on Friday.
Monks Tashi Dorjee, Tsering Samdup, Nyima Lhamo and Abbot Pelga, along with Pelga’s assistant Nyima, and six other unidentified Tibetans have been arrested following the destruction of the statue and 45 traditional prayer wheels in Drago (Luhuo) County of Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in December 2021, said an exiled Tibetan who declined to be named for security reasons.
“[They] are still being held by Chinese and are now being sent to labor camps,” he told RFA.
The 11 were arrested on suspicion of sending news and photos of the statue’s destruction – reported exclusively by RFA in early January – to contacts outside the region.
“A few of them were also injured from beatings and torture, although their current state of health remains largely unknown,” the exiled Tibetan said.
Authorities still have restrictions in place at the monastery and in the county, he said.
“A police station has been set up near the Mani prayer wheel which was demolished earlier by the Chinese authorities in Drago,” he said. “A few monks from the monastery and a few other individuals are stationed at this police station to monitor the daily activities of local Tibetans and monks from Drago Monastery.
“It’s very difficult to explain how intense the situation in Drago is right now,” the source said.
Authorities in China’s Sichuan province forced Tibetan monks and locals to witness the demolition of the Buddha statue following official complaints that it was too high, Tibetan sources told RFA in an earlier report. .
The prayer wheels destroyed at the same time had been set up for use by Tibetan pilgrims and other worshippers, they said.
Pema Gyal, a researcher at Tibet Watch, a nonprofit that promotes human rights, said Tibetans who live in Drago County told her group they are constantly questioned by Chinese authorities. and face a number of restrictions on their activity.
“So it is clear that the Chinese government continues to suppress Tibetans,” he told RFA.
A Tibetan monk from Drago who now lives in exile said Chinese authorities were heavy-handed due to previous protests in the county.
Chinese government officials are “extremely cautious of the region and try to weed out anything that strengthens the Tibetan language and Buddhist institutions,” the monk said.
A previous protest against Chinese rule took place in 2012 in Drago, resulting in the arrest of scores of Tibetans, eight of whom are still serving prison sentences, RFA recently learned from Tibetan sources familiar with the matter.
Among them, Sonam Lhundup, who was sentenced to life imprisonment; Chakbe, sentenced to 12 years; Kunthok, sentenced to 13 years; Kundup, sentenced to 11 years; and Tashi Dhargay and Namgyal Dhoundup, who were each sentenced to 14 years. Two other unidentified Tibetans are serving sentences of unknown length.
Translated by Tenzin Dickyi for RFA Tibetan Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.