DHARAMSALA, 24 Feb: Following the demolition of two giant Buddha statues in Drango in the traditional Tibetan province of Kham, the Chinese authorities have now reportedly launched a sweeping crackdown on both lay and monastic communities in an attempt to stop any information about the crackdown from being shared online, reports Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy(TCHRD), a Dharamsala-based Tibetan advocacy group.
TCHRD says “at least 10 known Tibetans were detained last month” by the Chinese authorities in Tibet as China tightened restrictions on social media after destroying a 30-ft tall Maitreya Buddha statue in the courtyard of Drango Namgyal Ling Monastery last month and a 99-ft Buddha statue in Drango County in Dec last year.
TCHRD maintained that Lhamo Yangkyi from Trolpa Village was detained last month while Tenzin Nyima and Tashi Dorje, both monks from Drango Namgyal Ling Monastery (also known as Drango Monastery), were detained on 1 January in addition to the detention of another man named Tsering Samdup from Norpa nomadic camp and six other unidentified Tibetans three days later.
“Most detainees are being held in a ‘re-education’ facility at Thangnakma near Dropa (Ch: Zhuba / 朱巴村) Village, about 5 km from Drango County town- formerly a police station that was converted into a ‘re-education’ facility in 2012 when many Tibetans were detained for staging massive protests in Drango,” TCHRD said
The Dharamsala-based Tibetan advocacy group has obtained a satellite image and a photo of the ‘re-education’ facility, the outside façade of which it said was “built to resemble a traditional Tibetan house or a temple”
“It appears that the police station at Thangnakma was built after the 2008 Tibetan uprising,” TCHRD said.
Citing an unnamed source, the advocacy group said that “Thangnakma used to be a barren landscape in early 2002 and the police station was not widely known among the public until it was expanded into an extralegal facility for so-called re-education to detain and punish dissenters outside the domestic legal system.”
“These ‘re-education’ facilities where Tibetans are held without charge or trial and subjected to discretionary police power are illegal. It is evidence that Chinese authorities are running yet another form of the dreaded ‘Re-education Through Labour’ system that China claimed to have abolished in 2013,” Nyiwoe, a researcher at TCHRD said.
“Besides being ‘re-educated’ in the Thangnakma detention facility, the detainees have also been subjected to forced labour and custodial torture that led to Tenzin Nyima suffering an eye injury,” TCHRD has said citing a source in the know.
“Several other Tibetans had also been detained for showing signs of resistance against the demolition and for sharing the news about it with outsiders,” TCHRD said.
Citing the detention and torture of local Tibetans as a result of ongoing home raids and random phone searches in addition to the heightened restrictions on social media platforms such as WeChat have caused a chilling effect on the online activities of local Tibetans as they fear communicating their concerns about the ongoing crackdown with Tibetans living outside Tibet, TCHRD has maintained
The organisation declared that “Chinese authorities must close down all extra-legal detention facilities that are used to suppress non-government supported forms of expression and dissent.”
“Tibetans imprisoned in these facilities are treated inhumanely and subjected to extreme psychological pressure to conform to the diktats of the Chinese Party-state including denouncing their revered leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama.”
The centre has further urged “the international community including the UN, foreign governments, human rights defenders and other civil society members to pressure the Chinese government to release all prisoners of conscience as well as to respect and guarantee human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Tibetan people.