DHARAMSALA, 7 Feb: A Tibetan university student has been detained and fined by Chinese authorities for organising a ‘Losar’ (New Year) celebration where Buddhist flags were displayed as the backdrop on the stage instead of Chinese flags, Dharamsala-based Tibetan advocacy group Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) said.
Gephel, a Tibetan university student was detained on the evening of 24 January from his home in Muge Township in Zungchu County in Ngaba in the traditional Tibetan province of Amdo, TCHRD said.
“Before he was released on the afternoon of 26 January, Gephel was fined 50000 yuan and ordered to attend ‘political education’ sessions every week,” TCHRD added.
According to the report, “Tibetan university students in Muge organise the show every third day of the Tibetan Sonam Losar, celebrated in parts of Tibet and the Buddhist communities in the Himalayan region,” and that Gaphel was arrested as he was the chief organiser of the show.
He was charged with “engaging in activities aimed at splitting the Chinese nation,” TCHRD said and added that “Gephel was accused of breaking the law by displaying the Buddhist flag, which, according to the authorities, was the same as the Tibetan national flag.”
It was reported that his explanation to the officers during the interrogation that “the Buddhist flag symbolised universal values of peace, compassion, and wisdom and had nothing to do with politics or splitting the nation,” had fallen before deaf ears.
TCHRD further added that the Tibetan student was “ordered to attend the weekly political education sessions after he refused to accept some conditions that the police imposed, such as the mandatory use of Chinese flags and for the show’s presenters to speak in Chinese in future.”
The rights group strongly condemned the arbitrary and unlawful actions of the Chinese authorities in Zungchu County.
“By banning the display of Buddhist flags in public gatherings, they violated the right to manifest one’s religion or belief, which is by far the most extensive and elaborate facet to the freedom of religion and belief.”
TCHRD further stated that the Chinese authorities disregarded and violated both Article 18(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 1(1) of the UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief include the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.
“Forcing Tibetans to speak Chinese at public gatherings violates both domestic legal provisions and international human rights law.”