By Tsering Choephel
DHARAMSALA, 3 July: Chinese authorities in Tibet have intensified their control and monitoring of Tibetans’ communication with people outside Tibet, Radio Free Asia(RFA) reported on Friday.
Tibetans living in Lhasa – the erstwhile capital of Independent Tibet – are of particular concern to the Chinese authorities. They face tighter surveillance and random searches of their cell phones to determine if they have contacted people outside Tibet.
“Tibetans are warned not to contact people outside and those who have, have been summoned and interrogated,” a source from Tibet has told RFA. “Their cell phones are confiscated and they are under constant scrutiny,” the source has added.
As a recurring norm, the Chinese authorities intensify their surveillance and security in the month of March. March 2023 marked the 64th anniversary of the Tibetan national uprising day and the 15th anniversary of the 2008 Pan-Tibet Uprising in Tibet
Fearful of information leakage from inside Tibet that would contradict the Chinese authority’s widely publicised propagandistic image of Tibet and Tibetans, the heightened surveillance from March has remained well into this month.
The police are reported to be particularly concerned about Tibetan having communications with journalists and researchers outside of Tibet.
RFA quoted a Tibetan resident who had contacted people outside Tibet and had been summoned along with some friends for interrogations by the Chinese authorities as saying that “They gave us warning to not ever contact people on the outside, especially researchers on Tibet and journalists.”
The source has further added that he knows many other Tibetan who underwent the same scrutiny.
Another victim of such scrutiny has said in the report that “I was summoned two times already this year for interrogation and one of my friends had to bribe the authorities to release me the second time around.”
“My name is now listed amongst those interrogated, therefore I have to get permission from the local police if I need to travel outside Lhasa.”
In the past years, there were many cases of Tibetans inside Tibet facing detention and even imprisonment for communicating with Tibetans in exile.
Palgon, a Tibetan writer from Golok in the traditional Tibetan province of Amdo was arrested at his home in August 2022 on charges of having offered prayers to the Dalai Lama through Tibetans in exile.
Two Tibetans, Samten Sangpo and Tsultrim both from Golok were also arrested by the local police in April 2021 for contacting Tibetans in exile through WeChat, a micro-messaging app that is banned in India since 2020 for national security reasons.
Sonam Gyatso, a monk from Amdo Ngaba was also imprisoned for sending money abroad, including to Dharamshala-based Kirti Rinpoche, for the stated religious purpose after his mobile was seized and went through its messaging contents.
Thousands of Tibetan families are separated, between those living in Tibet and those in exile, and in incommunicado because of such restrictions and the risk involved in breaking the warning of Chinese authorities.