China detained two Tibetan monks for sharing illegal contents on social media

By Lobsang Tenchoe

DHARAMSALA, April 18: Chinese authorities have detained two Tibetan monks from Tsang Monastery in Ba Dzong or Gepasumdo County in Tsolho in the traditional Tibetan Province of Amdo, according to a report published today by Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy(TCHRD), the Dharamsala-based Tibetan rights group.

Woechung Gyatso at the workshop on cybersecurity organised by Chinese authorities at the monastery.

Woechung Gyatso and an unidentified monk from Tsang Dhondup Rabten Ling Monastery were arbitrarily arrested by the Tsolho County Public Security Bureau officers for posting sensitive pictures and articles on the popular Chinese messaging app WeChat on April 16, TCHRD said citing sources from the region.

While Woechung Gyatso is reportedly being held at an unknown detention centre, the other monk is believed to have been released after severe interrogation by the Chinese authorities. Posting pictures and articles is illegal under the Chinese regime in Tibet at large and the Cybersecurity Law that came into effect in June 2017 in particular. Chinese authorities have further issued local directives on internet censorship in other parts of Tibetan areas.

The monks were said to be detained following a workshop on cybersecurity organised by Chinese authorities at the monastery earlier in March under the guise of ‘legal education’ program where all the monks from the monastery were given instructions on the newly implemented Cybersecurity Law and warned of severe consequences in case of violations.

A parallel investigation launched along the workshop ultimately forced several monks including Woechung Gyatso to write confession letters for posting and sharing illegal contents online.

“The Cybersecurity law violates individual’s right to freedom of expression, opinion and information. Using vague and overbroad charges such as ‘leaking state secrets’ and ‘inciting separatism’, Tibetans are subjected to arbitrary arrests, detention and torture for exercising their right to freedom of expression on the internet,” the rights group stated.

During the 2008 Pan-Tibet movement, over 500 monks from Tsang Monastery staged a peaceful protest carrying photos of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and hoisted the Tibetan National flag on the roof of the monastery.

Choktrin Gyatso, a monk from the monastery was released by the Chinese authorities in April last year after serving 10 years’ sentence in a Chinese prison. Choktrin Gyatso was arrested along with his two colleagues from Tsang Monastery for participating in the 2008 Pan-Tibetan movement.

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