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Driru update: Nine jailed for protests, more arrested and detained PDF Print E-mail
[20 December 2013] The situation in Driru, Tibet Autonomous Region, continues to deteriorate with news emerging of prison sentences, further arrests and details of China's crackdown on the region, including a "thought education" campaign. Nine Tibetans have been jailed for their roles in recent protests in Driru and two singers have been arrested after releasing music promoting the Tibetan identity and culture. Overall, hundreds of Tibetans in Driru are believed to have been detained since protests broke out in September.

1. Nine jailed for roles in Driru protests
2. Two singers arrested for music promoting Tibetan identity
3. Claims of over 1,000 detentions
4. Overview and incident summaries

1. Nine jailed for roles in Driru protests

Nine Tibetans, including two monks, in Driru have been sentenced for up to six years for participating in recent protests and related activities. One of the nine is a writer who is believed to have been jailed for publishing a poem about the protests in Driru and repression in Tibet.

The sentencing took place on 30 November in Shagchu (Chinese: Xiaqu) town, Driru (Ch: Biru) county, Nagchu (Ch: Naqu) prefecture, Kham (now part of China's Tibet Autonomous Region). Due to China's strict censorship and controls, only three of the nine have been identified and their charges confirmed. Topden, Tenzin Rangdol and Kunchok Choephel were all charged with maintaining contacts with 'Dalai clique' and engaging in activities to split the nation.

TopdenTopden (pictured right), a nomad and writer was arrested on 28 October 2013 and sentenced to five years in prison. According to Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), the 30 year-old, who writes under the pseudonym Dro Ghang Gah, is believed to have been arrested for writing and publishing a poem which refers to the recent protests and crackdown in Driru. The poem also details the repression that Tibetans living in Driru have endured during China's 63-year occupation. (Click here to read the poem on TCHRD's website.)

Kunchok ChoephelTenzin Rangdol, a 32 year-old businessman was arrested on 18 October which led to a protest by 150 Tibetans calling for his release and 10 further arrests. Tenzin received a five-year prison sentence. Kunchok Choephel (pictured right), a 28 year-old monk, was arrested on 18 November and sentenced to six years in prison. The other six Tibetans also sentenced on 30 November have yet to be identified. The reasons for Tenzin's, Kunchok's and the unidentified six's arrests and charges on which they were sentenced are not known.

Further reading: TCHRD I RFA

2. Two singers arrested for music promoting Tibetan identity

Ring of Unity album coverTwo Tibetan singers from Driru county were arrested in November by Chinese authorities for promoting Tibetan identity, language and culture through their music.

Trinley Tsekar (22) was arrested around 20 November in Nagchu, Tibet Autonomous Region. According to TCHRD sources, Trinley was arrested after distributing a DVD which contained songs about Tibetan identity, culture and language. Trinley songs often refer to the suffering of the Tibetan people. His most popular album is entitled "Ring of Unity" (pictured right).

Gonpo TenzinGonpo Tenzin (25) was arrested on 30 November whilst in Lhasa. Though the exact reason for Gonpo's arrest is not known, it is suspected to be related to the lyrics of his songs. His album "No Losar for Tibet", which has become popular in Tibet, contains songs calling for the promotion of Tibetan culture, literature and language. 

No further information is available on the whereabouts and condition of the two singers.

Further reading: TCHRD I RFA

3. Claims of over 1,000 detentions in Driru since September

Troops outside Driru county HQTibetan sources are claiming that over 1,000 Tibetans have been detained in Driru since protest began in September. The exact number of detentions cannot be verified due to China's blocking of communication channels to the region.
(Picture right: Chinese armed forces outside Driru county headquarters, date unknown.)

A source quoted by Radio Free Asia, says that 200 Tibetans are detained in the Driru county detention centre, 200 in Tsamtha village in Driru, and 600 in neighbouring Nagchu county's detention facility. The source said that all detainees were undergoing 'political re-education'.

Though the numbers cannot be verified, other sources have referred to similar figures and have referred to a "Thought Education" campaign being undertaken by local authorities in Nagchu prefecture. The campaign is understood to be a local political re-education drive aimed at stamping out resistance to Chinese rule in the region.

Further reading: RFA I Phayul

4. Overview and incident summaries

In September, Tibetans living in Driru were ordered to fly Chinese flags from their homes. Their refusal led to arrests, which in turn led to protests and then a major security crackdown by the Chinese government. The security crackdown includes the censoring and blocking of communication channels, in an effort by the Chinese government to stop the spread of news about the protests and subsequent repressive measures.

Further reading: Report on events in Driru in September & October

Despite the crackdown, snippets of information continues to emerge from the region, indicating a hardening stance by the authorities, with numerous arbitrary arrests and a new 'political re-education' drive which aims to end resistance to Chinese rule. Below are summaries of the main reports that have emerged in recent weeks:

On 23 September, Lobsang Tashi, a monk from Rabten monastery in Driru, was arrested by Chinese security officers. His mobile and laptop were seized during the arrest indicating he may have been arrested for spreading information. (TCHRD 3 Dec)

On 12 October, Sonam Dondrub (19), Tsering Tashi (18), and Choksar (age unknown) were arrested in Driru county for putting up posters calling for Tibetan freedom. Their families have not been allowed to see them. Their current condition is not known. (RFA 14 Nov)

On 11 November, Thubten Gyaltsen (27) was detained by Chinese police. His detention is suspected to be for contacting 'outside sources' with information about Driru protests.  There is no information on his condition or whereabouts. (RFA 14 Nov)

Families living in Shagchu village, Driru county, are being forced to show official identity papers if they wish to leave the village, which is being heavily monitored by armed police. (RFA 14 Nov)

Seventeen Tibetans from Driru county were detained in November on unknown charges (exact dates not known). Thirteen were released after paying fines. Four, including two women, Thiley Palmo (32) and Sarkyi (49) remain in detention. (RFA 27 Nov)

On 18 November, Lobsang Choying was arrested for taking part in a student protest. On 23 November, Pasang Tashi, a monk from Rabten monastery was arrested on unknown charges, though suspected to be related to the recent protests. Both Lobsang and Tashi are from Ngayang village in Driru county. No further information about their detentions is known. (RFA 3 Dec)

On 26 November, 16 year-old Sonam Tobgyal (or Sonam Dorjee) was detained by Chinese police after putting up posters declaring that Tibetans have no freedom under Chinese rule. The posters were found on government-built cultural centre in Chaktse township in Driru county. Sonam's condition and whereabouts are not known. (RFA 18 Dec; Phayul 18 Dec)

At the end of November, at least 11 monks from the Driru region were detained following raids on Tarmoe, Rabten and Dongna monasteries. During the raids, which also included family homes of monks, computers and mobile phones were seized. The reasons for the detentions are not known, and the current whereabouts and condition of the monks are also not known. All three monasteries are under lockdown, surrounded by Chinese security forces. (Phayul 12 Dec; RFA 13 Dec)

The refusal by Tibetans to fly the Chinese flag has spread beyond Driru:

In October, residents of Tsodru township defied orders from local authorities to fly Chinese flags from their homes. Tsodru is located in Chentsa (Ch: Jianzha) county, Malho (Ch: Huangnan) prefecture, Amdo (now part of China's Qinghai province). It is not known if there have been any reprisals. (RFA 15 Oct)

In early November residents of Kardze (Ch: Ganzi) county, Sichuan, and Dzatoe (Ch: Zaduo) county, Qinghai, refused orders to fly Chinese flags from their homes. Officials in Kardze told residents that flying Chinese flags would result in generous government assistance. (RFA 8 Nov)

► In Dongkhor township, Kadze county, specially erected flag poles and stands outside government-funded community centres were destroyed in acts of defiance against official orders to fly Chinese flags. When the poles and stands were replaced they were demolished again. The date of the incidents is not known. (RFA 13 Nov)

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