Chinese authorities arbitrarily detained a solo Tibetan protester who called for Tibet’s freedom and long life of Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama early last month in Serthar (Ch: Seda) County in Kardze (Ch: Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province.
The protest staged by Sonam Tashi on 5 January coincided with the Kalachakra teachings given by the Dalai Lama, which was held from 3 to 14 January in India. Thousands of Tibetans from Tibet who had travelled to India and Nepal for pilgrimage and Kalachakra teachings had to return home after receiving threats of punishment from the Chinese government.
Tashi staged the protest on the main street of the Serthar County market throwing protest leaflets in the air, and shouting slogans such as “May His Holiness live for 10,000 years!” and “Freedom for Tibet!” Local police immediately overpowered him and took him to an undisclosed location. As of 20 February, the police have not informed Tashi’s family members about his whereabouts.
Tashi’s lone protest occurred at a time when Chinese authorities had increased restrictions in the area. Restrictions were imposed on the movement of local Tibetans who also had to contend with heavy surveillance due to the deployment of large number of security personnel. Local Tibetan explain that the additional restrictions were partly due to the Kalachakra teachings as well as the Tibetan traditional new year that was celebrated in late January in some parts of Tibet.
Information about Tashi’s protest remained unknown until now because Chinese authorities had blocked internet including WeChat messaging apps as part of widespread security clampdown in the area.
Sonam Tashi is a native of Shoethal Village, Serkhok Township, Serthar County.