60 Tibetans detained for keeping Dalai Lama photo after a sweeping crackdown in Dzachuka

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Dza Wonpo monastery and township

TCHRD has been informed by a reliable source that Chinese security forces detained and took away 60 Tibetans from Wonpo township in Dzachuka area to Sershul town 70 km away in Sershul (Ch: Shiqu) County, Kardze (Ch: Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province, in the Tibetan province of Kham on 23-24 August.

The sudden deployment of Chinese security officials in Wonpo village on 22 August used interrogation as the pretext to detain the Tibetans.

Following the detention, security officials systematically searched Tibetan homes, mobile phones, and other gadgets on 25 August. All local Tibetans above 17 were assembled purportedly in the name of ‘legal education’ where stern warnings were issued against keeping the Dalai Lama’s photo and contacting outsiders.

Many of the 60 detainees, comprising both lay and monastic from the village and the monastery, are being held for keeping His Holiness’ photo in their homes or on phones,  with just a few held for a vehicular-related matter.

TCHRD calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Tibetans detained for the possession of His Holiness’ photo and urges the Chinese authorities not to subject the detainees to the routine practice of torture and inhumane treatment.

Background

The source noted that the current scrutiny is related to the heavy clampdown in Dzamey township in March this year following the death of Tamey a 19-year-old monk in January 2021.

Tamey aka Tenzin Nyima from Dza Wonpo Monastery was one of the seven lay and monastic Tibetans who had protested in Wonpo in late 2019 against the Chinese government by distributing flyers calling for freedom in Tibet.

All seven protesters were detained, beaten severely, and sentenced to one to five years in prison. Tamey succumbed to custodial torture earlier this year.

His death sparked a widespread expression of solidarity, including online writing, resulting in the clampdown in March.

About 40 monks were rounded up for ‘re-education’ for many days during which they were forced to sign a five-point document that banned the display of the Dalai Lama’s photo and required expression of gratitude to the Chinese party-state.

The houses and phones of the Tibetans were searched and a list was compiled of all those found with Dalai Lama’s photo. Most of the latest batch of detainees are from the list compiled in March, including former political prisoner monk named Choechok.

The protest in late 2019 was provoked by the forceful poverty alleviation propaganda campaign in the region in the last few years. It required poor Tibetans to pose for photos with rented homewares, to portray them as having become prosperous.

“Most Tibetans rejected the instruction to express gratitude to the party on camera. They eventually roped in few poor families into echoing their propaganda in videos that they published,” the source told TCHRD.