China ‘disappears’ two monks in connection with protests against land grab

A photo of the 28 January 2015 protest by Tibetan nomads in Chengdu
A photo of the 28 January 2015 protest by Tibetan nomads in Chengdu

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) is deeply concerned about the fate of two monks who remain ‘disappeared’ two months after their detention by Chinese security personnel.  Lobsang Sherab and Gendun Dakpa, both monks at Thangkor Socktsang Monastery, were arbitrarily detained at Thangkor (Ch: Tangke) Town in Dzoege (Ch: Ruoergai) County, Ngaba (Ch: Aba) Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province, in the Tibetan province of Amdo.

Both monks were detained at around midnight from their respective monastic quarters on 24 August by armed security forces without explanation. Exile Tibetan sources reported that Dakpa, 39, was the treasurer at his monastery and had no prior criminal record. Sherab, about 35, was a worker at the monastery’s store. He was detained at gunpoint by security forces that also threatened the monk’s roommates, one of whom was injured in the scuffle.

Latest information received by TCHRD indicates that both monks were likely detained on suspicion that they shared information with outsiders about peaceful protests staged by Tibetan nomads against government land seizures in Ka Bharma Village in Thangkor Town. It has been almost two months since the monks have been taken to an undisclosed location. Family members and relatives have no information about their whereabouts. TCHRD fears that the monks are being subjected to ill treatment and torture due to the extrajudicial nature of their detention. It is however not uncommon for Chinese security forces to disappear or detain Tibetans in secret locations without any access to due legal process. TCHRD calls on the Chinese authorities to disclose information about the monks and allow access to their family members to ascertain their physical and psychological integrity. Chinese authorities must make public the reason for the monks’ detention and cease holding them without charge.

Beginning January 2015, Tibetan nomads engaged in sustained protests for more than a year calling for the return of their land spanning about 400 acres including homes of 20 households that was confiscated by Chinese authorities in 2010 in the name of building environment friendly rural areas. Instead of implementing the original project, the authorities had been leasing the land to private firms. On 28 January, a group of 20 Tibetan nomads held a peaceful demonstration outside the venue of 12th Sichuan Provincial People’s Congress in Chengdu carrying banners that read: “We will protect our land even at the cost of our lives” and “We have no home. Return our land.” Eleven protesters were detained that day, out of whom nine were released on 30 January. The other two, identified as Jigjey Kyab and Tsepak, were held for sometime before being released. Jigjey, 39, who could speak and write Chinese, led the demonstration, acting as the interpreter and the guardian of the legal documents that support Tibetan claims over the confiscated land. He briefly went into hiding in mid-April amid a crackdown launched by local authorities to intimidate and detain those who had taken part in the demonstration in Chengdu.

On 15 May last year, Tibetan nomads submitted an appeal letter to the county and prefecture authorities for the resolution of the land dispute. In retaliation, local authorities resorted to collective punishment by cancelling government subsidies to the nomads’ families. This caused more protests that led to the local authorities promising to settle the matter by 20 September. When no decision was taken by the deadline, local Tibetans started ‘marking and fencing off the disputed land’ in a gesture of reoccupying the land. On 22 September, local authorities deployed a large group of security forces from Dzoege county and other parts of Ngaba prefecture in Thangkor town. In the following crackdown, 12 known Tibetans were arbitrarily detained. Among them were Jigjey Kyab, Tsepak, Phurkho, Sonam Gyatso, Shetruk and Tsokyi, who were identified as the drafters of the appeal letter and held in the neighbouring Marthang (Ch: Hongyuan) County. Tsokyi, sister of Jigjey Kyab, was subjected to severe beatings in detention and released. Five others identified as Tsering Kyab, Tsering Tashi, Patra, Dobe, and Tabe were released on 2 October. On 14 October, two more Tibetan men namely Rinchen Dorje, 63, and Magyuk, 56, were detained at County detention centre. They were among those who presented the written appeals to the authorities.

On 14 October, except for Jigjey Kyab and Phurkho all of them were released. However another Tibetan named Kirti Kyab who was released earlier was taken back in custody. On 11 April 2016, the Dzoege County People’s Court sentenced Jigjey Kyab to three years while Rinchen Dorjee, Phurkho and Kirti Yeshi were each sentenced to two years. All four of them were given suspended sentences and charged of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” (Ch: xunxin zishi). They were not required to serve their sentences in prison but the court added six months each to their sentence terms in accordance with the law on suspended jail sentence.

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