The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) strongly condemns the arbitrary detention of two Tibetan students for promoting a self-designed flag and emblem for a local football team in Tsolho (Ch: Hainan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province, in the Tibetan province of Amdo. Both had their mobile phones confiscated.
An overseas Chinese NGO reported on 23 February that a Tibetan student, Jampa Tsering, was sentenced to one year and six months in prison for “inciting separatism”, in addition to “deprivation of political rights” for one year. But his sentence has been suspended for two years and he has been placed under probation. Another student Dugkar Tsering was exempted from criminal punishment since it was his first offence.
At their sentencing last August, Jampa Tsering was held guilty for “publicly displaying the flag and logo of [the] football team and sharing the images on QQ”, and for contacting Dugkar Tsering to obtain “illegal pictures” and design the flag and emblem, which the court equated with the crime of ‘undermining national unity’ and ‘inciting separatism’.
Jampa Tsering had also displayed the team flag and logo at the 6th “Holy Lake Cup” football match in Chabcha (Ch: Gonghe) County, Tsolho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, and photos and videos from the event were shared on their WeChat Moments that were seen by many local Tibetan netizens. By doing this, the authorities maintained that Jampa Tsering had created “a bad political impact”.
The exact design of the flag and emblem that the authorities considered illegal is unknown although it is common for Tibetans to be arrested and disappeared for producing or displaying the Tibetan national flag. Some have served four years in prison for hoisting the flag as a tool of protest while some vanish into state custody not to be seen or heard again. The Tibetan national flag is considered a display of ‘narrow nationalism’ and a threat to the official ideal of establishing a Chinese nation-state, where ethnic differences are seen as obstacles.
TCHRD demands that Chinese authorities drop all charges against Jampa Tsering and Dugkar Tsering and restore their human rights immediately without conditions. The detention of Jampa Tsering and Dugkar Tsering violated their right to freedom of expression and opinion and freedom of personal liberty, hence they must be adequately compensated for and the guilty officials punished for violating human rights. The criminalisation of Tibetan national flag goes against China’s policy of granting autonomous rights and freedoms including the right to fly and hoist Tibetan national flag. As the Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama had mentioned in 2013 that Chairman Mao was in favour of letting the Tibetans fly their flag alongside the Chinese national flag during one of their meetings in 1954 in Beijing.