Freedom of peaceful assembly under attack: Tibetan monk detained for non-violent protest

Gedun Phuntsok
Gedun Phuntsok

A teenage Tibetan monk has become the latest target of China’s consistent and systematic attacks on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in Tibet.

Gedun Phuntsok, 18, a monk from Kirti Monastery in Ngaba County was detained on 8 March for staging a peaceful protest calling for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet and for “freedom and equality” in Ngaba (Ch: Aba) Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture (Sichuan Province), in the Tibetan province of Amdo.

The solo protest occurred at about 1.30 pm (local time) in Ngaba County town where on the main road, Gedun Phuntsok walked carrying a huge portrait of the Dalai Lama draped in a yellow khatag (Tibetan ceremonial scarf) on his head and shouted slogans such as “Let His Holiness the Dalai Lama return to Tibet” and “Freedom and equality for Tibet”, according to a source with close contacts in Tibet.

The protest lasted for sometime before paramilitary police arrived on the scene and forcibly took away the monk to an undisclosed location. The monk’s whereabouts and condition remain unknown.

Gedun Phuntsok became a monk at a young age at Kirti Monastery, which has been subjected to intense restriction and repression particularly since 2008. He is the son of Mr Tragya and Mrs Rigo both residents of Chugle Gabma Village in Cha Township, Ngaba County.

In recent times, Tibetans have increasingly taken to staging solo, peaceful protests as a way to convey their grievances due to continued repression and shrinking space for exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly. The security build-up coupled with intensification of surveillance programs has made it impossible to stage large-scale demonstrations or protests in many parts of Tibet. Just last December, another monk from Kirti Monastery, 21-yr-old Lobsang Trinley was severely beaten up and detained for staging similar protest.

Last year in November, Lobsang Tenpa, a 19-yr-old monk from Kirti Monastery, was sentenced to two years in prison. On 26 April 2014, he had walked down the main road in Ngaba County town with a handmade Tibetan flag. He shouted slogans calling for freedom in Tibet and the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet. In the months between his arrest and his conviction, Lobsang Tenpa was beaten and tortured. His parents were allowed to observe his trial but were prevented from hiring a lawyer.

A grainy shot of Gedun Phuntsok staging the solo protest in Ngaba town.
A grainy shot of Gedun Phuntsok staging the solo protest in Ngaba town.

Another monk from Kirti Monastery, 20-yr-old Lobsang Gyatso was sentenced to three years in prison. He had staged a similar protest on the main road of Ngaba County town in April 2014. Before his sentencing, he had been taken to an undisclosed location where he was tortured and interrogated.

TCHRD strongly condemns the detention of Gedun Phuntsok and Lobsang Trinley in an undisclosed location where they run the risk of being tortured to extract forced confessions. The detention of the monks is an attack on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, which is not only considered a fundamental right in international law but also guaranteed by the Chinese Constitution. Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution states, “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.” As such, the People’s Republic of China has a legal obligation to recognize, uphold, and protect the Tibetan peoples’ fundamental human right to freedom of peaceful assembly.



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