An unknown number of detentions related to protest self-immolations is being reported from areas where Tibetans have carried out continued protest self-immolations, according to reliable information received by TCHRD.
Many of those detained in the aftermath of a protest self-immolation are family members and relatives of the self-immolators, a source with close contacts in Kanlho Prefecture told TCHRD.
The same source told TCHRD that the affected family members and relatives find it difficult to report about their detentions due to fear of official retribution. “There is palpable fear among local Tibetans in Kanlho area and even outside Kanlho that making the detentions known would affect their chances of early release,” said the source.
In recent days, the local Chinese authorities in Kanlho (Ch: Gannan) Prefecture (Gansu Province) have approached each household, forcing them to sign a letter stating that no one in their family would self-immolate and that each family member would check on the other to avert such incidents.
The Kanlho Prefectural government had on 21 October issued a notice that offers rewards of 50,000 yuan (U.S. $7,913) for tipping off the Chinese government on “planning and abetment” of self-immolation protests.[i] Likewise, on 14 November, the Malho Prefectural government issued a notification ordering all levels of local government and Party offices to enforce the ban on self-immolations and punish the families of self-immolators and the villages they live in.[ii]
The same source told TCHRD that family members of Lhamo Kyap, who died of protest self-immolation on 20 October near Bora monastery in Sangchu (Ch: Xiahe) County of Kanlho Prefecture, were also pressured to sign the letter.[iii] The family refused two-three times but the local government officials kept on pressuring the family. On one of these visits by the officials, the bereaved wife of Kyap tore off the letter in anger. The source said what transpired later is not known at the moment.
In the past, other sources have reported that some family members of the self-immolators were being intimidated into signing letters stating that the self-immolations had nothing to do with misrule of the Chinese government. Some were offered hush money.[iv] Some were threatened with detentions if they shared real information about self-immolation with their friends or fellow villagers as it happened with the father of a young man who died of self-immolation in June this year.[v]
The letter-signing campaign is being implemented even outside Kanlho area. In Malho (Ch: Huangnan) Prefecture (Qinghai Province), where the authorities are enforcing the 14 November official notification that bans and punishes self-immolations, government officials and Party cadres in Dowa Township, Thunding County and Malho Prefecture have obtained signed statements from village officials and leaders to prevent any self-immolation under their jurisdiction. TCHRD had earlier reported that each household in the aforementioned areas would be made to sign a letter pledging that they and their family members would not engage in self-immolation. The same source also reported self-immolation related detentions in Dokarmo Township in Rebkong (Ch: Tongren) County of Malho Prefecture.
Despite official ban on self-immolation and self-immolation related prayer ceremonies and cremation rituals, the outpouring of solidarity and condolences for family members of the self-immolators has been immense, the source told TCHRD. In Kanlho area, women have formed their own volunteer groups to observe fasting and other religious rituals to honour the memory of those who died in protest self-immolation. The same source also reports that villages, families and monasteries in the area have been collectively sponsoring and holding prayers and other rituals.
[i] See Defying official notice, three Tibetans die of self-immolation in Kanlho, 1 December 2012, TCHRD, Defying official notice, three Tibetans die of self-immolation in Kanlho
[ii] See China punishes protest self-immolations, cuts off aid to Tibetans, 22 November 2012, TCHRD, China punishes protest self-immolations, cuts off aid to Tibetans
[iii] See “These Chinese are not letting us live in peace. It’s better to die, better to die.” 29 October 2012, TCHRD, “These Chinese are not letting us live in peace. It’s better to die, better to die.”
[iv] See China arrests Tibetan self-immolator’s husband for rejecting bribe, 9 November 2012, Phayul, China arrests Tibetan self-immolator’s husband for rejecting bribe
[v] Identities of both the father and son are withheld to protect the family members of the deceased.