Tibetan Laborer Held, Tortured Over Dalai Lama Photos, Audio

Chinese police have detained a young Tibetan man and tortured him in custody after finding photos and audio recordings of speeches by the Dalai Lama on his mobile phone, according to sources Wednesday.

Norgyay, a day laborer from Dingri county in the Tibet Autonomous Region’s Shigatse (in Chinese, Rikaze) prefecture, was seized in the region’s capital Lhasa on Jan. 14 during a random police check on the stored content of mobile phones carried by Tibetans, a source in Nepal with contacts in the area told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“Police found audio teachings and pictures of [exiled spiritual leader] His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Norgyay’s mobile handset, and he was detained,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The audio was of teachings given recently by His Holiness in South India,” he said.

Norgyay, who had shared his photos and recording with others, then vanished until Jan. 22, when it was learned he was being held at a detention center near Lhasa’s Ramoche neighborhood, where he had been taken into custody, the source said.

Norgyay was tortured in detention, a second Tibetan source in Nepal told RFA, also citing local sources and speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Chinese police warned him to sever all connections with outside contacts,” the source added.

Photos banned

Images and recordings of the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, are strictly banned in Tibetan-populated areas of China, and those found in possession of them are treated harshly.

Chinese leaders regularly accuse the Dalai Lama of trying to “split” Tibet away from China, whose troops marched into the self-governing Himalayan region in 1950.

But the Dalai Lama denies seeking independence for Tibet, saying that he seeks only a “greater autonomy” that will preserve Tibetan religious and cultural freedoms for his homeland as a part of China.

In June 2013, at least eight Tibetans were wounded when Chinese police fired gunshots and used tear gas to disperse about 1,000 monks and nuns who had gathered in a restive county in Sichuan province to celebrate the spiritual leader’s birthday.

Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the area in 2008.

A total of 125 Tibetans have also set themselves ablaze in self-immolation protests calling for Tibetan freedom since February 2009, with another six setting fire to themselves in India and Nepal.

Reported by Thubten Sangay for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.