Chinese Police Free Tibetan Monk, Detain Activist

Authorities in northwestern China’s Qinghai province have released a Tibetan monk from a labor camp several months ahead of the completion of his sentence, meanwhile detaining another Qinghai-area Tibetan who had been sought by the police for his role in anti-mining protests, sources said.

Yarphel, a monk from Yarshong monastery in the Malho (in Chinese, Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture’s Rebgong (Tongren) county, was released from the Tungkor labor camp in the provincial capital Xining on Dec. 26 before serving his full term for being linked to a self-immolation protest, a Tibetan living in India told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“He was detained on Feb. 2 and then sentenced on March 1 to a one-year and three-month term for carrying the cremated remains of self-immolation protester Dorjee Lhundup to the protester’s family home,” RFA’s source said, citing local sources.

Traditional artist Dorjee Lhundup, 25, had shouted slogans against Chinese rule and called for the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama before burning himself to death on Nov. 4, 2012, in Rebgong’s Rongwo township, sources told RFA.

The dawn self-immolation attracted a large crowd of monks and residents to the township, with many of them placing traditional Tibetan scarves on his charred remains as a mark of respect for the father of two, one source said.

Later, several thousand Tibetans converged at a hill site near an area monastery where Lhundup’s body was taken for prayers and immediate cremation to prevent Chinese security forces from interfering with funeral rites, the sources said.

Despite Yarphel’s release, “Chinese authorities continue to impose harsh restrictions on Tibetans in the Rebgong area,” RFA’s source said, adding that earlier in December several hundred armed paramilitary police were seen patrolling the streets of Rebgong town.

Sought for months

Meanwhile, Chinese police have taken into custody a Tibetan environmental activist sought by the authorities for months for his role in protests opposing Chinese mining operations in Qinghai’s Yulshul (Yushu) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, a Tibetan source in exile told RFA.

“Gongpa Dzomga was detained on the night of Dec. 20, according to a phone call made to his family by the police,” RFA’s source said, citing local contacts.

“He was an active advocate for the protection of the environment in Tibetan areas, and he played a key role in the halting of mining activities at the Dothi Gangkar mine in Yulshul,” the source said.

Dzomga had also traveled to Beijing to petition on behalf of Tibetans in Yulshul’s Dzatoe region who were resisting encroachments by Chinese mines, he said.

Mining operations in Tibetan regions have led to frequent standoffs with Tibetans who accuse Chinese firms of polluting the environment and disrupting sites of spiritual significance.

“[Dzomga’s] trip to Beijing was unsuccessful, and he was placed on a police wanted list,” the source said.

Dzomga had then gone into hiding, evading the authorities “in various places” for about eight months before he was finally detained, he said.

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 Lumbum Tashi and Chakmo Tso for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.