Since February 2021, Beijing has escalated a crackdown across Tibet and a new wave of arrests, including the detention of a number of prominent Tibetans. Tibetan researchers and monitors have reported at least 15 cases between February and mid-April.
The Chinese government’s tolerance for Tibetans’ rights is at an all-time low and there has been a marked increase in state control over everyday life and a heavy crackdown against basic freedoms.
Here are just some of the most recent cases:
17 February: Three Tibetan teenagers arrested after local authorities found they had not registered a WeChat group. One of the detainees was tortured with both his legs broken and was hospitalised. Dadul – pictured – was tortured in Chinese custody resulting in both of his legs being broken. He was hospitalised as a result of these severe injuries and his family was threatened by the authorities that they do not share information about his situation.
23 March: Three Tibetan writers and activists detained in different locations across eastern Tibet. All three have been detained previously linked to the peaceful expression of their political or social beliefs.
DRUBPA KYAB (འབྲུག་པ་སྐྱབས། | 支巴加) a Tibetan writer and former teacher, was arrested on the evening of 23 March 2021. He has previously served four years and six months in prison for “illegally sending information to the outside” and for “inciting separatism”. He was released on 1 August 2013, only to be rearrested and detained for a further 17 days for holding a portrait of His Holiness the Dalai Lama at a gathering celebrating his release from prison. His whereabouts unknown.
GANGBU YUDRUM (གངས་བུ་གཡུ་དྲུམ། | 岗布优博), a Tibetan monk from Serthar County, Kham was arrested on the evening of 23 March 2021. He was previously imprisoned twice in 2008 and 2012 for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, assembly, and of association, when he served a cumulative sentence of five years. His whereabouts are unknown.
SEYNAM (བསོད་ནམས། | 塞朗), a Tibetan teacher, was arrested on the evening of 23 March 2021. He was previously detained by the Chinese authorities for his peaceful activism in September 2020 after he attended a community “Forum on the wellbeing of parents of the land of snows.” His whereabouts are unknown.
Between 31 March and 2 April: Three Tibetans detained
TSERING DOLMA (ཚེ་རིང་སྒྲོལ་མ། | 次仁卓玛) was arrested between 31 March and 2 April 2021. She was imprisoned in 2008 after participating in the 2008 uprising and arrested again in 2012. Since her release from prison, Tsering Dolma has developed multiple serious health issues. She has been heavily surveilled since her first arrest over a decade ago.
Status: Her whereabouts are unknown.
TWO OTHER UNIDENTIFIED TIBETANS ALSO DETAINED
These detentions are part of a widescale crackdown in Tibet, targeting Tibetans for simply taking part in everyday activities, including texting friends and family.
Such arrests have become a routine practice by the Chinese authorities as they intensify their efforts to deepen the climate of fear and repression in Tibet and crush dissenting voices.
Detained Tibetans are often labeled as ‘endangering state security’, and their actions immediately suppressed. Public displays of support for the Dalai Lama, writing songs that are critical of repressive treatment, calls for political autonomy, or even seeking basic cultural or religious freedom can lead to accusations by China of ‘separatism.’
Rights experts have analysed that torture in Tibet is endemic and is used systemically and routinely by Chinese authorities against Tibetans in custody. Findings show that the level of violence directed at Tibetan political prisoners is frequent, extreme, and results in Tibetans being left with severe scars following a period of detention, including paralysis, the loss of limbs, organ damage, and serious psychological trauma.
Countless Tibetans continue to be held incommunicado for prolonged periods of time, denied access to lawyers and their families.
Chinese authorities have previously asserted that legislative, administrative, and judicial departments uphold measures against torture. However, there are no indications of investigations into deaths in custody or shortly after release or allegations of torture and mistreatment. To date, there is no evidence of a single case of torture in Tibet being investigated or the perpetrators being held accountable.