Chinese officials in a Tibetan-populated region of Sichuan this month arrested a Tibetan man accused of setting up a group honoring Tibetan religious leaders on the popular social media platform WeChat, Tibetan sources said.
Lotse, 57 and a resident of Sichuan’s Sershul (in Chinese, Shiqu) county in the Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, was taken into custody in July for creating the chat group, which was set up to celebrate the birthdays of revered Tibetan lamas, a Tibetan living in exile told RFA this week.
“The group has around 100 members who come from all parts of Tibet,” RFA’s source said, citing local contacts and speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
Chinese authorities called Lotse’s creation of the group “unlawful,” the source added.
Lotse, a single father of two sons, is now believed to be detained by authorities somewhere in Sershul, and local Tibetans were questioned about him and pressured by police in the period leading up to his arrest, the source said.
“Chinese police also visited Lotse at his home before his arrest and threatened him for creating such a group without the government’s permission,” he added.
Banned birthday celebration
Sichuan authorities arrested two Tibetans in 2021 for celebrating the 86th birthday on July 6 of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
The pair, a man named Kunchok Tashi and a woman named Dzapo, both in their 40s, were taken into custody in Kardze’s Kyaglung town on suspicion of being part of a social media group that shared images and documents and encouraged the reciting of Tibetan prayers on the Dalai Lama’s birthday.
The Dalai Lama fled Tibet into exile in India in the midst of a failed 1959 Tibetan national uprising against rule by China, which marched into the formerly independent Himalayan country in 1950.
Displays by Tibetans of the Dalai Lama’s photo, public celebrations of his birthday and the sharing of his teachings on mobile phones or other social media are often harshly punished.
Chinese authorities maintain a tight grip on Tibetan-populated regions of western China, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of cultural and religious identity, and subjecting Tibetans to imprisonment, torture and extrajudicial killings.
Translated by Tenzin Dickyi for RFA Tibetan. Written in English by Richard Finney.