Government-backed gang intimidates activists in eastern Tibet, sources say

20th May 2020

Reports a state-backed gang is beating and intimidating Tibetans. 

Authorities have created a gang in eastern Tibet which is beating and intimidating Tibetan activists and communities that oppose Chinese government policies, sources in the country have told Free Tibet’s research partners.

The group is not part of the military or police but has been formed by the authorities in Ragya, Machen County, Golok Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, which is governed by Qinghai Province. It is unclear how or when the group was created. 

It has been named the “Gang Against Underworld Forces.” 

The name reflects a Chinese government drive which began in 2017 to campaign against what it called “underworld forces”. Authorities have said the campaign is a crackdown against criminal groups and gangs in China. But in Tibet it has also been used to pursue and jail Tibetan activists and “separatists.”

A group matching the description of the “Gang Against Underworld Forces” has severely beaten Tibetan activists who were involved in a protest against a mining project in Chuwa village, Machen County a few years ago, sources said.

The attacks are intended to threaten Tibetans, sources said, adding they have left some traumatized after beatings and fearful of the gang's leader, a man called Dodak.

On 17 May 2019, authorities issued a new notice for the campaign against underworld forces which said political crimes and related activity are considered threats to the political stability of the country.

The campaign has conflated activities protected under individual human rights standards such as protesting or speaking out against the government with criminal activities such as blackmail and extortion. A Human Rights Watch report from July 2018 said the campaign against underworld forces is openly political. 

On 6 December 2019, Tibetan environmental and anti-corruption activist  A-Nya Sengdra was sentenced to a seven-year jail term by the Chinese Communist Party, Free Tibet reported. He was accused of being involved in activities linked to “underworld forces”, despite no evidence to suggest it.

His lawyer said he was “falsely changed" and is appealing for his release.

Tibetans charged with political crimes now also face concerns that the rights of their children related to education and schooling could be removed. 

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