Sweeping arrests in Rebkong county since February 21

Friday, 25 April 2008

Free Tibet Campaign has obtained names of 37 Tibetans arrested in Rebkong County (Ch: Tongren Xian), Malho (Ch: Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province since 21 February 2008.

A protest occurred in Rebkong on 21 February before major protests broke out all over Tibet from March 10 onwards. In the immediate aftermath of the February 21 protests, 200 Tibetans were arrested according to eyewitnesses.

Protests in Rebkong have continued and on 18 April Free Tibet Campaign reported a major protest staged by monks at Rongwo monastery on 17 April. The monks were demanding the release of three monks arrested on April 13 for allegedly masterminding the February 21 protests.

Free Tibet Campaign’s source in Dharamsala has learned further details of the circumstances leading to the April 17 protests by speaking by phone to very reluiable sources in the region.

On April 12 the local Public Security Bureau (PSB) ordered senior lamas at Rongwo monastery to hand over 3 monks alleged to have masterminded the February 21 protests. The monks sought by the authorities are: Lobsang Dhondup (20 years old from Buddhist Dialectic College); Drakpa, 28 years old from Tantric College; and Lobsang Dhondup, 30 years old, also from Tantric College. The local police threatened the arrest of all monks at Rongwo monastery if the three monks were not handed in.

According to the sources, huge pressure was put on Rebkong Skyabgon, the highest ranking reincarnated lama at the monastery, to hand over the three monks. The lama was promised that the monks would be returned after three days of interrogation. The lama persuaded the three monks to hand themselves in for interrogation to prevent all monks at the monastery from being arrested. On April 13 the three monks were sent to the army jail in Rongwo town. According to the sources, monks at the monastery were not informed by the monastery’s Democratic Management Committee that the three monks had been taken for interrogation and, when they learned of it on April 14, the monks at Rongwo monastery became very agitated. According to the eyewitnesses most of the Rongwo monks swore in front of the Dharma Protective gods that they would stand up for anyone arrested or beaten by the civil authorities.

On April 15, according to the sources, monks from Rongwo went to visit the three detained monks in prison, but the detained monks could not be found. The authorities at the jail refused to answer questions about the detained monks’ whereabouts. Monks gathered at Rongwo monastery and were furious at being deceived by the government which had promised the monks’ release after three days.

The monks staged a protest on April 17 at the monastery (see Free Tibet Campaign’s report below) which led to the arrest of 140 monks.

Matt Whitticase
Press Officer, Free Tibet Campaign

Notes:

For further information please contact Matt Whitticase at matt@freetibet.org
Or call on +44 (0) 207 324 4605/+44 (0)7515 788456