Tibetan man’s back broken after assault by police

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Trouble flares up in “politically unstable” county

Namgyal Tenzin (in his fifties) and his adult son Pedtse were both hospitalised after being assaulted by police on 7 May in Driru County (1), a central Tibetan area that has been a focus of Tibetan activism and security measures since Tibetans threw Chinese flags in a river in 2013.

Namgyal Tenzin was transferred to hospital in Lhasa after emergency treatment in a local hospital and is reported to have had his back broken and suffered severe kidney injuries. Pedtse, who is reported to be suffering from a mental illness, was also transferred to Lhasa but is less seriously injured.

The local police claimed the Tibetans had called two policemen “gyukhyi” - a Tibetan word which means China's dog - and goaded them into the assault. Local Tibetans argued that any offence committed by the men should be dealt with in accordance with criminal law rather than beating. However, after the attack, Namgyal denied the claims of provocation, reporting that the men who carried out the assault were in plain clothes and that he didn't see their faces.

A local Tibetan was quoted as saying:

“The authorities haven't punished the policemen who randomly beat the civilians and local Tibetans are very disappointed. This incident violates China's policy of governing the nation according to the rule of law. It clearly shows that the authorities haven't implemented the rule of law and are completely ignoring the lives of ordinary civilians. We hope that senior officials and the relevant authorities will do the right thing according to law and provide justice for innocent civilians.”

Following a mining protest in May 2013, a “patriotic re-education” programme was imposed on Driru County in September that year. Tibetans responded to instructions to fly Chinese flags on their houses by throwing them in a river. Following this incident, clashes between Tibetans and security forces culminated in police opening fire with live ammunition on a demonstration, causing severe injuries (2). At least two local Tibetans later died in custody, apparently after being tortured, monasteries in the area have been closed down and residents have faced severe sentences (3).

Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren says:

“Tensions have been running high in Driru County since 2013 and throughout this period the security forces have behaved with impunity. This incident gives the lie yet again to China's repeated assertions that it respects the rule of law. Meagre as their legal protections are, it is repeatedly made clear that Tibetans can expect no such protection, not least in Driru County. The litany of offences committed by security forces include firing on peaceful demonstrators, killing people in custody and now this unjustified and illegal assault. Among Tibetans’ many grievances under occupation is the contrast between China’s claims that they are equal citizens and the willingness of the state to violate their legal rights.”

In a bid to prevent unrest in Driru County spreading, activity by security forces was stepped up in neighbouring Sog County in 2013 and 2014 and in recent weeks there have been a large number of arrests of monks in Sog (4).

Information supplied by Tibet Watch

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Notes to editors

(1) Location: Driru County, Nagchu Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region (Ch: Biru County, Naqu Prefecture, TAR)
(2) Free Tibet press release, 8 October 2013 http://freetibet.org/news-media/pr/60-tibetans-injured-security-forces-fire-peaceful-protest
(3) For further details of events in Driru County see summary at http://freetibet.org/news-media/na/new-hub-tibetan-resistance and detailed Tibet Watch report at http://www.tibetwatch.org/uploads/2/4/3/4/24348968/driru_county_thematic_report.pdf . Sentences include 18 years for monk Thardhod Gyaltsen and nine for singer Trinley Tsekar.
(4) Free Tibet news report 2 April 2015 http://freetibet.org/news-media/na/further-arrests-sog-county