Sources in Tibet report that around ten Tibetans were detained in Lhasa, by the Chinese State Security Bureau (SSB) in the days leading to festivities marking the 40th anniversary of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). One of the detained Tibetans was identified as Sonam Gyalpo. It is not known whether the detentions are temporary, or if the detainees will be charged with specific offences.
Sonam Gyalpo was detained on 28 August 2005, at around 6pm. He was returning home with his wife, Tsamchoe, from a stall on the Barkhor Street where his family sell readymade garments. Four jeeps with 16 SSB officers were expecting him.
He was asked to sign an arrest warrant, before being taken away in one jeep by four of the officers, whilst the remaining 12 SSB officers searched his home for about three hours. They checked each and every item of the household, before pouring rice, flour, and tsampa (roasted barley flour) onto the bed sheets, and slicing butter into slabs. Four video tapes with teachings of the Dalai Lama, one video tape with religious contents, a few books and printed materials were discovered from the home and seized. Pictures of the Dalai Lama were also seized.
Mr. Sonam Gyalpo, a tailor by profession, was born in 1955 (Tibetan calendar:
Wood Sheep) at Kongra, Gongkar district, Lhokha prefecture. His father, Ganpo Karma Tsewang, was a local chief (Tib. sadag) before 1959 and spent 15 years in prison for assisting Tibetan guerrillas. He died in 1989. Alongside many other aristocrats, his mother, Lhayang Drolkar, suffered from 'struggle sessions' during the Cultural Revolution and died in 1980 at the age of 45.
Sonam Gyalpo was first arrested on 27 September 1987, with 21 monks from Drepung monastery, during a peaceful demonstration in Lhasa. He was later charged for his involvement in this demonstration, and for pasting posters against the Reform Policy. He spent three-years in Drapchi Prison (Tibet Autonomous Region Prison Number One), before being released on 20 September 1990. In 1993, after returning from a trip to Katmandu, to visit his brother, and to India, to receive blessings of the Dalai Lama, Chinese security personnel searched his hotel room in Dram
(Khasa) on the Nepal-Tibet border. They took away a few packets of herbal pills that had been blessed by the Dalai Lama. As a former political prisoner, Sonam Gyalpo would not have been issued documents for going abroad, and was travelling without valid papers. His second arrest was apparently connected with this offence; at around midnight on 23rd July 1993, he was arrested at his home by Chinese security personnel. He was first detained at the Sitru detention centre of the Public Security Bureau (PSB) for a few days, before being taken to Nyara Prison in Shigatse. After six months at Nyara Prison, where he was denied visitors, he was transferred to Sangyip prison in Lhasa, where he spent a further six months.
No further details about the remaining Tibetan detainees are available.