By Phuntsok Yangchen
DHARAMSHALA, January 14: In continuing crackdown on the spate of self-immolation protests in Tibet, Chinese authorities have arrested eight Tibetans, including a family member of a self-immolator, for sharing information with outsiders in the Luchu region of Kanlho, eastern Tibet.
The eight arrested Tibetans have been identified as Kalsang Samdup, Nyima, Lhamo Dhundup, Dorjee Dhundup, Kalsang Kyab, Kalsang Sonam, Kalsang Namdren, and Sonam Kyi.
According to exile sources, Kalsang Samdup, a 44-year-old monk of the Sherab Phuntsok Rabgayling Monastery, was questioned by Chinese authorities at his monastic quarters on December 20, 2012, and was arrested the next day for having contacts with outside “splittist” forces.
The seven other Tibetans, all laypeople, were arrested three days later on charges of contacting outsiders and sharing information on the self-immolation protest of Tsering Namgyal, who set himself on fire near a local Chinese government office in Luchu on November 29, 2012.
Tsering Namgyal passed away in his fiery protest and is survived by his wife Choekyong Tso, their two children, Dorjee Kyi, 7, and Kalsang Dolma, 3, and his parents.
Among those arrested, Kalsang Namdren is a brother-in-law of Tsering Namgyal. The only female among the detainees, Sonam Kyi was earlier arrested for allegedly sharing information with outsiders on the 2008 mass uprising in Tibet’s capital Lhasa. She has since been banished and forbidden from visiting the capital city by Chinese authorities.
According to the same sources, Nyima was later released after Chinese authorities seized his mobile phone and other equipments.
The condition and whereabouts of the arrested Tibetans remain unknown.
Following the recent spike in the wave of self-immolation protests, Chinese authorities, instead of addressing the grievances of the protesters, have announced a series of strict security measures, charging anyone found inciting or abetting self-immolations with murder and penalising people for offering condolence and prayers for the self-immolators.
Several Tibetans have been arrested and sentenced to lengthy jail terms on charges of sharing information on the self-immolation protests.
Since 2009, as many as 96 known Tibetans have set themselves on fire protesting China’s rule and demanding freedom and the return of Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama from exile. The new year has already witnessed a fiery start with the self-immolation of Tsering Tashi, 22, who passed away in his protest in Amchok region of Sangchu, eastern Tibet on January 12, 2013.
The Dalai Lama recently renewed calls for a “thorough investigation” into the causes behind the wave of self-immolations while speaking to a major Indian new channel.
“Last year, when this (self-immolation) first happened, I was in Japan and I said that the time has come the Chinese government must carry thorough investigation and find the cause of these sad events,” the Tibetan spiritual leader said. “These events are symptom of some cause.”
He further noted that two to three generations of Tibetans inside Tibet have “really suffered a lot” under China’s rule.