DHARAMSHALA, February 22: China has sentenced a Tibetan youth to two years in prison for storing images of Tibet self-immolations and the banned Tibetan national flag in his mobile phone.
The Dharamshala based Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, in a release yesterday, said Ngawang Topden, 20, a student of thangka painting from Jomda region of eastern Tibet was arrested on October 12 last year in the Tibetan capital city of Lhasa. He had been staying in the city for the last three years with all required legal documents.
“He was apprehended by Chinese security personnel during a routine check near the city mosque,” the release cited a Tibetan source as saying. “Upon checking his mobile phone, the Chinese police found two photos of self-immolation protests, images of Tibetan national flag, and other photos showing Chinese atrocities on Tibetans.”
The release added that he was kept in various prisons for over a week during which he was constantly interrogated. Topden was later sentenced to two years in prison on charges of being a “reactionary, inciting the public, and threatening social stability.” He is currently being kept in a prison in Toelung region.
The Tibetan parliament noted that several Tibetans in and around Lhasa region were detained during the same period following an intense security clampdown in the build up to the 18th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing.
Last year, global rights group Human Rights Watch reported on increased restrictions on news, media, and communications in Tibet aimed at ensuring what Party Secretary Chen Quanguo of the so called Tibetan Autonomous Region said “absolute security of Tibet’s ideological and cultural realm.”
The measures involved significantly increased controls on internet use, text messages, phone ownership, music publishing, and photocopying, as well as intensified government propaganda through new TV channels, village education sessions, film showings, distribution of books, and the provision of satellite television receivers with fixed reception to government channels.
In December last, four Tibetans were arrested in Rebkong region of eastern Tibet on similar charges of storing “reactionary” materials in the phone after they were found keeping photos of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in their phones.