By Phuntsok Yangchen
DHARAMSHALA, March 15: Five Tibetans including two monks of Drilda monastery in Sog County were arrested by Chinese authorities on March 6 for allegedly sharing pictures and messages on WeChat, the China based popular messaging application, according to Ngawang Tharpa, a Tibetan living in exile with close contacts in Tibet.
The five Tibetans were identified as Norbu Dhondup, Monlam Gyatso, Tsering Tharpa, Kalsang Tsultrim and Thupten Palden. The current whereabouts of the five Tibetans are not known.
Kalsang Tsultrim and Thupten Palden, monks of Drilda monastery had earlier been arrested in May 2012 and sentenced to one year in prison. After serving a year prison term in Toelung prison in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet, they were released.
WeChat is a text and voice messaging communication service developed by Tencent in 2011 and is widely used by Tibetans inside and outside Tibet. It has become the most used mode of communication through its walkie-talkie style messaging facility. However, activists and experts fear that the app’s voice-messaging service enables security officials to monitor user’s movements in real time and access other information shared via the app.
The same source also reported that four of the six Tibetans including a fifteen year old juvenile arrested for allegedly writing “Tibet is an independent country” on ice sheet on February 3 were released. Sidsum, Dorjee, Lhakpa and his younger brother Jamyang Gyatso were released and have to report everyday to the local Chinese authorities’ office.
Moreover, the current condition and whereabouts of four Tibetan monks, Tsultrim Passang, 20; Lobsang Yeshi, 15; Kalsang Jampa, 22 and Kalsang Dorjee, 23 from Dowa Shartsang monastery who were arrested on Februrary 4 for distributing and pasting documents are still not known.
Tharpa also told Phayul that local Tibetans in Trido region in Sog County have written “Tibet is independent” with red paint on a bridge around March 10, the 55th anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising of Lhasa. Around 20 military trucks and 80 Chinese armed forces have been deployed in the region and are checking all the hotels in the area. The authorities are strictly monitoring all movements and intercepting communication lines.