By Tenzin Sangmo
A-nya Sengdra in an undated photo. Source-TCHRD
DHARAMSHALA, Dec. 21: A 47-year-old Tibetan activist working to promote good governance, anti-corruption and social accountability from Kyanche in Qinghai, Amdo has been detained by Chinese authorities.
A-nya Sengdra was beaten up at the highway intersection in Golok TAP by Gade County Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers and taken to its detention centre in Drotsang County, Tsoshar Prefecture, where he is believed to be held.
He has been a firm campaigner against government corruption at least since 2014 when he and other nomads formed a voluntary organization called ‘Mang Dhon Ling’ (Public Affairs Forum) which filed a petition calling for an investigation into the corrupt activities of the Gade County authorities and the hardships faced by the poor in his township.
In response, local authorities are said to have brought up an irrelevant case dating back to 2008 and got him arrested on 14 December 2014. He was sentenced to one year and 10 months in prison and was later released on 18 October 2016 from Dongchuan prison in Siling city.
In the petition dated 8 September 2018, Mrs Yangkyi , his wife appealed for his release calling him a ‘law-abiding’ citizen who was falsely arrested.
Since his detention, his family’s multiple attempts to visit him including interventions from his lawyer, Mr Lin Qilei, failed.
When Lin Qilei, the lawyer, finally managed to visit Sengdra in detention on October 22, he remarked that his client’s health has acutely deteriorated and attributed it to the local police's decision to detain him in a distant town of Drotsang, where the unsuitable conditions left Sengdra with a severe diarrhoea and loss of appetite. He was unable to drink or eat anything for more than five days.
The lawyer said that Sengdra had expressed doubts over the intention of local authorities to detain him in Drotsang rather than in Gade County. “It could be a ploy to torture me. I did not commit any crime; I simply appealed the higher authorities on the wellbeing of the local people,” Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) quoted him as saying.
On top of the original charge against Sengdra of ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble’ a notice was issued on 11 December by the Gade County PSB that extended his detention period from 12 November to 12 January 2019 based on local authorities’ demand for further investigation as they suspect that he had committed other crimes in addition to ‘provoking trouble’.
According to TCHRD, ‘Provoking trouble’ is a vaguely worded offence under Article 293 of Chinese Criminal Law that has been increasingly used in recent years particularly since Xi Jinping’s presidency to persecute and launch reprisals against human rights defenders and other activists critical of government policies and practices.
TCHRD said it strongly condemned the arbitrary detention of Sengdra on the politicised charge of ‘provoking trouble’ and calls for his immediate and unconditional release, provision for family members to visit him and medical care and humane treatment.
“Criminalising Mr Sengdra’s heroic campaigns against corruption only exposes the hollowness and hypocrisy of the current Chinese leadership’s so-called war on corruption, said Tsering Tsomo, executive director of TCHRD.