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Teen tortured, two other imprisoned for failure to register WeChat group

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Dadul after being tortured by Chinese police (Photo:Free Tibet)

By Tenzin Dharpo

DHARAMSHALA, Mar. 2: Two Tibetan teenagers have reportedly been imprisoned and another hospitalized after being brutally tortured and both legs broken on February 17, for failure to register a WeChat group with local authorities, rights group Free Tibet said Tuesday.

The three teens who were identified as Dadul, Sangye Tso and Kansi (nickname), live in Kyegudo, in the area of eastern Tibet’s so called Qinghai Province. Dadul is said to be beaten brutally, sustaining grave injury to both his legs, Free Tibet said citing Tibet Watch, a research outlet specialising on Tibet.  

“His family have been summoned by the police and were told to bring not more than two family members and 40,000 yuan (around £6,000 US dollars) to a hospital hundreds of kilometres away in Xining, ostensibly to pay for surgery,” the rights group said adding that the family was threatened not to tell anyone of the matter.

There is no information on the whereabouts and condition of Sangye Tso and Kansi at the moment.

Sangye Tso in an undated photo (Photo/Free Tibet)

 “These young people have been brutalised for exercising a right that most of take for granted on a daily basis. I’d ask everyone to imagine if they had to invite a government official to every one of their chat groups or face imprisonment and broken limbs,” said John Jones, Campaigns and Advocacy Manager, at Free Tibet.

The Chinese Communist Party mandates that all chat groups be registered with local authorities so that an official can also join the group to monitor conversations. The group created by the teens, the name of which translates as ‘White Rocky Mountain Club’, a reference to a local Buddhist deity, was set up prior to Losar, or the Tibetan new year. The group currently has around 240 members.

WeChat, a micro messaging app is at the center of many incidents where Chinese authorities have, with the help of the app, arrested and persecuted Tibetans over the years. In a 2016 Amnesty International report on user privacy, Tencent which owns WeChat, scored a zero out of 100 for failure to declare government requests for users’ personal information and for not deploying end-to-end encryption of messages. At least 29 Tibetans were arrested or detained in connection to their WeChat posts between 2014 and 2019 alone, according to Tibet Action Institute.

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