News and Views on Tibet

Over a hundred Tibetans detained for sensitive content on phone in Nagchu

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Tibetans queuing at the call of local officials for interrogation in Nagchu (Photo/Tibet Watch)

By Choekyi Lhamo

DHARAMSHALA, Aug 13: At least 110 Tibetans in Janglam village, Nyanrong County in Nagchu Prefecture were detained on suspicion of sharing videos of preparations for a local horse racing festival, according to findings by Dharamshala-based Tibet Watch. As of now, 80 Tibetans have been released after being forced to pay a monetary fine but details of 30 detainees remain unknown.

An anonymous source on the report revealed, “Local Chinese authorities held a meeting with the villagers around 9.30 in the morning. During the meeting, they asked all the villagers to put their mobile phones in a box on the table and later conducted a search operation. It was reported that eleven police officers were present at the meeting and they called out names of 110 people and took them to the police station.

Many local Tibetans were interrogated for the online content on the horse-racing festival on August 9. According to the report, 80 detained Tibetans had to pay a fine of 5000 yuan for their release. However, prior to the event, Chinese officials had issued a notice to the attendees, warning them with monetary fines and required weekly presence at the police, if they take photos or videos of the officials at the preparation or share them online.

The local Chinese officials reportedly conducted a random search operation for content on phones before and during the official event. The presence of armed forces and police during the entire festival indicated a desire to maintain strict surveillance. However, a report from RFA Tibetan service said that the authorities had indefinitely cancelled the horse racing festival due to the pandemic, but a researcher at Tibet Watch has confirmed that the official racing event was held at the Janglam village for at least a couple of days, following which the arrests took place.

According to rights group International Campaign for Tibet, in a circular dated August 5 by the Lhasa city Task Force to combat the pandemic said that  due to the surge of Covid-19 cases in 17 Chinese provinces and cities, all public-gathering events including the Shoton festival have been halted.

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