News and Views on Tibet

Tibetan writer Gangkar confirmed to be serving time in Chinese custody

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Rongwo Gangkar in an undated photo (Photo/RFA)

By Choekyi Lhamo

DHARAMSHALA, June 10: A prominent Tibetan scholar named Rongwo Gangkar, who had disappeared over a year ago, has now been confirmed to have been arrested by the Chinese authorities, according to Radio Free Asia sources. The 48-year-old was suspected to have been captured but only recently a Tibetan source from inside Tibetan confirmed that Gangkar was likely detained in early 2021. “He was missing since the beginning of 2021, but we only later learned from a few of his friends and acquaintances that he was suddenly taken into custody on the orders of the Chinese government. Few were aware of his arrest, due to tight restrictions in place because of COVID-19 at the time,” the source divulged.

The detained Tibetan writer has authored popular works such as “The Knot” and “And interview with Gendun Choephel”; Gangkar hails from Rebkong, a county in Malho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, and belonged to the Rongwo monastery. “A common characteristic among those detained individuals is their extensive scholarship on Tibetan language, culture, literature that have captured the imagination of many young Tibetans. This appears to be the sole reason behind their detention because there is no instance of any of them violating any domestic laws,” TCHRD wrote in December, as the group noted the crackdown on Tibetan intellectuals, also naming Gangkar as one of the missing scholars in Tibet.

The writer and poet Gendun Lhundrup who was also held incommunicado for over a year since 2020, he is currently detained in a Chinese prison in Siling (Ch: Xining). According to RFA, he is currently undergoing political re-education and forced to “translate Tibetan Buddhist scripts into Mandarin Chinese”. He is a former monk at the Rongwo monastery and known by his pen name Lhamkok who has published numerous books since 1994. Activist groups in exile have continued to demand the immediate release of all arbitrary detentions and called for fair trials to be conducted, which is mandated by the Chinese constitution.

The former political prisoner Tashi Wangchuk, known for his advocacy of language rights, was also interrogated for calling out the Chinese government on language restrictions in the public domain. Wangchuk had expressed concern on Weibo on January 3 where he said, “With no exams allowed in the Tibetan language for Tibetans applying for government jobs, young Tibetans have no choice but to study Chinese in their schools and ignore their own language.” The 35-year-old was released in January 2021 after completing his five-year sentence but is currently serving five years of deprivation of political rights as per his sentence.

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