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Tibetan man arrested for failing to register WeChat group

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Lotse in an undated photo (Photo/Tibet Times)

By Choekyi Lhamo

DHARAMSHALA, July 30: A Tibetan man named Lotse was arrested and forcefully taken away from his home to the police station in Sershul County in Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture on Monday. He was arrested for failing to register a WeChat group which was reportedly made for the birthday anniversary of the exiled spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The 57-year-old was accused of neglecting the state law that requires users to register WeChat groups with local regulatory authorities.  

The Chinese instant messaging app is a crucial tool used by the Chinese government to crackdown on Tibetans perceived to be loyal to the Dalai Lama. The online chat group, which resulted in Lotse’s arrest, had around 100 members from across Tibet. According to sources, the single father of two sons is now believed to be detained by authorities in Sershul. Local Tibetans were questioned about him and pressured by police in the period leading up to his arrest. “Chinese police also visited Lotse at his home before his arrest and threatened him for creating such a group without the government’s permission,” a source told Radio Free Asia.

The politically sensitive month of July has mostly been marred with arrests made in connection to the celebration of the octogenarian leader Dalai Lama, especially around July 6 which is the birthday of the exiled leader. Possession of the Dalai Lama’s photo, espousing any association with the leader online or otherwise, or sharing his teachings can result in heavy punishment. Three Tibetans were arrested for possessing photos of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the months of June and July; an unknown Tibetan man from Kardze and two Tibetan sisters from Nagchu were arrested for allegations related to possessing images of the Dalai Lama.

Another case of failure to register a WeChat group was reported last year in February where one teenager was brutally tortured while two others were imprisoned for creating a group with around 240 members. The name of the group loosely translated to ‘White Rocky Mountain Club’, a reference to a local Buddhist deity. Wechat, a company owned by Tencent Holdings Limited, experts say, is an effective surveillance tool of the Chinese government in the larger eco-system of its state-sanctioned web of scrutiny.

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