News and Views on Tibet

Tibetan teacher in Lhasa detained over lockdown post

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Tibetans in a village in Tibet being tested for the virus by Chinese authorities (Photo/Facebook)

By Choekyi Lhamo

DHARAMSHALA, Sept 28: A Tibetan teacher named Gontse has reportedly been detained in Chongchi County on August 14 by the Chinese police following his social media posts about the Covid-19 lockdown in the capital city of Lhasa. According to the Dharamshala-based group Tibet Watch, the teacher in his 40s hails from Walshul Meruwa Township, Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Eastern Tibet.

The teacher’s online accounts remain locked following his arrest; his posts on WeChat and Weibo had photos and videos highlighted the dire conditions of Tibetans in Lhasa during the unprecedented lockdown measures. Many have used social media platforms to speak out against the Covid-19 mismanagement by the authorities, citing poor medical supervision and inadequate food supplies for thousands of people under quarantine.

A Tibetan nomad named Rinchen Dhondup and six others were also detained in Serthar County earlier this month for merely sharing Covid-related photos and videos online following the Zero-Covid policy’s strict implementation. Harsh measures such as indefinite lockdowns, forced quarantines and lack of basic amenities under the guise of pandemic prevention have been seen in both Tibet and East Turkestan (Xinjiang). 

A Weibo post in Chinese from Tibet, translated in English by Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, on Sept 15 read, “In cobwebbed and unpainted buildings, hundreds ate beside boxes of trash. In the middle of the night, elders who do not understand Chinese and women with babies were taken to the quarantine centre on a bus. A pregnant woman lost a child, not able to reach the hospital in time. An elderly person’s corpse was denied funeral and refrigerated for testing. The blind and crippled are without help.”

Another post by a netizen expressed sheer disregard for the measures adopted to curb the outbreak, “Everything we post on Weibo and other online [platforms] are immediately removed. The official figures on the number of infected people and other information are not completely true. I was sincerely motivated and worked as a volunteer at first, but the way authorities functioned has generated fear in us.”

The Tibetan government-in-exile on Monday put out a statement denouncing the CCP government for their mismanagement of the pandemic, citing the numerous cries for help made by both local Tibetans and Chinese residents in Tibet. “We remain steady to extend any assistance in the form of immunity boosters Tibetan medicines, medical equipment, nurses, and volunteers without a second thought or hesitation to help Tibet fight the pandemic,” the Tibetan administration said offering help to Tibetans inside Tibet.

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