Fear for Three Missing Tibetan Monks

An undated photograph of Sungrab Gyatso (left) and Yeshi Sangpo. Photo courtesy Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy.

An undated photograph of Sungrab Gyatso (left) and Yeshi Sangpo. Photo courtesy Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is concerned about three Tibetan monks – Sungrab Gyatso, Yeshi Sangpo and Draksang – of whom there has been no news since their arrest in Gonghe in early December for providing information about a demonstration.

At the same time, Wang Dengchao, a policeman and a pro-democracy activist, has been sentenced to 14 years in prison in Shenzhen, in the southeastern province of Guangdong.

“Jail sentences and holding detainees incommunicado are radical measures but they are used routinely against human rights activists who try to disseminate information that the regime wants to suppress,” Reporters Without Borders said.

According to the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) the three monks were arrested by local police for sharing information about a student demonstration on November 26th in Gonghe County. Many Tibetan monks have been arrested and jailed in recent months for circulating information about protests and cases of self-immolation.

More than 1,000 students protested on November 26th over the release of an official Chinese booklet which ridiculed the Tibetan language and condemned the series of self-immolation protests against Beijing. Chinese personnel used force to break the peaceful demonstration; more than 20 students were hospitalized and four were reported to have required emergency treatment.

Earlier in November, several thousand Tibetan students took to the streets in Rebgong county demanding greater rights and the return of the Dalai Lama following a record number of self-immolation protests against Chinese rule in Tibetan populated areas.

TCHRD says that on December 1st, local Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers detained Sungrab Gyatso, 36, and since then no one including his family members and friends has received any information about his whereabouts and condition. The two other monks, Yeshi Sangpo, 37, and Draksang, 26, never returned to the monastery after they went to the County government office for interrogation in response to a summons to report for interrogation. They have been missing since December 3rd.

Members of the People’s Armed Police (PAP) had gone to Khyamru monastery the night before to arrest them, but the monks inside refused to open the gates. The PAP responded by barricading the gates from the outside and denied access to other monks who arrived at the hour of prayer the next morning, suggesting that they address their complaints to the local government.

Around 150 monks quickly set off but were stopped by members of the local Tibetan population, who feared an outbreak of violence. Government officials later arrived with special forces and, according to witnesses, said they had a list of ten Tibetans for arrest, but for the time being just wanted to talk to Yeshi Sangpo and Draksang. As with Sungrab Gyatso, it is still not known where or in what conditions they are being held.

Wang Dengchao (王登朝), the 38-year-old policeman held in Shenzhen, was given the 14-year jail sentence on charges of embezzlement and obstructing officials. Arrested in March, he had closed links with several dissident bloggers and often visited online forums, where he posted pro-democracy messages and criticized China’s judicial and political systems.
“We are outraged by these practices, which show that the People’s Republic of China not only censors messages about freedom and justice but also continues to target those who transmit them. We call for the immediate release of the three monks and the policeman and the withdrawal of all the charges against them,” said Reporters Without Borders.

China is ranked 174th out of 179 countries in the 2011-2012 RSF Press Freedom Index and is on the 2012 RSF list of Enemies of the Internet.

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