A Tibetan man detained in March for sharing photos on social media ahead of a sensitive political anniversary has been held incommunicado ever since, with his relatives fearing he may have been tortured in custody, an India-based Tibetan advocacy group said this week.
Pema Samdup, 26, was detained by police in Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa on March 9, one day before the 60th anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) said in a Nov. 12 press release.
“Samdup had been detained due to ‘political reasons’ and for ‘sharing photos on his WeChat account,’” the rights group said, citing anonymous sources and adding that family members were never formally notified of his arrest.
News of detentions of Tibetans or of Tibetan protests against Chinese rule is frequently delayed in reaching outside contacts owing to strict communications clampdowns imposed by Chinese authorities in Tibetan areas.
Chinese authorities meanwhile typically block the sharing among Tibetans of photos of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama or of Tibetan protests.
Relatives now worry that Samdup, a college graduate and former resident of Chamdo prefecture’s Tengchen (in Chinese, Dengqen) county, may have been abused or harmed in detention, TCHRD said.
“[The detention officers] in Chamdo are notorious for using brutal torture methods on political detainees,” one source, a close relative living in exile, told the rights group.
“I now fear for his life,” Samdup’s relative said.
The detention and suspected torture of Pema Samdup are “flagrant violations of his human rights and fundamental freedoms,” TCHRD said, calling on China to grant Samdup “immediate and unhindered” access to his family members, along with any medical treatment he may require.
Language rights advocate held
Meanwhile, a Tibetan monk who vanished in Chinese custody in September after posting criticisms of China’s restrictions on the use of the Tibetan language has been located in Sichuan’s Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) county, TCHRD said in a separate statement.
Sonam Palden, 22 and a monk at Ngaba’s Kirti monastery, “is currently being held in the Ngaba County Public Security Bureau detention centre. His family members have not been able to contact him,” TCHRD said.
“TCHRD fears that the prolonged incommunicado detention of Sonam Palden will gravely endanger his life given the fact that the worst torture happens during pretrial detention and in the secrecy of Chinese detention facilities,” the rights group said.
“TCHRD calls on the Chinese authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally and also provide him proper medical treatment without delay.”
Tibetans say Chinese authorities regularly restrict their political activities and peaceful expression of ethnic and religious identity in the Tibetan region, and subject them to persecution, torture, imprisonment, and extrajudicial killings.
Language rights have become a particular focus for Tibetan efforts to assert national identity in recent years, with informally organized language courses typically deemed “illegal associations” and teachers subject to detention and arrest, sources say.