Tibetan arrested for creating ‘illegitimate’ WeChat group

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Chinese officials in a Tibetan-populated region of Sichuan this month arrested a Tibetan man accused of setting up a group honoring Tibetan religious leaders on the popular social media platform WeChat, Tibetan sources said.

Lotse, 57 and a resident of Sichuan Sershul (in Chinese, Shiqu) district in Kardze (Ganzi) Tibet Autonomous Prefecture, was taken into custody in July for creating the chat group called “80e Birthday celebration,” a Tibetan living in exile told RFA this week.

“This WeChat group was established to celebrate the birthdays of all revered Tibetan lamas, and the group has about 100 members who come from all parts of Tibet,” the RFA source said, citing local contacts and speaking on the condition of anonymity for security reasons.

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Chinese authorities called Lotse’s formation of the group “illegitimate,” the source added.

Lotse, a single father of two sons, is now believed to be detained by authorities somewhere in Sershul, and local Tibetans were questioned about him and pressured by police in the period leading up to his arrest, the source said.

“Chinese police also visited Lotse’s home before his arrest and threatened him for setting up such a group without government approval,” he added.

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Forbidden Birthday Celebration

Sichuan authorities arrested two Tibetans in 2021 for celebrating the 86the July 6 birthday of the exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, sources told RFA in previous reports.

The couple, a man named Kunchok Tashi and a woman named Dzapo, both in their 40s, were taken into custody in the Kyaglung town of Kardze on suspicion of participating in a social media group that shared images and documents and encouraged the saying of Tibetan prayers on the birthday of the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet into exile in India amid a failed 1959 Tibetan national uprising against the rule of China, which invaded the previously independent Himalayan country in 1950.

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Displays by Tibetans of photos of the Dalai Lama, public celebrations of his birthday, and sharing his teachings on mobile phones or other social media are often severely punished.

Chinese authorities are firmly in control of Tibetan-populated regions of western China, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of cultural and religious identity, and subjecting Tibetans to captivity, torture and extrajudicial killings.

twanted by Tenzin Dickyi for RFA Tibetan. Written in English by Richard Finney.