July 21, 2006

Tibetan Monk Still Being Held in Kandze

A lay boy and three monks of Kandze County of Sichuan Province were arrested in October 2005 at a bridge between Shigatse and Sakya in Tibet while trying to escape to India. One of them is still being held
A lay boy and three monks of Kandze County of Sichuan Province were arrested in October 2005 at a bridge between Shigatse and Sakya in Tibet while trying to escape to India. They were taken back to Kandze County Town after which the lay boy and two monks were released in February 2006 but one monk, Namkha Gyaltsen is still in Kandze Prison and probably facing 6-7 years imprisonment for posting, displaying and circulating free Tibet pamphlets and Tibetan national flags in Kandze County in 2005, said our source who refused to disclose his identity for fear of retribution.

The lay boy, a painter by profession had three monk friends in Kandze Monastery who requested him to paint Tibetan National flags. The monks then wrote slogans of free Tibet and human rights for Tibetans on pamphlets and secretly posted, displayed and circulated the pamphlets and Tibetan National Flags in the vegetable market and outside the walls of big shops in Kandze County Town and some other places in the County on 1 July 2005, coinciding with the founding anniversary of Chinese Communist Party but none of them got arrested.

When asked what prompted them to indulge in such risky activities, the source said, "they believe that Tibet is a free nation, the Chinese Government is implementing many policies in their area that they don't like. The government is planting willow trees and thorns on most Tibetan farmland; other farmland are occupied and leased to Chinese for growing vegetables and the Tibetans are dispossessed.

They were promised grain and money in compensation but so far nothing was provided, so Tibetans are becoming poor and out of desperation some parents are even encouraging their children to steal as there is no other means of earning livelihood and the Chinese Government is not doing anything to help". The Tibetan campaign was not discovered for about three months but later the local police knew about it and began an extensive search following which the four decided to escape in October 2005.

The painter left for Lhasa and the three monks followed him later and stayed there for about 15 days. One of them called his family in Kandze and found out that five police officers was on their trail to Lhasa. Fearing for their life, they hired a guide and paid 3500 Yuan per person and left for Shigatse in a vehicle accompanied by another monk from Lhoka. From Shigatse they joined other pilgrims in a vehicle going to Sakya hoping to use the route to escape.

Unfortunately at around 5 AM, their vehicle was stopped at a bridge check post and police picked six persons out from amongst the passengers and arrested them. Our source is of opinion that the police were either informed by their guide or the owner of the house where they stayed in Lhasa. The Chinese police are allegedly rewarding all informers with good money. They were then taken to a prison in Shigatse, beaten and detained for one week and then handed over to their respective counties. The ainter and the monks were handed over to the officers who pursued them and taken back to Kandze County Town. They were severely tortured in the Kandze County Prison but they never accepted that they were trying to escape to India.

Since the authorities could not prove anything, the boy and one monk were released in February 2005 after six months in prison. Another monk deliberately went hungry in prison for one week and became severely ill. Unwilling to take responsibility, the police handed him over to his family. But one monk, Namkha Gyaltsen was accused of advocating separatist activities in Kandze County in July and is still being held. Namkha later admitted his involvement in the campaign and according to our source, he is facing a sentence of 6-7 years imprisonment.

Namkha Gyaltsen is 27 years old and one of the four master chanters of the Kandze Monastery in Kandze County Town that has over 500 monks. His three companions have to report to Kandze Public Security Bureau once every two weeks and cannot travel outside their county without permission. At present, the two monks are living with their families, as they are not allowed to return to their monastery.

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