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Tibetan Protester Detained, Missing in Serthar

A young Tibetan protester detained last month in southwestern China’s Sichuan province is still missing after more than 40 days in custody, Tibetan sources say.

Sonam Tashi, 20, was seized by police in Sichuan’s Serthar (in Chinese, Seda) county on Jan. 5 after staging a solitary protest in the county town, former political prisoner Golog Jigme told RFA’s Tibetan Service, speaking from Switzerland and citing sources in Serthar.

“As he marched, he threw leaflets in the air and called out for freedom for Tibet and the long life of [exiled spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama,” Jigme said, adding, “Chinese police quickly overpowered him and took him away.”

“He has been held incommunicado ever since,” Jigme said.

News of Tashi’s detention was briefly delayed from reaching outside media contacts due to a communications clampdown imposed by Chinese authorities in the area.

Fearing possible outbreaks of unrest during the Chinese Lunar New Year, Chinese authorities had deployed large numbers of police to Serthar in the period leading up to the holiday, with most still stationed in the area, Jigme said.

“And in this atmosphere of heightened security, local Tibetans’ movements are being closely watched,” he said.

Tashi, a native of Serthar’s Serkhok township, has now disappeared in custody, Jigme said.

“[Tashi’s] family members have asked the relevant Chinese authorities about his present condition and whereabouts, but no details have been made available,” he said.

“Where he is being held remains unknown.”

A continuing campaign of destruction of monastic dwellings at Serthar’s Larung Gar Buddhist Academy by Chinese authorities has raised tensions and resentment among Tibetans living in the county, sources say.

Thousands of Tibetan and Han Chinese monks and nuns, along with a few Western students, have already been expelled from Larung Gar as authorities seek to reduce the center’s population by about half to a maximum level of 5,000 this year.

Radio Free Asia, 2017-02-16