Police in western China’s Sichuan province have arrested a senior monk at a Tibetan monastery in Ngaba county on suspicion of holding politically sensitive discussions on the popular WeChat social media platform.
Tibetan sources told Radio Free Asia that the 45-year-old monk known as Konmey, in charge of discipline at Ngaba’s Trotsik monastery, was taken into custody on July 20 and is now being held in detention.
“He had performed prayers on his WeChat group, but he only talked about the number of prayers he had accumulated,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “He said nothing at all about political issues.”
Konmey had enrolled at Trotsik monastery at a young age and had risen to be head of the monastery’s discipline committee, according to information received from a source at the Dharamsala, India-based branch of Ngaba’s Kirti monastery.
No details were immediately available regarding specific charges brought against Konmey or his present whereabouts or condition, the source at Kirti said.
Speaking to RFA, a Tibetan source living in exile said he doubted that Konmey would have discussed politically sensitive topics online.
“Konmey is someone who is usually aware of politics, but he wouldn’t talk about politically sensitive issues on social media. We believe that he was detained because of his involvement in a WeChat group where he was only reciting prayers,” the source said.
“We don’t know that there were any other kinds of conversations on that WeChat group, only praying,” he said.
Chinese communication clampdowns in Tibetan areas aimed at stopping the flow of news about protests or other information to outside contacts have made it difficult to learn more about Konmey’s present circumstances, the source added.
“There are tight restrictions in place in Ngaba at the moment, so I would advise Tibetans in exile not to try to communicate with Tibetans living inside Tibet,” he said.
Formerly an independent nation, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force 70 years ago.
Chinese authorities maintain a tight grip on the region, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of cultural and religious identity, and subjecting Tibetans to persecution, torture, imprisonment, and extrajudicial killings.
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