Home News Authorities arrest Tibetan man twice for possessing Dalai Lama photo

Authorities arrest Tibetan man twice for possessing Dalai Lama photo

Chinese authorities have arrested a Tibetan man for a second time for being in possession of a photo of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, sources with knowledge of the situation said. 

Possessing photos of the Dalai Lama, who has resided in northern India since 1959, is considered an act of separatism and has been a punishable offense in Tibetan-populated areas of China for decades.

Tibetan sources recently told RFA that authorities arrested Tsultrim, a Tibetan from Tsaruma township in Ngaba’s Kyungchu county, in February 2023 after they discovered pictures of the 14th Dalai Lama on his mobile phone. 

He was detained until April, they said, when he was sentenced to two years in prison by the People’s Court of Ngaba, a Tibetan region in southwestern China’s Sichuan province, also known as Aba in Chinese.

Chinese authorities maintain a tight grip on Tibet, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of cultural and religious identity. Tibetans frequently complain of discrimination and human rights abuses by authorities and policies they say are aimed at eradicating their national and cultural identity.

Authorities in China maintain a tight lockdown on the flow of information in and out of the country’s Tibetan regions, and it can often take weeks to learn of arrests and other incidents through the exile community.

Tsultrim, whose age is unknown, is serving his sentence in Yaknga Prison, and none of his family and friends are allowed to see him, said a Tibetan who lives in exile. 

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After graduating from Northwestern Minzu University in 2016, Tsultrim worked as a self-employed businessman, said the source who declined to be named so he could speak freely. 

“He has always been an intelligent young Tibetan and has advocated for preservation of the Tibetan language,” the source said.

Prior to this incident, Chinese authorities summoned and interrogated Tsultrim in July 2022 for sharing a picture of the 14th Dalai Lama on social media and saving the photo on his mobile phone, said a Tibetan from inside the western region. 

Authorities examined his phone and detained him for two months until September when he was released, said the source who also declined to be named.

“However, during his detention, he was beaten and had gone through such a tough time that he wished death upon himself,” the source told RFA.  

In May, authorities also sentenced two Tibetan monks in Sershul county, or Shiqu in Chinese, on separatism charges for possessing photos of the Dalai Lama on their phones, giving one three years and six months in jail, and the other three years, RFA reported earlier.

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