(TibetanReview.net, Feb15’22) – Nomadic Tibetans are being arrested and sent to labour camp in large numbers in a part of eastern Tibet, now annexed to China’s Sichuan Province, after being found with banned contents, including pictures of the Dalai Lama, in their mobile phones, reported the Tibetan Service of rfa.org Feb 14.
Draggo (Chinese: Luhuo) County of Kardze (Ganzi) Prefecture where the arrests are reported to be taking place was recently hit by demolitions of a landmark Buddha statue and other distinctive religious structures by the Chinese government and the arrest of many Tibetans who protested against it.
The current crackdown on mobile phone contents even in remote Tibetan areas is linked to the general strengthening of repression during the ongoing Beijing Winter Olympics.
“Many Tibetans were detained in January after Draggo County police searched their phone data in Likhog town,” the report quoted an exile Tibetan with local contacts as saying. “Most of them are detained in a labour camp in Thangnagma.”
“It is not just a few Tibetans, but many Tibetans arrested this time,” the source was quoted as saying, speaking on condition of anonymity due to safety concerns.
Most of the residents of Likhog, located about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the Draggo County seat, are Tibetan nomads and they were being arrested in large numbers, the report said.
The crackdown was stated to have begun with the authorities summoning the Tibetans to police station where their mobile phones were examined for photos, videos or other types of banned contents and to find out whether the owners had been in contact with Tibetans living in exile.
While this move has been underway since Oct 2021, with the violators being detained for a week or so and then let off with dire warnings, such Tibetans are now being sent to labour camp, the report said.
Security measures and restrictions were stated to have been strengthened even in towns and villages throughout Tibet in the run up to the Beijing Winter Olympics, which opened on Feb 4. Personal searches were stated to focus especially on banned mobile phone contents and to look for evidences of outside contacts.