Three Tibetan teenagers living in western China’s Qinghai province have been arrested, with one sent to a hospital with broken bones, for failing to register a chat group on the popular social media platform WeChat with Chinese authorities, Tibetan sources say.
The three teens—identified by sources as Dadul, Sangye Tso, and Kansi, a nickname—were taken into custody after setting up their group during the Tibetan New Year, also called Losar, in mid-February, London-based Free Tibet said in a statement Wednesday.
The group, called White Rocky Mountain Club, quickly gained 240 followers, alarming Chinese authorities who fear loss of control over political and social commentary by Tibetans over social media platforms, Free Tibet said.
“These young people have been brutalized for exercising a right that most of us take for granted on a daily basis,” Free Tibet Campaigns and Advocacy Manager John Jones said in a statement. “I’d like to ask everyone to imagine if they had to invite a government official to [monitor] every one of their chat groups or face imprisonment and broken limbs.”
Speaking to RFA, a Tibetan living in exile confirmed the arrests of the three.
“Kansi, Sangye Tso, and Damdul [Dadul], who belonged to Domda township in Yushu prefecture’s Tridu [Chinese, Chenduo] county, were the presidents of this WeChat group,” RFA’s source said, citing contacts in the region.
“All three of them were arrested in Domda and were detained in the Kyegudo detention center. Damdul has one younger sister,” RFA’s source said.
Free Tibet said on March 3 that its research partner, Tibet Watch, later learned that the family of Dadul, whose legs were broken by police in a beating, were later told by Chinese authorities to bring 40,000 yuan (U.S. $6,000) with them to a hospital in Qinghai’s capital Xining to pay for Dadul’s treatment.
Tibetan residents of Dadul’s Domda township have meanwhile raised funds for Dadul’s hospital stay that were given to his mother, sources told RFA.
The present whereabouts of Sangye Tso and Kansi, who were taken with Dadul at first to the detention center in Kyegudo, are now unknown, sources said.
Daring to speak up
Free Tibet regularly receives “stories of political prisoners dying in jail or shortly after release from long sentences for daring to speak up against their oppressors in any small way,” Jones said in his statement Wednesday.
“We call on every government around the world to take concrete action to remind the [Chinese Communist Party] that, try as they might to hide their atrocities, we have not forgotten the Tibetan people.”
Formerly an independent nation, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force nearly 70 years ago, and the Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers fled into exile in India and other countries around the world following a failed March 10, 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.
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.
Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Tenzin Dickyi. Written in English by Richard Finney.
This post was originally published on Radio Free.