China has made possessing the Tibetan flag illegal in Tibet.
More than six million people face brutal imprisonment for owning, waving or flying their national flag. It is censored from any media in China. Because of this, the flag has become a symbol of protest and unity for Tibetans.
For example, 21-year-old monk Choemi Palten, who would later self-immolate in 2012, was detained in Lhasa in 2010 for carrying a Tibetan flag. He also had a picture of the Dalai Lama and a Tibetan song “Sound of Unity” saved on his phone.
In Driru county in September 2013, local Tibetans threw Chinese flags into the river after being ordered to fly them above their houses. The authorities flooded the area with security forces and more than 60 Tibetans were injured after a protest was fired upon. Protests and arrests have continued in the county for months.
Tortured over Tibet flag
Lhamo Kyab was hospitalised several times during the 11 months he was detained before any charges were brought against him. In this video, actor Dominic West reads Lhamo Kyab’s torture testimony, delivered after he escaped to India in 2009.
A nomad from Amdo in eastern Tibet, Lhamo Kyab fled to India in 2003, but he dreamed of returning to Tibet to fly the national flag over a holy mountain near his home. He set out to do just that but he was arrested before he could raise the flag.
In detention he was strapped to a metal chair that was welded onto the floor and suffered permanent damage to his liver and lost hearing in one ear as a result of repeated beatings.
Eventually he was sentenced to three years in prison for possession of the Tibetan national flag, attempting to fly the Tibetan flag, returning illegally from India and planning to undertake the act of ‘splitting the country’.