Following demonstrations in Drago County in January 2012, where Chinese forces opened fire on protesters, killing two and injuring dozens more, four monks travelled to Tridu County. Among them was Geshe Tsewang Namgyal, who recently returned from a study tour at Drepung Monastery in India.
Though they were not involved in the protests, Chinese State Security forces may have thought that they were about to share information about what had happened to the outside world. Some of the four were arrested in an internet cafe, where Tibetans have to show identity documents in order to use the internet. It is unclear how the Chinese authorities knew that they were in the cafe. However, we do know that the Chinese state has hardware that allows them to closely monitor internet traffic.
Arrest and release
None of the monks’ relatives received any information on their locations and wellbeing for the first six months of their arrest. Then, in November 2012, it was confirmed that Geshe Tsewang Namgyal was sentenced to six years in prison, with the other monks receiving between five and seven years. All were charged with taking part in the protests in Drago County.
In January 2018, Geshe Tsewang Namgyal was finally released from prison. However, his health was catastrophic. Due to prolonged beatings and torture while in custody, he has suffered permanent injuries to his legs and is unable to walk without the use of a mobility aid. As of 2022, he is in a critical condition, and is still haunted by the police every day. A condition of his release requires that he register every trip outside of his hometown with the police, including hospital visits, and he is required to “keep everything secret”.