Singer detained over song mourning life without freedom

Family appeals for information on Gegjom Dorjee who remains in custody since Tibetan new year

A Tibetan singer whose song openly expressed anguish of Tibetans under Chinese rule during a new year music concert was detained by police three months ago.

Tibet Watch has learned that the police authorities of Khyungchu County have been holding Gegjom Dorjee under arbitrary detention since 12 February 2024 – the third day of Losar or Tibetan new year – after he was summoned to report at the county police station.

His family’s attempts to seek further information have only been met with a warning from the police, according to a source, who shared that the police told the family: “Dorjee has serious political thoughts and he must be educated to change his thoughts.”

Gegjom performed Sad Song of Whirled Tears (སྐྱོ་གླུ་མཆི་མ་དགུ་འཁྱིལ།) with the Tibetan stringed lute called Dranyen at a Tibetan new year concert, nearly a month before his detention on 15 January 2024. In a video recording of his performance, the audience can be heard giving him enthusiastic applause.

The song begins with a direct reference to the absence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Tibet, who is mentioned as the Gyalwa – referring to the widely used honorific Tibetan term Gyalwa Rinpoche, the Precious Triumphant One. The collective tragedy of Tibetans is later represented as the experience of the “red-faced” ones – a symbolic metaphor that the Tibetans have identified themselves with since ancient times.

Singing was his passion since childhood, and he is known to have participated in numerous other Tibetan concerts in the past. Gegjom, now in his early thirties, was born in a nomadic family in Tsoeru Village (གཙོས་རུ་སྡེ་བ) in Camp II of Washul Mepa Township (ཝ་ཤུལ་རྨེ་བའི་སྦྲ་ཆེན་ཡུལ་ཚོ།) in Khungchu County (ཁྱུང་མཆུ་རྫོང་།), Ngaba autonomous prefecture of Sichuan province.

Tibet Watch has provided Free Tibet with a translation of Sad Song Of Whirled Tears:


In this land without the Gyalwa,


leaders are here but fake ones.


Tibetans lost without direction,


are like a doe in the midst of fog.


In this place without truth,


light of the land is eclipsed.


The red-faced with no equality,


are like ants beneath boots of the mighty.


In this land of torture and beatings,


the flame of peace is empty talk


We, the Tibetans without freedom


are like a small bird in a cage.

Information supplied by Tibet Watch.

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