Free Tibet’s research partner Tibet Watch has learned that three Tibetans were arrested for sharing photos of an official event organised by the government of Yushul Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Kyegudo, eastern Tibet. The event commemorating the so-called “celebration” of the 70th founding anniversary of Yushul Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture started on 4 August. Chinese official media reported the event was attended by delegates from Beijing, and provincial and other prefecture-level authorities.
During the anniversary, security and armed forces were deployed everywhere. Video surveillance cameras and numerous checkpoints were installed everywhere, and Tibetans attending the event were randomly searched for their mobile phones and belongings.
A witness from the event site confided that three Tibetans were arrested at a checkpoint on the fifth day of the anniversary on 8 August after mobile phone inspections. Local police arrested them for sharing some photos of the anniversary in a WeChat group. Chinese authorities suspect that the WeChat group, named Unity Group, on which the photos were shared, has many members from outside Tibet.
Those three Tibetans are Rinchen Dorjee and Lhundup from Domda Township (Tib: སྡོམ་མདའ་ཡུལ་ཚོ་) in Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai Province and Kalsang Nyima from Za Sershul County (Tib: རྫ་སེར་ཤུལ་རྫོང་) in Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province.
“They were arrested and taken away by four local police from a checkpoint stationed at the entry gate of the function ground. Currently, their whereabouts are unknown due to severe restrictions in the area”, a source told Tibet Watch.
Tibet Watch has learned that the rest of the anniversary event has since been suspended. The reasons behind the sudden change remain yet to be disclosed.
Despite the arrests over the photos, Chinese government-run WeChat platforms posted many pictures from the same event, which remain online, accompanied with official propaganda. Amongst the many photos were images of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) leaders like Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and Xi Jinping, as well as China’s national flag. Propaganda photography of truck parades with Chinese armies and local Tibetans who were ordered to carry posters of the CCP’s leaders, Chinese flags and celebration banners were also shared.
Information supplied by Tibet Watch