Two men, Asang (ཨ་བཟང་།) and Dota (རྡོ་ཁྲ།), and a woman named Nortso (ནོར་མཚོ།) were arrested under suspicion of having photos and videos on their phones that showed the recent demolitions of Buddha statues at Drago Monastery.
Some of these images were found as background photos on their WeChat accounts, and appear to have been discovered during a phone search conducted upon their return from a pilgrimage to the monastic community of Larung Gar in neighbouring Serthar County.
Drago County police transferred the three detainees to the custody of authorities in Drag-yab County (Ch: Zhag’yab County), Chamdo City, Tibet Autonomous Region, over 600 kilometres away.
Tibet Watch has also confirmed that another arrest, of Tashi Dorje, a monk from Drago Monastery, took place at the beginning of January this year. Tashi’s arrest was reported earlier. He had been accused of sending information about Drago County’s situation outside Tibet.
“A Politically Sensitive Act”
The anonymous source explained to Tibet Watch that local Tibetans suspect the reasons for their arrest to be related to the photos and videos of demolitions of Drago Monastery’s Buddha statues. Adding further details on the current climate of censorship in Drago County, the source said: “Keeping or sharing photos and videos of demolitions of Buddha statues, and using photos [Buddha Statue] as the background photo on WeChat, is considered a politically sensitive act with offenders facing criminal charges.”
Internet and physical surveillance on Drago’s Tibetan residents have heightened since late October 2021, when a series of demolitions were forced upon local Tibetans. Prior to the demolitions going ahead, police summoned Palga and Nyima, the Abbott and treasurer of Drago Monastery, demanding that they accept the demolitions. The pair were detained and tortured by the police authorities. They were also warned of repercussions if they shared the information with others and shown to the surveillance room of Drago County’s Public Security Bureau where communication is monitored.
Information supplied by Tibet Watch