Chinese authorities and security officials in Drago County arrested at least 10 Tibetans in November 2021. Speaking on the condition of anonymity to Tibet Watch, sources confirmed that the Tibetans were arrested on the suspicion of sending information outside Tibet and for voicing disapproval about the construction of a poultry and pig farming project in Yinya Township (གཡི་ཉ་གྲོང་ཚོ) in Drago County.
The detainees have been taken to an education reform centre སློབ་གསོ་ཁང་ (学习班) near Thang Nakma (ཐང་ནག་མ), a one-minute drive from the site of the 99-foot Buddha statue that was recently demolished. Sources have told Tibet Watch that those detained have been subjected to interrogations and severely beaten, with a number of them falling unconscious.
Further information on the detainees’ well-being and identities remain difficult to ascertain due to a heavy military presence and close surveillance on communications. The reform centre where they are being held is part of a wider network of reform centres that have been constructed in every county jurisdiction of Tibet. Dissidents, critics or any individuals perceived to be a threat to the Chinese Communist Party are detained and tortured in these facilities.
The same source also confided that on 21 December 2021, along with the demolition of the three-storey high Maitreya Buddha, the Chinese authorities also destroyed the residence house of Walung Rinpoche (ཝ་ལུང་རིན་པོ་ཆེ་) and a few other residents’ houses, located next to Drago Monastery.
Warning the local Tibetans with threats of expulsion from government jobs, monasteries and schools, the source said, “Chinese authorities are monitoring the movement and communication of the Tibetan people in Drago, making it difficult for them to communicate with their family members in exile. Also, they are posing a threat to the rights to free speech and expression of Tibetans from Drago living in exile.”
Since late October 2021, a series of demolition orders have been forced upon local Tibetans of Drago County. The demolition orders have targeted objects and places of serious religious significance to Tibetans.