A Tibetan anti-corruption campaigner has had his detention extended again
On 4 September 2018, the Public Security Bureau (PSB) in Gade County, in eastern Tibet’s Golok Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (TAP), arrested a prominent Tibetan activist, Mr. A-nya Sengdra.
Forty-seven years old, from Gade County, A-nya is well-known in the region for his campaign against local authority corruption and for accountability. He was arrested for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” due to his efforts to secure economic justice for a large number of Tibetan nomads.
Originally his detention period was extended from 12 November 2018 to 12 January 2019. After conversations with his lawyer, Tibet Watch has learned that this has been extended by another month.
He remains held, without trial, in Machen detention centre after being moved from a centre in nearby Drotsang County. His extended detention indicates that local investigation officers are preparing to add more charges against him.
Neither his wife Yangkyi nor his wider family have been allowed to visit him despite A-nya’s lawyer, Mr. Lin Qilei, repeatedly petitioning police authorities. On 16 January, A-nya's lawyer also submitted a request for bail.
Mr. Lin managed to secure a permit from Gade County PSB to see A-nya in detention on 22nd October and afterwards raised concerns about his client’s very poor health condition although this seems to have had improved by his follow-up meeting on 16 January 2019.
During this latest meeting A-nya Sangdra has said that he would not surrender to false charges and paid thanks to those in the local community who had expressed support for him.
Campaiging for freedom
Tibetans in three local townships started a signature campaign demanding that the authorities release A-nya which gathered over 800 signatures before it was submitted.
Concerns about A-nya’s wellbeing have also been raised online by Tibetan netizens, alongside statements expressing appreciation for his courage. One, by a Tibetan using the penname ‘Kang’, reads:
“… you didn’t remain silent amidst the rampant corruption in society, you kept concerning yourself with the people’s welfare, you protested against the lawless leaders - you opened the eyes of the people. Thank you! You must return home soon, not only in my prayers and wishes, I truly stand with you.”
A-nya Sengdra was a popular campaigner in Kyangche town, fighting against local authority corruption. In 2014, the local nomadic community included him in their voluntary welfare association known as the Pastoral Animal Husbandry Committee.
Previously, on 14 December 2014, he had been arrested and was imprisoned for one year and 10 months - charged with "separatism" in connection with the 2008 uprising in Tibet.
Tibetan social and community activists have long been targetted by the Chinese authorities in the name of preserving stability and security. The introduction of various new laws has been used to aid this suppression. For example, last February, Chinese authorities issued a notice for a campaign to eliminate “underworld forces” across Tibet – a move which Human Rights Watch condemned for attacking Tibetan civil society. Since then, Free Tibet and Tibet Watch have obtained several other similar notifications which have been distributed in Yushu TAP, Ganzi TAP, and Amchok Township in Sangchu County.
A translation of the demands put forward to the local PSB by A-nya Sengdra’s wife, Yangkyi, can be seen below:
Petitioner: Yangkyi, female, Tibetan, DOB: 05/15/1979, Qinghai Province, Gade County, Kyangche Town.
To the Public Security County Bureau of Gade County in Qinghai Province
The Qinghai office of Gade County Public Security Bureau, Gade local government and various law enforcement departments are engaging in illegal activity and corruption, and are not listening to the Party's leadership. They are refusing to implement the national policies and laws of the country. They are cheating and practicing the law in an arbitrary manner. They are putting fake charges and criminal offenses against citizens and are persecuting them. They are creating social tensions which are undermining the status and credibility of the Party and Government in the hearts of Tibetan nomads.
1) The immediate release of A-nya Sengdra, a Tibetan nomad, who was arrested on 5 September 2018.
2) Compensation for physical and mental torture inflicted on A-nya Sengdra as well as any economic losses incurred during his detention.
3) Higher authorities investigate corruption in various county offices and root out such activities, including the practice of making false accusations and charges against citizens. Protecting such officials only undermines the credibility of the party in the hearts of citizens. For the party and nation, the practice of corruption, which is like a virus, should be put to an end.
In Tibet the Chinese Communist Party oversees what some have called the world's largest open air prison. The authorities have the power to switch the light on and off, peering into Tibetans' emails one moment and making political prisoners vanish from their families and friends, apparently into darkness, the next. Help us push for Tibet's hidden political prisoners to be found and released.