Three Tibetan teens arrested, and one tortured for failure to register WeChat group

Dadul in the hospital after being beaten by the Chinese police
Dadul in the hospital after being beaten by the Chinese police
4th March 2021

A photo has emerged of Dadul, one of the students, with two broken legs.

Free Tibet’s research partner, Tibet Watch, has received news of the arrest and ill-treatment of three Tibetan teenagers in mid-February.

On the evening of 17 February, three Tibetan teenagers, Kansi (a nickname), and two students Dadul and Sangye Tso, were arrested by police in Kyegudo, eastern Tibet.  The area is administered as part of Qinghai Province.

Following his arrest, Dadul was severely beaten and tortured by Chinese police, resulting in his hospitalisation. His two legs are broken due to severe beating and he is currently undergoing treatment in a hospital in the city of Xining. Dadul’s family was summoned by the police and asked to not bring more than two family members and 40,000 yuan (around £6,000 US dollars) to the hospital, ostensibly to pay for surgery. Tibet Watch added that the family was threatened not to tell anyone of the matter.

There is currently no information on Kansi and Sangye Tso’s whereabouts and condition.

Sangye Tso
Sangye Tso
Sangye Tso

The three youths were the founders of a WeChat group titled ‘Zari Karmoi Gongtsok’. WeChat is a messaging app, similar to WhatsApp, used widely across Asia. The group was set up by the teens prior to Losar, the Tibetan new year.  Its name translates as ‘White Rocky Mountain Club’, a reference to a local Buddhist deity, The group was formed by several nomads and has about 240 members from across the three Tibetan regions.

While no official reason was given, it seems that the three youths were arrested for failure to register the WeChat group with local authorities. According to the Chinese law, all chat groups have to be registered to the local authorities so that an official can also join the chat group to monitor conversations.

“These young people have been brutalised for exercising a right that most of us take for granted on a daily basis. I’d ask everyone to imagine if they had to invite a government official to every one of their chat groups or face imprisonment and broken limbs,” said John Jones, Campaigns and Advocacy Manager, at Free Tibet.

WeChat is at the centre of numerous incidents where Chinese authorities have, with the help of the app, arrested and persecuted Tibetans over the years. In a 2016 Amnesty International report on user privacy, Tencent, the company that owns WeChat, scored a zero out of 100 for failure to declare government requests for users’ personal information and for not deploying end-to-end encryption of messages. At least 29 Tibetans were arrested or detained in connection to their WeChat posts between 2014 and 2019 alone, according to Tibet Action Institute.

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