China detains yet another Tibetan woman for peaceful solitary protest

In the picture: Woekar Kyi and her four-year-old son in an undated photo
In the picture: Woekar Kyi and her four-year-old son in an undated photo

A Tibetan nomad woman was detained incommunicado last week for staging peaceful protest in Meuruma town in Ngaba (Ch: Aba) County in Ngaba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province.

Woekar Kyi, a 23-year-old mother of one, staged a solo protest at about 3 pm on 15 August 2015, shouting slogans calling on the Chinese government to grant freedom to Tibet and allow Dalai Lama to return home. She also shouted, “The repression on us has gone beyond limit!”

Information received by TCHRD confirms that Woekar Kyi was detained immediately by local police and taken to an unknown location. The arbitrary detention of Woekar Kyi follows the detention on 15 July 2015 of Wangmo, another nomad woman from the same area, although she was released after a week in detention. Wangmo, a 22-year-old mother of two, had carried a portrait of the Dalai Lama and shouted slogans for Tibet’s freedom and Dalai Lama’s return.

Woekar Kyi is a resident of nomadic camp no.1 of Meuruma town in Ngaba County. Daughter of Kunpo and Phakpa, she is married to Tashi and the couple has a four-yr-old son.

In the absence of any space for peaceful protest and dissent, thanks to the intensification of repressive policies and campaigns since 2008, more Tibetans are resorting to staging solo protests. Many of these solo protests involve the protester carrying a portrait of the Dalai Lama and shouting slogans for his return and freedom for Tibet. Some choose to throw leaflets bearing slogans in the air. In some ways, these protests are similar to self-immolation protests except that they do not involve any burning.

Since 2013 TCHRD has documented 17 known solo protests and has found all of them to be peaceful. Despite their non-violent actions, many of the protesters have faced beatings at the hands of local police while being detained. All of them had been arbitrarily detained and held for prolonged time at undisclosed locations subjected to interrogation and more beatings. Some have been given heavy prison terms.

Lobsang Gendun, a 21-year-old monk, was sentenced to 10 years in September 2013 for shouting slogans calling for the return of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan independence at a public event organised by the local government in Pashoe (Ch: Basu) County in Chamdo (Ch: Changdu) Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). Prior to his sentencing, he had been held in police custody for more than a year.

Other solo protesters like the 19-year-old monk Lobsang Tenpa and 20-year-old monk Lobsang Gyatso were sentenced to two and three years in prison respectively. Both monks had staged solo protests in Ngaba County town carrying Dalai Lama’s portrait and Tibetan national flag, and shouting slogans for Dalai Lama return and freedom for Tibet. In March this year, an 18-year-old monk Gendun Phuntsok was severely beaten up by local police when he shouted slogans calling for Dalai Lama’s return, freedom and equality in Ngaba County town. The monk’s current condition and whereabouts remain unknown.

The detention of Woekar Kyi and other peaceful protesters is arbitrary and therefore illegal, because they were detained for merely exercising the fundamental rights guaranteed under international law such as the right to peaceful assembly as well as right to freedom of expression and opinion. The right to protest is a fully fledged right under international human rights law.

Although Wangmo was released after a week in detention, the detention itself was a violation of the right to freedom of assembly, and by extension, the right to freedom of expression and opinion. Temporary arbitrary detention allows the authorities to subject detainees to physical and psychological torture without any accountability. Temporary detainees, particularly those who had protested against the party-state, are commonly subjected to threats, intimidation and ‘receiving education’. China may have abolished the dreaded Re-education Through Labour system but there are a number of extrajudicial detention facilities such as ‘black jails’ and ‘legal study centres’.

TCHRD is concerned about the condition and whereabouts of Woekar Kyi and calls upon the Chinese authorities to guarantee her physical and psychological integrity. The Centre recognises that the actions of Woekar Kyi, Wangmo and other solo protesters were peaceful and therefore do not warrant any punishment. The Centre appeals to the relevant UN human rights mandate holders and the international community to urge China to release all peaceful Tibetan protesters immediately and unconditionally.

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