Tibet: Women Detained After Protest
Authorities detained a nun and another woman protesting in a Tibetan area of western China to demand religious freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet, an overseas advocacy group said Saturday [7 March 2009].
Beijing has ramped up security in Tibetan regions of China ahead of the 50th anniversary Tuesday of the failed uprising that forced the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, into exile. Next weekend [March 2009] will mark the first anniversary of a series of anti-government protests in and around Tibet's capital of Lhasa that officials say left 22 people dead.
The women, who protested separately, handed out leaflets in Ganzi town in Sichuan province calling for religious freedom, the release of prisoners and respect for human rights for all Tibetans, the International Campaign for Tibet said in an e-mailed statement.
It said the women were detained Thursday [5 March 2009] and that their whereabouts were unknown. The Washington-based group did not say if the women had been charged.
It was not immediately possible to confirm the detentions.
A man who answered the phone at the Ganzi county government office said he was not clear about the issue. He refused to give his name because he was not authorized to speak to media.
The Ganzi prefecture public security bureau, which is in charge of police in the area, knew nothing about the detention of Tibetan women, according to a man at the bureau who gave only his surname, Li. He said Tibetan people had been attending government-organized Tibetan new year celebrations, which began Feb. 25 .
The International Campaign for Tibet said discontent has been building in Ganzi in recent weeks and that many Tibetans had chosen to ignore the new year celebrations and instead were mourning those killed in last year's protests.
The advocacy group identified the women as Jampa Lhamo, a 36-year-old nun, and Pema Yangzom, who is in her 20s. It said the names were provided by three sources but did not identify those sources.
Tibet's governor, Qiangba Puncog, insisted to reporters Friday [6 March 2009] that authorities did not expect any large-scale unrest like last year , when protests fanned out from Lhasa to Tibetan areas across western China. He said a few people allied with the Dalai Lama might try to create disturbances around the anniversaries.
China says the Dalai Lama has been trying to split the country since he fled to India 1959. Chinese communist troops marched into Tibet in 1950. The government claims the region has always been part of China, but many Tibetans say the Himalayan region was virtually independent for centuries.
Hong Kong tourists told The Associated Press on Friday that tensions were high in Lhasa, with armed officers positioned across the city, and police blocking roads leading to eastern parts of the region.