Six arrested prior to Hong Kong handover

Restrictions were imposed by the Lhasa Public Security Bureau from April of this year to ensure stability and security during the July 1 Hong Kong take-over and to prevent riots and pro-independence movements during the July 7 birthday ceremony of His Holiness the Dalai Lama (broadcast on VOA Tibetan service on 27 August 1997). A new arrival from Tibet reports that six Tibetans were arrested by the Lhasa Security Bureau prior to these two events for fear they may stage pro-independence activities during this time.

The six arrested were:

  • Dawa, male, aged 60 from Tsemonling, north of Lhasa
  • Kalsang Tsewang, male, from Ramoche
  • Lhakpa Tsamchoe, a woman from Kyiray
  • Pema Choedon, a woman from Kyiray
  • Migmar Drolma, a woman from Dranakshol
  • Dakpa Wangden, male primary school teacher from Lhasa Shol.

Lhakpa Tsamchoe was reportedly released after three days of detention and it is not clear where the other five are being held. Sources provided TCHRD with the following details of two of the prisoners.

Dawa, aged 60, was born in Lhasa and lived in Ramoche village, north of Lhasa city. Dawa was a former monk of Sera Monastery and before 1959 worked for Lhasa City Municipal Enterprises as a watchman and later in the house of his brother Gyaltsen, who held a high official post in the Tibetan Government. In 1959 Gyaltsen fled to India and all the property was seized by the Chinese who labelled the entire family “revolutionary class” and subjected them to degrading treatment.

During the Cultural Revolution Dawa was sent for hard labour: from 1960 to 1964 on the Ngachen hydro-electric power station and from 1965 to 1966 on the Paye hydro-electric power station in Kongpo. On his return to Lhasa he was forced to clean drains, build houses and cut stones in the electric power station.

In 1979 a fact-finding mission from the Tibetan Government-in-exile was permitted to visit in Tibet. In July 1980, as soon as the five-member delegation reached the Potala palace, Dawa shouted for pro-independence and prayed for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Soon afterwards the Chinese police tried to arrest him but he escaped into the crowd.

In August 1985, the year celebrating the 20th anniversary of the foundation of the “Tibetan Autonomous Region”, Chinese officials arrested Dawa and detained him for four months in Gutsa prison. Each day of his detention he was reportedly charged 2 yuan for food.

In 1987 Dawa travelled to India for a pilgrimage and stayed for two months in Dharamsala.

On 10 December 1988 – International Human Rights Day – Dawa and some other Tibetans, staged a peaceful demonstration in Lhasa and flew the forbidden Tibetan flag from the top of a long stick. He was reported to have told the younger Tibetans; “I’ll go first. I’m old and I won’t regret it if I am shot. You all are young now and it would be an unbearable loss if you were to die in the demonstration.” Dawa was arrested by police in the middle of the demonstration and sentenced to three years in Gutsa prison. In Gutsa he suffered from gastro-enteritis and had to undergo an operation and extended treatment. Kalsang Tsewang, who had also worked in Lhasa Municipal Enterprises, appealed to the prison authorities for Dawa’s release on medical grounds and, two years after his arrest, Dawa was finally released into Kalsang’s care.

A source in Tibet describes Dawa as “a man who served others in his life and sacrificed his own benefits and profits. He will lend his hand to the needy and poor when they are ill. He is extremely patriotic and felt a responsibility for all prisoners. He used to visit all the prisons nearby Lhasa to take the prisoners food once a month and when he didn’t have enough he would ask the prisoners’ relatives if they would like him to take something for the person. When he saw prisoners without proper clothing and shoes he would take off his own and offer them to the prisoners.”

Kalsang Tsewang, born in Lhasa, is a 49 year old man from Ramoche who worked as the Chief Engineer in the Lhasa City Municipal Enterprises. He has four younger sisters and their mother died before 1959.

His father, the commander of Tibet’s north-east army unit, was forced to flee Tibet in 1959. Chinese officials seized all the belongings of their family and, labelled as “revolutionary class”, they were forced to do hard labour along with other Tibetans.

At that time Kalsang Tsewang’s sisters were very small and he worked hard as a stone mason and carpenter to earn livelihood for his family who were living in severe poverty.

Kalsang Tsering requested the Chinese authorities many times to be permitted to visit his father in India but all of his appeals were rejected. It was not until after his father’s death that Kalsang was allowed to visit India during the Kalachakra Initiation held in Salugara, India in December 1996.

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