BY: Anna Malinovskaya
Since February 6th, Chinese authorities have detained hundreds of Tibetan pilgrims who returned from Bihar, India, where they attended religious teachings by Dalai Lama from December 31, 2011 to January 10, 2012.
Usually Tibetans caught crossing Chinese border with no valid legal documents are detained up to 6 months and then sentenced to prison for up to two years; but according to Human Rights Watch, the detention of travelers with legal travel documents is extremely rare. The recent detainees did have valid Chinese passports and relevant visas, and since there is no regulation prohibiting Tibetans to attend the Dalai Lama’s teachings the Chinese authorities’ actions appear to violate Chinese as well as international laws.
The detainees were sent to ad-hoc detention centers in the cities where they are registered, regardless of their actual place of residence. According to DossierTibet, they have to pay for their rooms and meals while in detention. No notification was sent to detainee’s families.
Those detained will have to undergo “re-education.” Human Rights Watch reports that since the mid 1990-s, “political re-education has been imposed chiefly on monks, nuns, and officials in Tibet, rather than on lay people. It usually lasts three months and consists of lectures on patriotism and the Communist Party’s policies concerning religion and law, and verbal attacks on the Dalai Lama and ‘separatism.’ At the end of previous re-education sessions, usually carried out at participants’ workplaces, each person has had to give a written statement that included a denunciation of the Dalai Lama.”
Tibetan pilgrims are not the only target of Chinese authorities, who also practice the detention of Tibetan cultural elite. According to Radio Free Asia, a popular Tibetan writer Drubpa Kyab was taken away by the police on February 15th. This detention may be linked to recent Tibetans’ self-immolations and protests against the Chinese rule in the Serthar country of the Sichuan province, where the writer was arrested.
Just a few weeks prior to the detention of Drubpa Kyab, a popular advocate of Tibet’s traditional culture and language was believed to have been taken away by Chinese authorities. Dawa Dorje, a government researcher, was believed detained after expressing concern over the closure of Tibetan monasteries. He was known to organize a conference promoting Tibetan culture in the Sichuan province, where the anti-Chinese protests took place.