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Arrested twice for possessing Dalai Lama photo

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Arrested twice for possessing Dalai Lama photo

Chinese authorities have arrested a Tibetan, Tsultrim, for a second time for being in possession of a photo of Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, sources with knowledge of the situation said.

Possessing photos of the Dalai Lama, who resides in India since 1959, is considered an act of separatism and has been a punishable offense in Tibetan-populated areas of China for decades.

Tibetan sources recently told RFA that authorities arrested Tsultrim from Tsaruma township in Ngaba’s Kyungchu county, in February 2023 after they discovered pictures of the 14th Dalai Lama on his mobile phone.

He was detained until April, they said, when he was sentenced to two years in prison by the People’s Court of Ngaba, in Sichuan province, also known as Aba in Chinese.

Tibetans frequently complain of discrimination and human rights abuses by Chinese authorities and of policies they say are aimed at eradicating their national and cultural identity.

Authorities in China maintain a tight lockdown on the flow of information in and out of the country’s Tibetan regions, and it can often take weeks to learn of arrests and other incidents through the exile community.

Tsultrim, whose age is unknown, is serving his sentence in Yaknga Prison, and none of his family and friends are allowed to see him, said a Tibetan who lives in exile.

After graduating from Minzu University in 2016, Tsultrim worked as a self-employed businessman, said the source who declined to be named so he could speak freely.

“He has always been an intelligent young Tibetan and has advocated for preservation of the Tibetan language,” the source said.

Prior to this incident, Chinese authorities summoned and interrogated Tsultrim in July 2022 for sharing a picture of the 14th Dalai Lama on social media and saving the photo on his mobile phone, said a Tibetan from inside the western region.

Authorities examined his phone and detained him for two months until September when he was released, said the source who also declined to be named.

“However, during his detention, he was beaten and had gone through such a tough time that he wished death upon himself,” the source told RFA.

In May, authorities also sentenced two Tibetan monks in Sershul county ( Shiqu in Chinese), on separatism charges for possessing photos of the Dalai Lama on their phones, giving one three years and six months in jail, and the other three years, RFA reported earlier.

–RFA report Sept 27, 2023