New York, March 18,
2009--Chinese public security officials in northwest Gansu province should
release two Tibetan journalists detained in the past month or charge them with
an offense, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
The public security bureau in Gannan, an area in the south
of Gansu designated a Tibetan Autonomous
Kunchok Tsephel Gopey Tsang on February 26, according to overseas Tibetan
rights groups. Kunchok Tsephel, an online writer, runs the Tibetan cultural
issues Web site Chomei, according to the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy.
Kate Saunders, UK communications
director for the International Campaign for Tibet,
told CPJ by telephone from New Delhi
that she learned of Kunchok Tsephel's arrest from two sources. She has spent
the past two weeks in Dharamsala and Kathmandu.
In an unrelated case, officials from the same bureau
rearrested formerly imprisoned filmmaker Jigme Gyatso, according to the Tibetan Center and Saunders. The exact date of
the arrest is not clear, but it is believed to have occurred around March 10,
the 50th anniversary of the failed Tibetan uprising. Jigme Gyatso, a Buddhist
monk, had been held from March to October 2008 before being freed on probation,
The reasons for the two detentions were not clear.
"These arrests are a disturbing indication that heavy punitive
measures await Tibetans who publicize their version of life under Chinese rule.
They are happening even though the international community widely condemned
official handling of the media during last year's rioting," said Bob Dietz,
CPJ's Asia program coordinator. "Public
security officials in Tibet
should disclose the circumstances and reasons behind the arrests of Kunchok
Tsephel and Jigme Gyatso or release them at once."
The 1959 uprising preceded the Dalai Lama's departure from Tibet; its
anniversary provoked ethnic rioting in Tibetan areas just months before the
Olympics last year. Foreign reporters remain officially barred
from the region, and information is strictly controlled within China. Some
journalists and overseas Tibetan groups have defied those restrictions to
publicize a strong Chinese military presence and higher-than-usual restrictions
on Internet access in Tibetan regions. CPJ's Madeline
Earp explored China's
media policies regarding Tibet
in a March
12 post on the organization's blog.
Saunders said Kunchok Tsephel was taken from his home.
"There is serious concern for his welfare," she said. Kunchok Tsephel was
detained for two months in 1995, according to the Tibetan Center's
statement. It did not report the grounds for that arrest.
Jigme Gyatso assisted filmmaker Dhondup
Wangchen shoot the documentary "Leaving Fear Behind," which
detailed Tibetan opinions of Chinese rule. Dhondup Wangchen has been imprisoned
since March 26, 2008, according to news reports. Tibetan groups believe he is
being held in a detention center in Qinghai,
the province immediately south of Gansu.
Chinese authorities have not informed his family in Dharamsala of his location
or of any indictment in the case.
Dhondup Wangchen's cousin in Switzerland,
Gyalong Tsetrin heard of Jigme Gyatso's recent detention on March 16 from
sources in the monk's monastery, Labrang, southern Gansu, according to his colleague, Dechen
Pemba, who reported the arrest to CPJ by e-mail. Dechen Pemba, who lives in London, is helping to
publicize "Leaving Fear Behind." "We are still trying to get more information
about the circumstances and condition of his arrest," she wrote. "We are not
sure if it is a temporary measure around this sensitive period of several
anniversaries in the month of March or a continuation of his previous
An earlier detention can be reimposed for violating the
conditions of probation known as qubao
houshen. Those conditions typically include restrictions on movement and
communication, but they can vary, according to Saunders.