Translated by Tashi Namgyal
Edited by Yangchen Tso
At least over 40 Tibetan monks and laypeople were arrested, and eight Tibetans were imprisoned in 2023. Most of them are allegedly charged with possessing the Dalai Lama’s photography, conducting prayer services and smoke offerings, as well as establishing Mani stone mounds. The Chinese authorities imposed severe restrictions on religious freedom, such as prohibiting the Kalachakra events.
At Least Eight Tibetans Were Imprisoned:
In March 2023, Zangkar Jamyang, aged 47, a Tibetan writer and interpreter from Chongchu county, Ngaba, Tibet, was sentenced to four years imprisonment on a trumped-up charge of inciting separatist acts. He was put in Menyang prison in China’s Sichuan province. Before this, he was arbitrarily arrested on the night of 4 June 2020 and detained and disappeared for a prolonged time.
In September 2023, five Tibetans, Shukdar, Gelo, Tsedu, Bamo, and Khore from Awikyil Rigo village, Khekor Township, Serta County, Tibet, were arrested on alleged charges of conducting religious activities such as smoke offerings to mountain deities and prayer services. Among them, Gelo, Tsedu, Bamo, and Khore were sentenced to two years imprisonment and are currently serving in Yak-Nga prison.
In July 2022, Tsultrim, a young Tibetan man from Tsaruma village, Chongchu county, Ngaba, Tibet, was detained for owning the Dalai lama’s photo on his mobile phone.
Subsequently, in April 2023, he was reportedly sentenced to two years imprisonment by the People’s Court of Ngaba County through a secret trial on charges of possessing the Dalai Lama’s photo and contacting separatists.
In November 2023, the Chinese government arrested Golok Palden, a young Tibetan singer from Yotak village, Dedha township, Pema County, on a charge of singing a Tibetan patriotic song and was sentenced to three years imprisonment.
In October 2023, Semkyi Dolma, a Tibetan woman from Dhaka township, was sentenced to one and a half years in prison by Chinese authorities on alleged charges of contacting foreign agencies, organizations, and individuals as a spy and sharing ‘state secrets’ with them.
Around 30 Tibetans Were Arrested and Disappeared:
In January 2023, the Chinese authorities arrested two Tibetans, Yidam and one of his friends from Dhamgzhong county, Tibet Autonomous Region, on charges of forming a new group to build stone mounds of Mani and Dolma. Yet their conditions and whereabouts remain unknown to date.
On 2 March and 26 October Of 2023, respectively, Yangtso, a Tibetan woman from Gyatso township, Namling county, TAR, and Wangchuk Tso from Dronglong village, Dhola county Haibie prefecture, Qinghai province (Chinese divided area) were reportedly arrested on charges of sharing a photo of Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama on social media platforms. Yet their conditions and whereabouts remain unknown.
In September 2023, Tsephel, a Tibetan soldier from Sershul County, witnessed two Chinese soldiers bullying a Tibetan beggar by pushing them aside at a grilled meat store in the market. He intervened and said, “Why do you bully the poor even if you have nothing to give? One of them replied, “Tibetans are like animals,” and started to beat the beggar. Then the situation became worse. Tsepal Couldn’t control his anger, and a physical fight broke out while one of the Chinese soldiers was killed and the other escaped. Immediately following the incident, the Chinese police showed up and arrested him. Yet his condition remains unknown.
On 29 March 2023, Tseta and his brother-in-law, Donku, went shopping in the town and stayed at a hotel named Dolma’s home when suddenly four policemen showed up and arrested them. After three days of their arrest, the district police called their families and summoned them to the town. Their mobile phones are monitored, and they are even interrogated about the family’s financial income and forced back home. But no information was received about Tseta and Donku.
On 20 and 25 October 2023, the police office of Darlag county issued a notice about looking sources while declaring that Gonnam, Gontse, Jigme Tenzin, Palden, Lochoe Namgyal, Nordhe and Kalsang were arrested on charges of financial fraud, misusing religion and power. It stated that those who expose individuals and provide source information would be protected and kept in secrecy.
On 25 October 2023, Samphel, a Tibetan from Shigatse, was summoned to the police station of Gidhang township, and his mobile phone was confiscated and searched as soon as he reached there. After searching his mobile, the police interrogated him about many things, including the allegation of his initiation of a Buddhist Group on a social media platform. Since taken away from Shigatse, his whereabouts remain unknown.
In November 2023, the Chinese police arrested Kunchok Dakpa, a monk of Tashi monastery from Yhewa village in Tewo county, Tibet. More than ten days after his arrest, a concerned Tibetan told Tibet Times, “The reasons why he was arrested, and other information remain unknown, and so, family members went to the related offices asking to meet him but failed. Usually, Kunchok is a simple religious man but not the one who would break the law of the Chinese government.”
In July 2023, during a horse racing festival, some local Tibetans were selling minor goods using their private car trunks in Mokri village, JangiKog township, Serchen county, Tsolho prefecture, Amdo Tibet. The police officials accused them as illegal vendors, arrested two or three of them, and put them into a police vehicle. Following that situation, the mother of one of the arrested men shouted, “Kill me, you can’t take them away without killing me,” and lay down under the police vehicle. Later, the Chinese authorities reported that the police arrested those two or three people for not listening to the government orders and threatening suicide.
On 23 November 2023, two Tibetan women, Tsomo and Nyidon, from Karchen township, Sershul county, were arrested by the local police and taken to the police station on alleged charges of sharing audio tracks about the introduction of Buddhism and talks on accumulating religious merits in two Wechat groups. As of now, their whereabouts and condition remain unknown.
In September 2023, four Tibetan monks, Sonam, Kalsang Tsering, Nyima, and Phuntsok of Lhadong monastery, were arrested during a yearly prayer session on trumped-up charges of conducting prayer services for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It has been three months since their arrest, yet their family members are left without knowing where they had been taken and other detailed information.
On the morning of 26 December 2022, Sangtse, a Tibetan from Chumarleb County who had helped Tibetans with meat and butter during Covid 19, was suddenly arrested by the police. Following his arrest, his family members went to the police station asking for reasons for the arrest, but they were forced away without getting any information.
Former Political Prisoners Oppressed:
On 10 August 2023, Tibetan writer Lobsang Lhundup, Known by his pen name, Dhi Lhaden, was released from Chinese jail in secrecy after completing his four and a half years prison term. His family and friends arrived in Chengdu City to receive him, and he is in good health after a medical check-up. But still, he is under heavy restrictions and surveillance.
In October 2023, Wangchen, a former Tibetan political prisoner, went to Lhasa with his family on a pilgrimage from Sershul county, Karze, Tibet. During that time, Lhasa police officials interrogated and beat him severely, accusing him of posting numerous pictures on social media and traveling without permitted documents. Due to beatings, his stomach was significantly injured, and he was admitted to a nearby army hospital, where he was treated for an extended period.
On 25 May 2023, despite Geshe Sonam Gyatso of Ngaba Kirti monastery having been released from Chinese jail after completing his two-year prison term, it was reported he was in a critical health condition. Similarly, in March 2023, his sister, Tsering Lhamo, was released from prison, but her health was also critical. As of now, their health condition remains unknown.
Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk faced problems booking a hotel in Darlak County, Golok, as Chinese agencies followed him. On 19 August 2023, all of a sudden, he was attacked by a group of masked men and beaten while he was trying to register at a hotel. Due to beatings, his face and limbs were wounded. On 19 October, again, he was arbitrarily detained for three days and beaten by local police, accusing that his privately operated car wash facility was illegal. He has also shared information related to the incident on the internet.
Justice Advocate Gonpo Kyi Arrested More Than Seven Times:
The sister of wealthy Tibetan businessman Dorjee Tashi, Gonpo Kyi, has repeatedly staged peaceful protests appealing for the retrial of her brother’s false imprisonment. Solely in 2023, she staged peaceful demonstrations in front of the Lhasa Intermediate People’s Court or police stations in different ways, such as by prostration and hunger strike on 10 and 16 May, 5 and 13 July, 2 and 25 August, and 13 December. Recently, Gonpo Kyi and her husband, Choekyong, were arrested while protesting in front of the Lhasa Intermediate People’s Court, but they were released later.
Again, Tibet Ranks as the “Least Free Country in the World”:
On 13 March 2023, Freedom House, an international watchdog based in America, released its annual report, ‘Freedom in the World 23,’ declaring Tibet as one of the least free countries among 210 countries and territories. The report is based on a survey of political rights and civil liberty status determining whether a country is free or partly free. The report states that the Chinese government has oppressed and repressed Tibetan writers, thinkers, and artists over the past few years. Notably, it is said that last year, the Chinese authorities arrested and imprisoned numerous Tibetans on charges of possessing a photograph of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, and sharing pictures of the Tibetan flag on the internet. Similarly, it is also stated that the Chinese government has imposed heavy restrictions on the internet and the movement of foreign dignitaries and journalists in many regions in Tibet, including TAR.
Release of ‘White Paper’ as an Effort to Avoid International Criticisms:
On 10 November 2023, the State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China released a White Paper on Tibet titled ‘CPC Policies on the Governance of Tibet in the New Era: Approach and Achievements,’ comprising six sections. The White Paper states that the seventh National Meeting on Tibet has defined the CPC policies in the new era and ten necessary guidelines, such as adhering to CPC leadership, socialism with Chinese characteristics, and adhering to policies that stability in Tibet is paramount in the governance of the border areas and the country as a whole; and protect national unification, bring prosperity to Tibet and its residents, unite them in one consciousness; and adapt religion with Chinese characteristics, etc.
China’s Education Policy and the Plight of Tibetan Language:
The Chinese government refers to the Chinese language as a standard or national language in territories like Occupied Tibet, so private schools are forcibly closed instead of establishing more government schools. Tibetan children joining first grade are put in boarding schools where they can only learn the Chinese language and culture. In 2023, during the spring semester, the Chinese government started to stop Tibetan teaching classes from primary to high secondary schools in the Ngaba area. Similarly, a notification was issued ordering middle school authorities in the Karze area to stop teaching the Tibetan language, and only the Chinese language will be taught in class from 2024. Over the past few years, the publishing houses in Tibet have been restricted and closely watched. Notably, the theme of books related to renowned Tibetan writers and those who have been to Chinese prisons is severely restricted and suspected.
A Renowned Tibetan Film Director, Pema Tseden, Passed Away:
Following the news of the sudden death of renowned Tibetan film director and author Pema Tseden on the night of 7 May 2023, Tibetans inside and outside of Tibet and others who admire his works mourned with heavy hearts, and few wrote that he is a massive loss to the world of film industry. He introduced contemporary Tibetan cinema to the global film industry and has directed over 14 films in his life. His films, Tharlo, Old Dog, Jinpa, and Balloon, have won several awards at international film festivals in Venice, Brooklyn, Taiwan, and China. He is regarded as the ambassador of Tibet’s film industry. His film, Tharlo, has garnered 12 various accolades in China and overseas. On 1 November 2023, posthumously, Pema’s last film, Snow Leopard, won the Grand Prix award at the 36th Tokyo International Film Festival.
Great Tibetan Scholar Sangye Died:
On the night of 26 February 2023, Sangye, a former school director of Tibetan studies at Qinghai Nationalities University and translator, died at 71 in Rebkong, succumbing to illness. He was born in Thenrin county, Qinghai province, Tibet. In 2001, he was chosen to take responsibility as a professional translator in Tibetan and Chinese for the project of Contemporary Chinese Dictionary, sixth edition, while he was a lecturer on Tibetan studies at Qinghai Nationality University. In 2022, the Chinese National Association of Translators honored him as the best-learned translator. From 1991 to 2001, he was a managing editor of Qinghai Nationality Publishing House and director of the Tibetan editing department.
His Eminence Gungthang Khenchen Conferred the First Kalachakra Empowerment:
The seventh Gungthang, Lobsang Jamyang Gelek Tenpai Kenchen, conferred the first Kalachakra empowerment from 14 to 17 September 2023 at the Dhongja ground of old Gar, lower Dzoege located at the north side of Labrang Tashi Kyil in Amdo, Tibet. The Chinese government has not arranged for devotees from other distant places and instructed them not to come to ensure an orderly religious event. Still, tens of thousands of people from three Tibetan traditional provinces, Southern Mongolia and China, attended the Kalachakra event.
Tibetan Athletes Achieved Excellence in Sports:
On 4 October 2023, Tibetan Olympian Choeyang Kyi secured the first position again in the mixed teams 35km Race Walk at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. During that ceremony, she was also awarded an Olympic gold medal after winning it ten years ago at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
In February 2023, during a women’s 35 km race walk in Milazzo, Italy, a Tibetan girl, Lhumo Tso, gained first place among the contestants from Italy, Spain, and China. She completed the 35 km distance within two hours, 45 minutes, and 08 seconds.
On 11 February 2023, in the ISMF Youth World Cup race, among girls under 18, a Tibetan girl, Tsedan Yudon, won the gold medal, and among boys under 16, a Tibetan boy, Kunsang Namgyal, won the gold medal. Another Tibetan boy, Ngodup Tsering, won the silver medal, and Namka Buti won the silver medal among girls under 16.
On 11 November 2023, a Tibetan girl from Dhola County, Qinghai province, Tibet, won first in the final long-distance cycling race in Yunnan, China.
On 10 October 2023, Dolma Kyi, a Tibetan football player from Tsenlha County, Ngaba prefecture, Tibet, was selected to join the Chinese Women’s national football team. She is the first Tibetan woman chosen for the Chinese women’s national football team.
Appeals to Provide Information About Tibetan Environment Defenders:
On 10 August 2023, the UN special rapporteurs on situation of human rights defenders, religious freedom and environmental protection called upon China to provide information on nine imprisoned Tibetan environment defenders-Anya Sengdra, Dorjee Daktal, Kelsang Choklang, Dhongye, Rinchen Namdol, Tsultrim Gonpo, Jangchup Ngodup, Sogru Abhu and Namesy such as reasons for why they are being imprisoned, but China did not respond.
Mandala was Destroyed, and Kalachakra Teaching was Suddenly Banned:
From 20 to 24 July 2023, it was decided that there was to be a Kalachakra teaching by His Eminence Athi Kalsang Gyatso in Sammey-shi village, Gumang township in Mangzong (Qinghai province), Amdo Tibet. Despite the Athi lama having arrived and thousands of devotees gathering, on the morning of 19 just before dawn, the local authorities and police officials showed up to the ground. They forced Athi lama to return to his monastery, and the Kalachakra organizers were detained and interrogated. While authorities destroyed the sand mandala by throwing water on it, many devotees attempted to stop doing it and requested to continue the Kalachakra teaching. But they were also beaten. Later, it was reported that some of the Kalachakra organizers were arrested that day.
Over 150 Lives Lost From the 6.2-Magnitude Earthquake:
On 18 December 2023, a 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck Taklong County, Gansu, and destroyed 419 homes in 46 villages, such as Bayen and Yaze, near Tsoshar City, Qinghai. In Qinghai province, 32 people have been found dead and 198 injured, and in Gansu province, 117 dead and 781 wounded. The recent earthquake has caused damage to the ancient artifacts in the Gansu area where the famous treasury, Dunhuang Cave, is located.