China has reportedly detained several hundred Tibetans returning from India after they attended teaching sessions headed by the Dalai Lama, and is now having them go through political re-education programs, according to Reuters.
Human Rights Watch (HRW), based in New York, released a statement today stating that this might be the first time since the late 1970s that the Chinese government has detained Tibetans in such large numbers.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin reiterated that people and organizations working outside China are responsible for the outbreaks of violence and “extremist acts like self-immolation” inside Tibet, though he made no mention of the detentions, according to Voice of America.
Reuters reported that China allowed 7,000 Tibetans to attend sessions led by the Dalai Lama in Bihar, India, between Dec. 31 and Jan. 10, in what seemed to be a relaxation of Tibetan policy. However, the unrest in Tibetan areas and the numerous self-immolations in protest of Chinese rule seem to have seen a reversal in policy.
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The HRW report said detentions of this nature are expected to last anywhere between 20 days and three months, stating, “There is no known regulation banning Tibetans from attending the teachings, and the returnees undergoing re-education have not been accused of any crime, such as carrying illicit documents or crossing the Chinese border without permission.”
The report specified that Chinese returning from the same trip were not detained, and it said there were “unconfirmed reports that if returnees were found during these searches to be carrying religious or other items associated with the Dalai Lama, the items were confiscated and the travelers may have been detained.”
Earlier this week, Lobsang Sangay, the head of Tibet’s government-in-exile, told the Associated Press that Chinese authorities had sealed off regions in Tibet in preparation for the upcoming New Year’s celebrations.