BEIJING (Reuters) - China has charged a Tibetan villager with subversion after he spoke at a gathering in support of the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet, a human rights group said on Wednesday.
China’s ruling Communist Party frowns on dissent, particularly in ethnic minority regions where maintaining social stability is a key concern.
Tibet is an especially sensitive issue since the Dalai Lama fled the mountainous Buddhist region in 1959 following a failed uprising against Chinese rule.
Runggye Adak, 53, has been in detention since early August when he addressed a crowd gathered for a Tibetan horse-racing festival about the need for greater religious freedom and for the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, to return.
“On August 27, the prosecutor’s office in Ganzi, Sichuan province, formally arrested Runggye Adak on a charge of incitement to subvert state power,” the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said in a statement.
His speech prompted clashes between authorities and villagers calling for his release. Local officials had since been made to attend a series of meetings and teleconferences regarding social stability, the group said.
Telephones at the prosecutor’s office and local government in Ganzi rang unanswered.
Parts of western China, including the Sichuan village of Litang where Runggye Adak spoke, are considered part of a cultural Tibet that extends beyond the borders of the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
The official Xinhua news agency said at the time that Runggye Adak was the only person detained over the demonstration in Litang, but the Hong Kong organisation said 30 were detained.
The International Campaign for Tibet said three of his nephews were taken into custody after calling for his release and posted photos taken by a tourist that show riot police in the area dispersing crowds.
“The army started to fire tear-gas and hurl shock grenades at the crowd,” the group quoted the tourist as saying. It quoted a second witness as saying uniformed officers began moving through the cheering crowd shortly after Runggye Adak made his appeal.
Photos also showed police roadblocks on the road into Litang.
The Dalai Lama, 72, has lived in exile in India since his flight, but despite his being branded a traitor and a separatist by China, he is thought to still command wide respect in Tibet and he has expressed a desire to return.
But despite a tentative dialogue process between Chinese officials and envoys of the Dalai Lama, the government has recently taken measures to tighten religious controls in Tibet.
On Saturday, new regulations will come into effect that make reincarnations of “living Buddhas” that fail to get Chinese government approval illegal.