Sonam Yonten, a monk from Bum-Nying Monastery in Sershul County of eastern Tibet. Photo: TPI

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Dharamshala, India — Chinese authorities in Sershul County of eastern Tibet have detained a young Tibetan monk on unknown charges, taking him into custody a few days ago as he walked in County streets with a photo of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Sonam Yonten, believed to be about his 20s, was taken away by Chinese police on September 30, 2019, while walking through the streets of Sershul county in eastern Tibet, an exile source told the TPI, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"No reason was given for his detention, and there has been no word on his present whereabouts or condition," the source said, citing contacts in the region.

"It seems that Chinese police found him having a banned photo of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. But Prior to his arrest, Yonten wasn't staging a protest or shouting any slogans," the source further added. "Yonten became a monk at an early age at Bum-Nying Monastery where around 700 monks live in and study Buddhism.

After weeks-long spiritual retreat, "a major annual summer festival was held every year at the Bum-Nying Monastery in Sershul County, eastern Tibet. But this year, the Chinese authorities have banned the festival," the source said, adding "He comes originally from Bum-Nying township in Sershul County. His father's name is Thupga, and his mother's name is unknown."

As the Chinese Communist Party celebrated the 70th anniversary of its totalitarian rule on October 1, 2019, over a million Uighurs are imprisoned in labor camps, millions are severely repressed in Tibet, and millions are on the streets of Hong Kong marching for basic freedom and human rights. Arbitrary arrests, long-term detention of prisoners of conscience, detention without trial of political prisoners, unfair trials, widespread torture and ill-treatment of adult and juvenile detainees are among major concerns in Tibet, Hong Kong, and eastern Turkistan.

Authorities dramatically stepped up repression and systematic abuses against Tibetans inside Tibet and have carried out mass arbitrary detention, torture, and mistreatment of some of them in various detention facilities, and increasingly imposed pervasive controls on daily life. Year after year, new regulations particularly targeting Tibetans in Tibet criminalize the even traditional forms of social event and action, including preserving, and promotion of Tibetan religious and cultural heritages which undermines people’s rights to free speech and political participation.

The communist-totalitarian state of China began its invasion of Tibet in 1949, reaching complete occupation of the country in 1959. Since that time, more than 1.2 million people, 20% of the nation's population of six million, have died as a direct result of China's invasion and occupation. In addition, over 99% of Tibet's six thousand religious monasteries, temples, and shrines, have been looted or decimated resulting in the destruction of hundreds of thousands of sacred Buddhist scriptures.

Until 1949, Tibet was an independent Buddhist nation in the Himalayas which had little contact with the rest of the world. It existed as a rich cultural storehouse of the Mahayana and Vajrayana teachings of Buddhism. Religion was a unifying theme among the Tibetans -- as was their own language, literature, art, and world view developed by living at high altitudes, under harsh conditions, in a balance with their environment.