China Expands Detention Center in Tibet's Defiant Driru County

A map of Driru county in Nagchu (Naqu) prefecture in Tibet. RFA
Chinese authorities are enlarging a police detention center in Tibet’s restive Driru county in anticipation of further waves of detention of residents who resist forced displays of loyalty to Beijing, according to a local source.

The expansion of the paramilitary police facility in Tsamdo town in Driru (in Chinese, Biru) county in the Nagchu (Naqu) prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region “is meant to accommodate more prisoners,” a resident of the area told RFA’s Tibetan Service this week.

“The authorities are saying that this will be a major prison for those who conduct activities against the [Chinese] government and its policies,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Residents in the far northeastern TAR county attracted global attention last year when they burned, dumped, and refused to fly Chinese flags and protested in the streets after the Chinese authorities launched the forced displays of loyalty campaign.

The expansion of the detention facility could be a warning to any new resistance to Chinese rule.

“The military station has already been there for some time and was not very big, but now the Chinese authorities are expanding it,” RFA’s source said.

Though the number of Tibetans detained at the camp in Tsamdo had recently dropped from a total of about 400 held in May and June, “about 200 Tibetans are still held there at present,” the source said.

“They are subjected to an intense regime of political re-education classes designed to ‘change their thoughts,’ are forced to sing the Chinese national anthem every day, and are made to suffer physically through beatings and torture,” he said.

Some of those currently detained at the camp are held for only a week, with others held for a month or as long as six months, he said, adding, “The living conditions and facilities there are said to be horrible.”

'Politically unstable'

Driru, a county considered “politically unstable” by Beijing, is one of three neighboring counties in Nagchu prefecture from which Chinese authorities fear political unrest may spread unchecked to other parts of the region.

About 1,000 Driru-area Tibetans have been detained since authorities launched a crackdown in September 2013 when Beijing began a campaign to force Tibetans to fly the Chinese flag from their homes, sources say.

The campaign intensified in early October when villagers refused to fly the flags, throwing them instead into a river and prompting a deadly security crackdown in which Chinese police fired into unarmed crowds.

Most of those now detained at Tsamdo are from different villages in Driru, but Buddhist monks and nuns recalled by authorities from their religious studies in China’s Qinghai and Sichuan provinces are also being held there, RFA’s source said.

“They were told that it was illegal for them to study at the Yachen Buddhist center in Tromtak, the Larung Buddhist center in Serthar [Seda] county, the Palyul monastery, and at other centers, and that they had committed a crime by doing so,” he said.

“So now many of them are also being held at the Tsamdo detention center.”

Meanwhile, Chinese police have doubled the number of checkpoints on a major road connecting Driru to neighboring Nagchu county, also in the Nagchu prefecture, and are beating and detaining Tibetan travelers who show annoyance at being stopped, according to local sources.

The recent move to increase to eight the number of police stops between the two counties’ central towns has slowed travel time and added to other hardships endured by Tibetans, sources said.

Sporadic demonstrations challenging Chinese rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.

Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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