Police in Tibet beat and detained a prominent Tibetan language advocate and entrepreneur, and shut down his shop after he posted a video of Chinese government staff refusing his request to register for a business license, two Tibetans with knowledge of the situation said.
The Oct. 17 incident left Tashi Wangchuk, a former political prisoner, with a small gash over his left eye and got him three days in detention before he was released, said a source from inside the region who declined to be identified out of fear of retribution by authorities.
Wangchuk had opened a car wash station in Yushu city and applied for a business license, but his request was denied, the Tibetan said. He recorded the incident on his cell phone and posted the video on his WeChat account.
“For that reason, he was detained and beaten by the local Chinese police,” he said.
“The local Chinese authorities have alleged Tashi Wangchuk of offending them by spreading and sharing videos of the incident on his social media,” the source from inside the region said.
Radio Free Asia could not reach Yushu City police by phone for comment.
Wangchuk’s encounter with police comes at a time when the Chinese government has intensified its efforts to suppress Tibetan culture, language and religion and to forcibly assimilate the Tibetan identity into the dominant Han-Chinese majority.
It has eroded the use of Tibetan language as medium of instruction in schools and persecuted those who advocate for its continuance.
Previous arrest, torture
Another Tibetan, who lives in exile and knows about the matter said the Yushu City Police Bureau Chief and Deputy Mayor Ye Husai were among those who brutally beat Wangchuk.
“Tashi Wangchuk never accepted that he violated any law by posting the video on his social media,” said the source, who declined to be identified for the same reason. “Instead, he was only exercising his freedom of speech.”
Chinese authorities arrested and tortured Wangchuk in 2016 because of a New York Times documentary released a year earlier in which he advocated for the use of the Tibetan language in government offices and in education.
He was held in pre-trial detention for two years, and in May 2018 was sentenced to five years in prison for “inciting separatism”
Wangchuk was released in January 2021, but remains subject to a five-year deprivation of political rights, according to PEN America, a U.S. organization that advocated for freedom of expression worldwide.
This August, a group of unidentified men in eastern Tibet attacked Wangchuk who was staying at a hotel in Darlak county after traveling there to raise awareness about the disappearance of the Tibetan language in schools, RFA reported, based on a report by London-based rights group Free Tibet.
Pema Gyal, a Tibetan researcher at Tibet Watch, a London-based advocacy and monitoring group, condemned Wangchuk’s latest beating and detention.
“Earning a livelihood remains increasingly difficult for former political prisoners who are also deprived of their political rights,” he said. “Even after their release from prison, they are subjected to constant surveillance and harassment by security officials and the crackdown has been very prominent.”
Translated by Tenzin Dickyi of RFA Tibetan. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.