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India is Arresting Tibetans Ahead of Chinese President’s Visit

Tibetan activists in India see these “preemptive arrests” as a sign of China’s growing influence over democracies and “their ability to press governments to silence freedom of speech in all corners of the world."

by Pallavi Pundir
11 October 2019, 5:51am

A Tibetan exile activist scuffles with Indian police during a protest against the celebration of the 70 years of Communist rule in China, near the Chinese embassy, in New Delhi on October 1, 2019. Photo: Prakash SINGH / AFP

Nine Tibetan activists were arrested by the Tamil Nadu state police on October 5 and 6, ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India today and tomorrow. President Jinping and PM Modi are to take part in the second informal summit at Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram), near Chennai, Tamil Nadu on October 11-12.

The objective of the summit is to hold comprehensive talks on bilateral relations and exchange views on regional and international issues. However, the state police cracked down on Tibetan activists based on the intel that members of Tibetan Youth Congress and Students for Free Tibet-India (SFT-India) are planning to stage a protest against President Jinping.

Senior police officials from the Villupuram police department have also confirmed the arrest of activist and writer Tenzin Tsundue, who’s been an active part of Tibet’s independence movement and was once even banned from leaving Dharamsala before the visit of then Chinese President Hu Jintao to India in 2006. Last week though, Tsundue was allegedly carrying “Free Tibet” posters and flag with the intention to display at the protest in Mahabalipuram. He was booked under Section 7 (1) (a) of The Criminal Law Amendment Act with Section 4 of The Foreigners Act (obstruction, intent to use violence and loitering).

While Tsundue was picked up from a hotel in Kottakuppam, the other eight activists were arrested by the Chennai city police at the Chennai International Airport upon arrival from Delhi. At the moment, however, the police have refused to state the grounds on which the arrests were made.

In the meantime, Tibetan organisations have condemned the arrests and are calling on India to “stand for human rights and democracy”. SFT-India took out a statement, expressing “shock and disappointment” by the arrests, one of whom is their national director, Rinzin Choedon, the only female detainee. “The reason behind the arrests is believed to be the Tibetans presence in the vicinity of the State visit days before its opening. These preemptive arrests highlight China’s growing influence over our democracies and their ability to press governments to silence freedom of speech in all corners of the world,” said the press statement by SFT-India.

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free tibet china india

SFT-India further stated that 28 more Tibetan students studying in Chennai have been ordered to make daily appearances at the local police station, which is leading to many missing their classes and exams. The organisation members who visited the detained activists report that they’re in good health. From behind the bars, Choeden sent a message stating, “The chains on our wrists, the prison walls detaining us, those are temporary. The spirit and longing for freedom within every Tibetan, every Hong Konger, every Uyghur, every Taiwanese, and all of humanity, that cannot be imprisoned.”

In the meantime, security is tight across the state with 500 personnel deployed in the 20 km stretch. Additionally, the state police have been asked to keep an eye open more Tibetans, especially in the Tibetan settlements in the state.

Follow Pallavi Pundir on Twitter.

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