Family of young Tibetan still in the dark 6 months after his arbitrary arrest

UPDATED at 1:47 p.m. EDT on 2022-06-17

Chinese authorities arrested a young Tibetan language activist six months ago, and his whereabouts remain unknown, even to his family, sources in Tibet told RFA.

Thupten Lodoe, also known by his pen name Sabuche, is a university graduate in his 30s from Seshul county (in Chinese Shiqu), part of the Garze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan province.  The husband and father of two children is fluent in Chinese, English, and Tibetan and is known to have studied at a school established by the Panchen Lama, a Tibetan spiritual leader. The Chinese government offered him 10,000 yuan (U.S. $1489) to accept a job, which he turned down to advocate for the preservation of the Tibetan language.

“Lodoe was arrested unexpectedly by the Chinese authorities six months ago from Seshul County and taken to Chengdu, [Sichuan’s capital],” a Tibetan source in Tibet told RFA’s Tibetan Service, on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

Seshul County in an undated file photo.

“Since then, his whereabouts and condition are unknown. His family has learned from some sources that he will be convicted soon, but they still don’t know where exactly he is being detained at the moment — whether in a prison or a detention center,” the source said.

The arrest of Lodoe is part of a larger crackdown by the Chinese government on Tibetan writers, intellectuals and cultural leaders. Authorities arbitrarily imprison them for long periods of time in undisclosed locations, without revealing the exact charges or the dates of their sentences to their families, sources said.

“Usually officials from a respective county will come and take individuals away to detention,” the source said.

“However, this time Chinese officials from Sichuan province came to arrest Lodoe. Many believe that Lodoe was arrested for having communicated with people in exile and also for advocating for Tibetan language rights. Chinese officials have still not cited any reasons for his arrest,” the source added. “We still don’t know the exact month and date of his arrest [either].”

File photo of Thupten Lodoe. Photo: citizen journalist

A friend of Lodoe, who resides in China, told RFA that the Chinese government threatened his family after his arrest.

“They were told not to discuss anything about matter with anyone. His two children were also barred from attending school and his family has no information on him at the moment,” his friend said.

Chinese authorities have frequently detained Tibetan writers and artists who promote Tibetan national identity and culture — with many sentenced to lengthy prison terms — following region-wide protests of Chinese rule that swept Tibet and Tibetan areas in western provinces of China in 2008.

Language rights have become a particular focus for Tibetan efforts to assert national identity in recent years, with informally organized language courses typically deemed “illegal associations” and teachers subject to detention and arrest, sources say.

Translated by Tenzin Dickyi. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

Added photos, second source’s quotes and additional information about Lodoe’s name, schooling and family.

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