Four schoolboys from a group of seven detained on around September 7 are still in custody after being beaten for an alleged offence of scribbling graffiti calling for the Dalai Lama’s return or freedom for Tibet on walls in a Tibetan area of Gansu province, China. A fifth boy is reportedly very ill in hospital with possible head injuries following maltreatment in Xiahe detention center, and there are concerns about his condition. Two other boys, both 14, have been sent home upon payment of large fines by their families. All of the boys, who were made to carry out hard labor while in detention, are from nomad families and were studying at Bora Middle School in Labrang (Chinese: Xiahe) county in Gannan prefecture.
A monk from Bora monastery in the same area, Jamyang Gyatso, was released from custody last week after being detained in connection with the same incident. He was reportedly severely beaten while in detention.
Dozens of students were initially detained on the same day as the teenage boys, a day after the graffiti appeared on the walls of the school and the village police station, but all except the seven teenagers were released within two days. School staff were also questioned.
The two boys who were sent home on around September 24, both 14, were allowed to leave on condition that they were confined to their villages, and on the payment of a 4000 yuan ($532) fine each by their parents. One report names these children as Drolma Kyab and Tsekhu (Tsering Dondrub). One child, reportedly called Lhamo Tseten, aged 15, has been taken to a hospital in Labrang for treatment for serious injuries, believed to be head injuries resulting from beatings. Some of the boys were reportedly beaten with electric shock prods. It is not clear if Lhamo Tseten will have to return to detention after he recovers.
The boys who remain in detention are 15-year olds Lhamo Tseten, Chopa Kyab, Tamdrin Kyab, Gonpel.
This was the second such incident in the village since August, when the words ‘Free Tibet’ were written on walls in the school basketball court, according to a report by Human Rights Watch on September 20. Some of the seven detained were among those questioned at the time.
The boys were initially held in a local police facility in the township of Amchok Bora (two townships that are joined together), in what is primarily a nomadic area, populated mainly by Tibetans but with some Chinese and Hui Muslim Chinese traders or restaurateurs. Most but not all of the township leaders are Chinese, and the head of the local police is Chinese. Several days later, the boys were moved by non-uniformed security officials to the nearby county town of Labrang (Chinese: Xiahe), approximately two hours north-east by road.
Former political detainees like the two teenagers who have been returned to their families face isolation, fear and anxiety, combined with a consistent awareness of being under surveillance themselves, and concern about their families, who are also under scrutiny. They are often in a state of poor physical health as a result of maltreatment in prison and may not have access to medical care.