Thursday, August 30, 2007


China detains Sikkim traders for traveling in vehicle with Dalai Lama's photograph
GANGTOK, 27 Aug, 2007: The re-opening of Nathula for trade between Tibetan Autonomous Region of China and Sikkim in India may have been a symbolic celebration of the new found friendship between the two Asian giants, but marked differences in political regimes and religious freedom on the two sides of the border remain contentious issues. India is a secular democracy and China a totalitarian communist regime and it was only a matter of time before traders enjoying religious freedom in Sikkim crossed paths with the communist enforcers on the Chinese side. Sources inform of four locals being detained and interrogated by the Chinese police, known as the People's Security Police. The four were detained for more than a couple of hours last week for allegedly violating local laws of the Tibetan Autonomous Region. While associates of the detained Sikkimese claim that they were even roughed up, concerned authorities here, while confirming the detention, deny any information on their being manhandled by Chinese police. The four were detained when they were allegedly found in possession of photographs of the Dalai Lama.

People of TAR, though Buddhists by religion, are banned from possessing or displaying photographs of the Dalai Lama. The four Sikkimese, all of whom are drivers from the Jawaharlal Nehru Road belt, had crossed over to China in a vehicle belonging to another trader who was not part of their group. The vehicle was being driven by one Achu Singey Bhutia of Gnathang, who, it is informed, is quite advanced in age. The vehicle, it is reported had photographs of Dalai Lama in it which was noticed by the Chinese authorities at the border. They informed the local Chinese police which then intercepted the vehicle some distance short of the trade mart at Rinchengang in Dromo, about 21 Kms from Nathula pass. Sources inform that the occupants were ordered out of the vehicle which was then searched during which the photograph of the Dalai Lama was found. All four were then marched off to a room and detained for a couple of hours. During their detention, it is informed, they were intensely interrogated; all 4 were interrogated separately. It was during this interrogation that three of the younger drivers were allegedly manhandled by the Chinese police. It is informed that the People's Security Police demanded to know their backgrounds and why they were in possession of the Dalai Lama's photograph. The four, it is learnt, maintained that they had hired the vehicle, so could not explain why it had a photograph of the Dalai Lama. After more than 2 hours of interrogation the 4 were let off with a warning not to repeat the 'offence' which could lead to their arrest in the future.Sources inform that they could very well have been arrested as they had violated the local laws but there still seems to be some amount of ambiguity on whether such laws can be applied on Indian traders and citizens. It is conceded that had the traders been arrested then the matter would have gone to the highest levels with Indian authorities having to take it up with the Chinese Embassy. The state government is inquiring into the matter. However, the matter has cooled relations up at the border with the Indian authorities informed to have become more stringent in their checking of goods coming from across. As a result, it is informed that recently about Rs. 80,000 worth of goods mostly blankets, which is not in the list of tradable items; coming in from TAR was confiscated by the Indian authorities. China, despite more than five decades of trying, has not succeeded in weaning Tibetans away from the Dalai Lama and he commands their reverence even from exile despite the crackdown that follows any public expression of devotion towards him in TAR. In fact, recently China passed a law by which Rinpoches have been banned from reincarnating without prior permission from the authorities.
(RanjitSingh in Now Daily)