Tibetan protesters in Denma give the thumbs up sign during a protest in August.
Tibetan protesters in Denma give the thumbs up sign during a protest in August.

Tibetans in exile say another protester is close to death after being severely beaten in police detention in a Tibetan area of Sichuan Province.

Sources tell VOA's Tibetan service that 64-year-old Dawa Lhamo was hospitalized after police severely injured her head a month ago and she has reportedly been moved to her home with little chance of survival.

“They are giving religious initiations to her,” said Tenpa, a monk in India who is from the area and knows Dawa’s family. Such an initiation, he says, is given to patients when there is a little chance of surviving.

According to International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), Dawa Lhamo was “severely tortured” in a local detention center, making her immobile and unable to speak.

She was among at least 25 Tibetans arrested on August 12 after staging a protest in the village of Denma in Ganze Prefecture. Tenpa and other exile Tibetans from the area allege that at least four have died in detention from untreated wounds and two have committed suicide.

Many of the deceased are relatives and family members of a village leader who was arrested the night before the incident for organizing a local horse festival without governmental permission, according to the same exile sources.

On August 12, hundreds of Tibetans gathered outside a local government office in Denma, asking for the release of Wangdrak, the village leader.

Photos distributed through Wechat showed the Tibetans conducting an unusual form of protest by raising their thumbs up in the air. In Tibetan culture, pointing one’s thumbs in the air is a gesture of begging.

Thus far there have not been any reports that protests conducted by the Tibetan villagers have been violent. But reports from Tibetans in exile said Chinese security forces fired at the protesters and arrested dozens. 

On August 18, Wangdrak’s uncle Tsewang Gonpo, son-in-law Jinpa Tharchen, and a relative named Yeshi also died in detention from “torture” and untreated wounds.

Some images distributed in the exiled Tibetan community through Wechat show the wounds on the bodies, but it is hard to determine whether they are caused by rubber bullets or live ammunition. However, Kalsang Gyaltsen Bapa, a prominent Tibet analyst in Dharamsala and a former official in China’s United Work, insists they are actual bullet wounds.

According to ICT, a Chinese officer died after being accidentally shot by troops when they opened fire on the Tibetan protesters.

Chinese officials have not commented on the matter and the incident has not been mentioned in China's official press.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Tibetan service.