The mysterious case of the missing Tibetan teacher Rinchen Kyi has apparently found a happy ending. The mother of a 13-year-old daughter has been escorted back home by police officers on Sunday evening. Kyi had been taken to a hospital against her will by police on August 1 last year and disappeared for eight months just two days later.
She was accused of inciting separatism. But to this day, Chinese authorities have not explained to the family how exactly Rinchen Kyi broke the law, nor have they provided any information about the woman’s whereabouts or state of health.
As early as mid-February, the UN Special Rapporteurs of the Commission on Human Rights submitted a request to the Chinese embassy in Geneva seeking clarification on Kyi’s case, among others. It took six weeks before the Special Rapporteurs’ letter was finally allowed to be made public last week, according to the statutes. Kyi returned home just a few days later.
What is relatively certain is that her disappearance was linked to the closing of a middle school in the administrative district of Darlak in the province of Qinghai, as the human rights organization Tibet Watch found out. The private institution, once founded to give children of impoverished families and orphans access to formal education, had been ordered by authorities a few weeks earlier to stop teaching after more than 22 years. There was no conclusive explanation for this at the time. At that time, there was no plausible reason for the decision. The school had all necessary documents and “that it has abided by the constitution of the People’s Republic of China”.
Anonymous local sources who are in contact with Tibet Watch suspect political reasons behind the school’s closure. Over the years, the school had apparently earned a top reputation among Tibetan farmers and nomads. Initially opened as an elementary school, it had been allowed to operate as a middle school since 2008. Lessons were primarily taught in Tibetan. Authorities were aware and tolerated cultural-religious elements in education. Former students reportedly obtained jobs in the administration, became entrepreneurs or Buddhist monks or nuns.
Two more Tibetans disappeared after convictions
Apparently, it was a thorn in the side of authorities that monks were trained in the school. This would have to take place in monasteries, the school administration had been told. Especially since the Chinese authorities have drastically increased their control over Buddhist monasteries since the unrest in Tibet in 2008. CCTV cameras and police stations in the immediate vicinity of the monasteries are intended to nip any flare-up of new resistance in the bud.
However, the school administrators were not given an explanation as to why the middle school had to close completely. According to the family of Kyi, the teacher who was later abducted, authorities’ actions had caused the woman to barely eat. As a result, Kyi was taken into custody on August 1 last year. Chinese police accused her of “inciting separatism” because refusing to eat as a hunger strike is a crime against state security under Article 103 of China’s Criminal Law. A conviction could lead to up to ten years in prison. But there was never a trial. Not even a formal arrest, which under Chinese law must generally be handed down six months after detention.
On August 1, Kyi was forcibly taken to a hospital in the provincial capital of Xinin. Two days later, doctors diagnosed her as healthy, Tibet Watch reported. The family, which had traveled to Xining, was then informed by security officials that they were allowed to see the teacher. Officials limited the time window to arrive at the hospital to a few minutes, so the family ultimately arrived too late.
It then took eight long months and a formal request from the UN Commission on Human Rights before she was reunited with her family. In the letter, the Special Rapporteurs had also asked for the whereabouts of two other Tibetans already sentenced to prison. Lobsang Lhundup, a 50-year-old writer, was arrested in 2019 for “public disturbance” and two years later sentenced to four years in prison in a secret trial. To date, his family is unaware of his current whereabouts. Lobsang is the author of two books titled “The Art of Passive Resistance” and “Words Uttered with Risk of Life”.
The 38-year-old musician and singer Lhundrup Dhrakpa criticized the propaganda of the Chinese regime in his songs and called for the preservation of Tibetan identity and tradition. He was arrested in 2019 for publicly performing a song called “Black Hat” that was critical of the government. In 2020, he was sentenced to six years in prison. His whereabouts are also unknown. Marcel Grzanna