The Tamil Nadu state police arrested nine Tibetan activists on October 5 and 6, ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India. Police also arrested 12 other activists on Friday just before the arrival of the Chinese President.
Xi Jinping is expected to land in Chennai and then will take a road trip to the coastal town of Mamallapuram (formerly known as Mahabalipuram), where Prime Minister Narendra Modi will play host to the second “informal summit” between the two leaders.
The near 24 hours in Mamallapuram is expected to be an act of deft diplomacy—balancing the economic ties between New Delhi and Beijing with thorny issues such as border disputes and China’s support of Pakistan on the Kashmir issue.
Police said that it cracked down on Tibetan activists based on the intelligence from Union Home Ministry that members of Tibetan Youth Congress and Students for a Free Tibet-India (SFT-India) were planning to stage a protest against the Chinese President.
Amongst those arrested is well-known Tibetan poet and pro-Independence activist Tenzin Tsundue. He was allegedly carrying “Free Tibet” posters and flag with the intention to display at the protest in Mahabalipuram.
A Tibetan pro-democracy activist, Tsundue has also been in the news earlier for protesting against China’s Tibet policy during the previous visits of Chinese premiers. In 2006, when Chinese President Hu Jintao visited India, the government had put a travel ban on Dharamshala-based Tsundue.
Currently, he has been booked under Section 7 (1) (a) of The Criminal Law Amendment Act with Section 4 of The Foreigners Act (obstruction, intent to use violence and loitering).
Police have also arrested Tibetan Youth Congress President Gonpo Dhundup and taken him to the Guindy police station.
All of them are expected to remain in custody until the two leaders conclude their meeting. Condemning the arrests, Students for A Free Tibet-India( SFT) released a statement calling for “immediate release of the detained activists” and asking India to “stand up for human rights and democracy”.
“The reason behind the arrests is believed to be the Tibetans presence in the vicinity of the State visit days before its opening. These preemptive arrests highlight China’s growing influence over our democracies and their ability to press governments to silence freedom of speech in all corners of the world,” said the press statement by SFT-India.
As per SFT-India, Tamil Nadu police has also ordered 28 more Tibetan students who are currently studying in Chennai to make daily appearances at the local police station.
Meanwhile, security has been heightened in Mamallapuram with more than 500 personnel deployed, and the police have been especially asked to keep an eye on Tibetan settlements in the area.