Tibetan activists arrested ahead of Modi-Xi summit

Tenzin Tsundue in a 2017 file photo.

Tenzin Tsundue in a 2017 file photo. Facebook

Tibet Sun Newsroom

McLEOD GANJ, India, 7 October 2019

Nine Tibetan activists have been arrested in South India ahead of a meeting of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping summit in Tamil Nadu state.

Among the arrested is prominent Tibetan writer and independence activist Tenzin Tsundue, according to media reports. Villupuram police arrested him on Saturday night in Kottakuppam, which is less than hundred kilometres away from the town of Mahabalipuram, where the Modi-Xi summit is to take place.

Tsundue had planned to unfurl pro-Tibet banners during Xi’s visit. He was sent to Chennai Puzhal Central Jail in the wee hours of Sunday, said police officers.

Tsundue shot to prominence in 2005, after he unfurled a Tibetan flag and a “Free Tibet” banner when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Bangalore. Since then he became a marked man, and as a result, the Indian police ordered a travel ban, restricting him to Dharamshala, when Chinese President Hu Jintao visited India in November 2006.

The other eight arrested are members of the Tibetan Youth Congress and Students for Free Tibet-India, and were arrested on Sunday in Chennai. They had travelled from Delhi to organise protests during the proposed visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the seaside resort overlooking the Bay of Bengal.

Security has been tightened, with 500 police personnel deployed and CCTV cameras installed across the town for round-the-clock surveillance. Last week, the Chief Minister of the state, Edappadi Palaniswami, visited the area to oversee the arrangements for the summit.

Xi and Modi are scheduled to have a packed three days of engagements beginning from 11 October. The two leaders will officially start the informal summit on Friday at 5 pm with an hour-long tour of three monuments — Arjuna’s Penance, Panch Rathas, and Shore Temple — in Mahabalipuram. This will be followed by a cultural programme that they will attend together at Shore Temple.

Modi and Xi had a similar summit in Wuhan, China, in April 2018, which was seen as a “potential sign of thawing” between the two countries after the relations between the two countries reached a low ebb following the Doklam standoff in 2017.

But nothing of that sort was achieved; instead China has openly sided with Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, which is a bone of contention between India and Pakistan.

Since there isn’t any known official agenda of the summit, it is unclear whether the two leaders will dwell on the Tibetan issue, but the succession issue of the Dalai Lama, who has been living in India in exile for the last 60 year, has been on China’s top agenda with regard to Tibet.

Nepalese media are reporting that Xi may visit Kathmandu after his India visit. Tibet Sun has learned that Tibetan groups have been warned by Nepalese police to refrain from organising any protests during the probable visit.

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