Chinese authorities have arrested a prominent Tibetan writer after he signed a letter critical of the Chinese government's relief efforts following the recent earthquake in the western Qinghai [Xinhua backgrounder] province, a family friend said Monday. Tra Gyal, who writes under the pseudonym Zhogs Dung, was reportedly arrested [AP report] while working at the Nationalities Publishing House in the provincial capital Xining. Tra Gyal helped organize private donations [Times report] for those left homeless in the remote Yushu county, a Tibet Autonomous Prefecture, by asking Tibetans not to send donations through official channels but rather to travel to the county themselves to guarantee their donations reached those in need. It is unclear whether Tra Gyal's detention is related to his criticism of the earthquake relief efforts.
In February, a Chinese court sentenced [JURIST report] human rights activist Tan Zuoren to five years in prison on subversion charges after he documented the lethal consequences of substandard construction in the Sichuan province's 2008 earthquake [BBC backgrounder], which left some 90,000 dead. A Chinese court sentenced another earthquake activist [JURIST report], Huang Qi, to three years in prison in November on the charge of illegally holding state secrets. Huang was a critic of the Chinese government's handling of the 2008 disaster. After the quake, he posted articles online criticizing the government's response and talked to foreign media outlets about how some children's deaths were the result of poorly-built schools. Amnesty International issued a statement [text] in July urging China to drop the charges against Huang and release him from custody.