Human Rights Watch Urges China to Release Tibetan Students

A leading international human rights group is urging China to immediately release seven Tibetan teenagers detained on suspicion of writing pro-Tibetan independence slogans on buildings.

Human Rights Watch said Thursday that authorities detained the 14- and 15-year-old school boys about two weeks ago, around September 7 in Gannan prefecture in Gansu province. The arrests were made a day after graffiti appeared on the walls of the village police station and other buildings.

The watchdog agency says one 14-year-old detainee is reported to have been badly beaten during or after the arrest and was bleeding profusely when last seen by relatives.

The group also says authorities moved the students to a nearby town of Xiahe on September 10, a few days after the arrest and has since denied relatives visitation rights and even refused to confirm that the students are still in custody.

The students are alleged to have written slogans calling for the return of the Dalai Lama and a free Tibet.

China has called the Dalai Lama a "splittist" and accuses him of secretly promoting separatism.

The Dalai Lama has been struggling since the late 1980s to negotiate an autonomous status for Tibet in association with China.

Chinese troops took control of Tibet in 1950. The Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers fled to India in 1959, during a failed revolt against Chinese rule.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.