On October 8, 2019, Indian authorities reportedly arrested Tenzin Norbu, a Tibetan assistant professor at Hindustan College, in an apparent attempt to prevent protests while China’s president was visiting India.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Xinping were scheduled to hold a summit near the Indian city of Chennai on October 11 to discuss issues including trade, development, and a long-standing border dispute between the two countries.
Indian authorities reportedly feared that Tibetans living in India would stage protests against the Chinese president during the summit. In the days leading up to the meeting, Indian authorities arrested several Tibetan activists and asked some Tibetan students near Chennai to sign documents stating that they would not “disturb public tranquility.”
On October 6, police arrested eight Tibetan students because they had traveled to Chennai reportedly to protest the summit. Following their arrest, police summoned Norbu to appear at a local police station, apparently based on allegations that he had housed the students during their stay in Chennai. When Norbu arrived, he was arrested and placed under judicial remand. Police reportedly stated that they believed Norbu himself had planned to engage in protest activities. They released Norbu, alongside twelve other Tibetan activists, on October 15.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary arrest of a scholar in an apparent attempt to prevent his nonviolent exercise of the right to freedom of expression and freedom of association — conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which India is a party. State authorities have a responsibility to refrain from interfering in peaceful expressive activities. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom, freedom of expression, and democratic society generally.