Updated at 01:20 p.m. EST on 2013-02-11
Chinese courts have ordered seven more Tibetans jailed for up to 14 years and have rounded up 70 others over their suspected roles in self-immolations and other protests challenging Beijing’s rule, according to Tibetan sources and state media.
Five of them were sentenced on January 26 for holding protests that turned violent in Sichuan’s Kardze (Ganzi) prefecture a year ago and two others were sentenced on Friday as Beijing stepped up its crackdown on the burning protests in Tibetan-populated areas in Chinese provinces.
On Jan. 26, the Draggo (Luhuo) County People’s Court in Kardze sentenced monks Tashi Dargye and Namgyal Dondrub to 14-year terms in prison for their role in a Jan. 23, 2012 protest, India-based Tibetan monk Ngawang Khyenrab told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Friday, citing sources in the region.
“A layman, Trinley, was sentenced to 10 years, and two other laypersons whose names are not known received 11-year terms,” Khyenrab said.
The protest began peacefully when Chinese authorities insisted that local Tibetans celebrate the Lunar New Year against the wishes of residents saddened by self-immolation protest deaths, but turned violent when security forces fired into the crowd, killing and injuring several people, sources said.
The two monks were identified from images captured on security cameras during area protests in 2008 and again during the protest in January last year, Khyenrab said.
The layman, Trinley, had been charged with damaging a bank when the Jan. 23, 2012 protest turned violent.
“Local residents are complaining that their trial was unfair and their sentences unjust,” Khyenrab said.
Two others jailed
Meanwhile, Chinese courts in Qinghai sentenced a Tibetan man to four years in prison for inciting “secession” and handed a 13-year term to another man for encouraging a monk to self-immolate, China’s official Xinhua news service reported on Friday.
In one court, a Tibetan herdsman identified as Gyadehor, 60, was sentenced to four years in prison for promoting ideas related to “Tibetan independence” when he brought money and other goods to comfort the families of self-immolators, Xinhua said.
“His acts constituted the crime of inciting a split of the state,” it said.
A Qinghai court on Friday also handed a 13-year term to Tibetan, Phagpa, 27, following his conviction on a charge of “intentional homicide” for encouraging a monk to self-immolate, Xinhua said.
The monk backed out of his planned protest after a female cousin learned of his intentions, the agency said.
A week ago, Chinese courts sentenced eight Tibetans for their alleged role in inciting or abetting other burnings in Sichuan and Gansu provinces, drawing criticism from human rights groups.
The U.S. State Department on Thursday voiced concern over China’s use of criminal charges against persons associated with protesters and over the “deteriorating human rights situation in Tibetan areas.”
Washington continues to urge Chinese leaders to “engage in a substantive dialogue” with Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said.
“We continue to call on Chinese government officials to permit Tibetans to express their grievances freely, publicly and peacefully, without fear of retribution,” Nuland said.
Ninety-eight Tibetans so far have set themselves ablaze while calling for Tibetan freedom and the return from exile of the Dalai Lama, who lives in India’s Dharamsala hill town.
Chinese authorities have stepped up efforts in recent months to criminalize the burnings and crack down on Tibetans deemed to have provided encouragement or support.
Lyu Benqian, deputy chief of the Qinghai Provincial Public Security Department, said that 12 of the 70 suspects detained were formally arrested for their involvement in self-immolation cases in Qinghai’s Malho (in Chinese, Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Xinhua said.
“Some of the victims were frustrated and pessimistic in life, and they wanted to earn respect by self-immolation,” Lyu said, adding, “Meanwhile, a few individuals with a strong sense of extreme nationalism showed sympathy with the self-immolators and followed their example.”
China routinely accuses the Dalai Lama and his supporters of orchestrating the self-immolations.
But Tibetan exile leaders, while publicly honoring what they call the “sacrifices” made by self-immolators, have denied involvement in the burnings and have called on Tibetans in Tibet to refrain from “drastic actions.”
Reported by RFA's Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English with additional reporting by Richard Finney.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the sentencing court referenced in the third paragraph.