Monk Charged After Repeated Detentions

Authorities decide on a Tibetan's case even before his family learns of the charges against him.
2012-02-15
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An undated photo of Jigme Gyatso.
An undated photo of Jigme Gyatso.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

A Tibetan monk repeatedly detained by Chinese authorities for the last six years has finally been formally charged—with “splittist activities”—and will be sentenced soon, Tibetan sources say.

Jigme Gyatso , a monk at the Labrang monastery in the Kanlho (in Chinese, Gannan) prefecture of China’s Gansu province, was most recently picked up by Chinese police on Aug. 20, 2011, his brother reported at the time.

“Since then, he has been held without any word concerning his fate,” a Tibetan source close to the family told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“At the beginning of February, his brother Sonam Tsering received a notice dated Jan. 2 from the Kanlho Public Security Bureau [PSB] informing him that Jigme Gyatso had been formally charged with  ‘splittist activities,’” the source said.

“Splittism” is a charge often brought against Tibetans who assert their national culture and identity or who protest China’s rule in Tibetan regions, where a series of self-immolations and protests have recently led to a bloody crackdown by security forces and the arrest of scores of Tibetans. 

Jigme Gyatso’s family members were invited to respond to the notice within 24 hours, but the document arrived a month late, the source said.

He added that after receiving the notice, Jigme Gyatso’s family contacted the PSB office and were told that a decision had already been made regarding Jigme Gyatso’s sentence and that he would be sentenced “soon.”

They were also informed that Jigme Gyatso was receiving “medical treatment” while in custody, he said.

Repeated detentions

Chinese authorities first detained Jigme Gyatso, also called Jigme Goril, in 2006 following his return to Labrang after he attended a religious ceremony conducted in India by Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

He was released without charge after being held and questioned for a month.

In 2008, he was picked up during regionwide protests against Chinese rule and was held for a year. He was severely beaten in detention, but again was not formally charged.

In 2010, he was held for six months in a hotel for political “re-education” before he was once again released, again without charge.

Jigme Gyatso’s Labrang monastery was the scene of major demonstrations against Chinese rule during regionwide Tibetan protests in March 2008. Monks later disrupted a government-controlled tour of the monastery by foreign journalists in April 2008.

“He was also forbidden from meeting Woeser,” a Tibetan writer and blogger living in Beijing, the source said.

“Finally, he was taken away in August 2011 and nothing was heard of him until now.”

Policeman 'switched sides'

Meanwhile, a Tibetan traffic policeman from Machu county, also in Kanlho, was handed a four-and-a-half-year jail term for “rebelling” against the Chinese government during regionwide protests in 2008, a Tibetan living in exile said, citing contacts in the region.

“His name is Sherab, and he is from the [district of] Dzoge,” the source said.

“He had been a monk for a while, but later joined the Chinese police force, where he served for four years.”

When Tibetans in Machu rose against Chinese rule in 2008, Sherab “went to the Tibetan side and attacked the Chinese police,” the source said.

“He was detained sometime in May or June of 2008, and since then nothing was heard about him for a while.”

Sherab was sentenced by the Kanlho People’s Intermediate Court and is now being held in Linxia, in the Kanlho prefecture, the source said.

The date of his sentencing, though “recent,” is not known, he said.

Reported by Tenzin Wangyal and Lobe for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translations by Karma Dorjee and Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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