Updated at 10:30 a.m. EST on 2013-03-04
Nine Tibetans went on trial Thursday in China's Gansu province on charges they incited self-immolation protests challenging Beijing’s rule, sources in Tibet said Thursday.
The court hearing under tight security in Luchu (in Chinese, Luqu) county in the Kanlho (Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture was largely a closed-door affair and was part of Beijing's efforts to criminalize the burning protests and crack down on Tibetans deemed to have provided encouragement or support to self-immolators, the sources said.
The specific charges against the nine, detained in connection with a self-immolation in Luchu county in November, were not available.
"The trial was conducted quietly with a huge presence of security forces in and around the court. The Tibetans were barred from coming close to the court premises," one source told RFA's Tibetan Service.
One of the nine charged is a monk, identified as Kalsang Samdrub from the Dzamtsa Dongsuk monastery. The others were Kalsang Kyab, Kalsang Sonam, Tsezung, Dorje Dondrub, Kalsang Namdren, Sonam Kyi, Lhamo Dorje, and Nyima—all of Dzamtsa Lotso village in Luchu.
They were believed to be charged with the fatal self-immolation protest of Tsering Tashi, 31, who set himself ablaze near a local government office in Luchu on Nov. 29, 2012, the sources said.
Tsering Tashi, a father of two young daughters—seven and three years old—self-immolated "in protest against the Chinese policy in Tibet and for Tibetan political freedom," an exile Tibetan with contacts in the county had told RFA at the time.
Criminalizing burning protests
A total of 107 Tibetans have self-immolated so far in protests challenging Chinese rule and calling for the return of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader who lives in exile in India.
Chinese courts have jailed more than a dozen Tibetans, including monks, in connection with the self-immolations in the last few weeks. Some were given year jail terms of up to 13 years.
Human rights groups have criticized the Chinese authorities for criminalizing the burning protests.
Chinese authorities have also deployed paramilitary forces and restricted communications and travel in the areas where self-immolations have occurred.
Also Thursday, reports said police had arrested five Tibetans in Gansu province, accusing them for working at the behest of foreign forces to persuade three people to stage self-immolation protests in October and November.
Three of the five were monks, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Reported by Lumbum for RFA's Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified, in a quote, the court in which this trial was held.