Tibetan Protest Monk Freed From Prison After Serving More Than Seven Years

He is warmly greeted at home by relatives and friends despite police warnings that no welcome should be given.

Tibetan monk Jamyang Phuntsok is greeted by relatives and supporters following his release, Sept. 3, 2016.

Authorities in southwestern China’s Sichuan province have freed a Tibetan monk at the end of a seven-and-a-half prison term served for activities opposing Beijing’s rule in Tibetan areas, Tibetan sources say.

Jamyang Phuntsok, formerly enrolled in Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) county’s Kirti monastery and also known as Jamkho, was released on Sept. 2 from Sichuan’s Mianyang prison and returned home the next day amid police warnings that no public welcome should be held, a source living in the area told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“However, upon his release, friends and relatives and other residents of [Phuntsok’s] Julu village turned out in large numbers to greet him with traditional offering scarves,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“People from nearby villages were still coming to welcome him home on Sept. 3, and he was also invited to a local picnic in a gesture of solidarity and support,” he said.

Asked about his experiences in prison, Phuntsok said that things had “not been too bad” for him and that he had not suffered much, but he was visibly more thin following his release, the source said.

Phuntsok, then 36, was taken into custody at Kirti monastery by Chinese police on March 3, 2009, on suspicion of spreading news of Tibetan protests to outside contacts, Chinese state media reported at the time he was detained.

He was also charged with falsely alleging that Chinese police had shot a Kirti monk named Tabey, after the monk had set himself on fire in 2009 in the first self-immolation protest reported in a Tibetan area of China, China’s Xinhua news agency said.

Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.

A total of 145 Tibetans living in China have now set themselves ablaze in self-immolations since the wave of fiery protests began in 2009, with most protests featuring calls for Tibetan freedom and the Dalai Lama’s return from India, where he has lived since escaping Tibet during a failed national uprising in 1959.

Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.