Three Tibetans in China's Sichuan province have been jailed after being accused of preventing police from stopping a Tibetan from burning to death in protest against Chinese rule, exile sources said Wednesday.
A court in Marthang (in Chinese, Hongyuan) county in Sichuan's Ngaba (Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture sentenced Kugon and Sonam Yangphel to four years in jail and Nori Dorjee to five years imprisonment for allegedly causing the death of a young Tibetan,Tsering Phuntsok, who self-immolated in January.
Phuntsok, 28, had set himself ablaze and died outside a Chinese police station in Marthang on Jan. 18 in a challenge to Beijing's rule in Tibetan areas.
The trio were sentenced in July after being accused of "causing the death" of Phuntsok, an exile source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told RFA's Tibetan Service.
Another exile source, Lhama Kyab, told RFA that Kugon, Yangphel and Dorjee had snatched fire extinguishers from policemen who were trying to douse the flames on Phuntsok.
"So all three of them were detained and the People’s Court sentenced them to jail sometime in the middle of July this year in the presence of some family members and government officials at the county and township levels," Kyab said.
There has been a clampdown on news related to self-immolations in Tibetan-populated areas due to communication curbs imposed by Chinese authorities, according to sources.
"After the sentencing, the family members tried to see them in Mianyang prison [in Sichuan province] but encountered several problems," he said. "They had to obtain several documents before they could go to the jail to meet the accused.”
A total of 122 Tibetans living in China have now set themselves ablaze calling for Tibetan freedom and for the return of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India in 1959 following a failed national uprising against Chinese rule.
The latest self-immolation protest occurred on Sept. 28 when Shichung, a 41-year-old father of two, burned himself to death in Ngaba county.
Another six Tibetans have staged self-immolation protests in India and Nepal.
Chinese authorities have tightened controls in a bid to check the burning protests, arresting and jailing Tibetans whom they accuse of being linked to the self-immolations and forbidding activities deemed to have supported the protests.
Reported by Lobe Socktsang for RFA's Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.