A court in Sichuan’s Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture this week sentenced seven Tibetans to jail terms ranging from five to 14 years, some for celebrating last year’s 80th birthday of the Dalai Lama, Tibetan sources say.
Those jailed by the People’s Intermediate Court in Barkham (in Chinese, Ma’erkang) county include both monks and laypeople, sources told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
The sentences were handed down on Dec. 6, Kanyak Tsering—a Tibetan monk based in Dharamsala, India—said, citing contacts in the region.
One of those jailed, Drukdra, 50, was a monk attached to Ngaba’s restive Kirti monastery, the scene of frequent protests opposing Beijing’s rule in Tibetan areas, Tsering said.
“He was sentenced to 14 years,” Tsering said, adding that police had seized Drukdra at his room in the monastery one night in November last year, and that his whereabouts had been unknown until now.
“He is presumed to have been arrested because of suspicion that he arranged celebrations for the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday,” Tsering said.
Others convicted for celebrating the exiled spiritual leader’s birthday were Kirti monk Lobsang Khedrup, 44, sentenced to 13 years, and Bonkho Kyi, a 48-year-old laywoman given a seven-year term, Tsering said.
The Dalai Lama is widely reviled by Chinese leaders as a dangerous separatist intent on splitting Tibet, which was invaded by Communist China in 1950, away from Beijing’s control, though the Dalai Lama himself says he seeks only a greater autonomy for Tibet as a part of China.
Chinese authorities had tightened restrictions across Tibetan-populated regions last year in advance of the Dalai Lama’s birthday on July 6, posting warnings against celebrations of the politically sensitive event and blocking public gatherings that could be linked to it.
Also sentenced on Tuesday by the Barkham court were Kirti monk Lobsang Gephel, 29, jailed for 12 years; Kirti monk Lodroe, 41, jailed for nine years; former Trotsik monastery monk Tsultrim, age unknown, jailed for six years; and former Kirti monk Akyakya, 35, jailed for five years.
“They are all being held in a prison in Lunggu [Wenchuan] county, and family members had been warned ahead of time that they would be sentenced soon,” a Tibetan source in Ngaba prefecture told RFA.
Many had earlier been involved in widespread regional protests against Chinese rule in 2008, and some had been jailed in 2011 and later released, another source said.
Chinese authorities have so far given no description of the specific charges for which this week’s severe sentences were handed down, he said, adding, "But [the jailed Tibetans] are said to have hurt community stability and 'split the nation' by their actions."
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin, Lhuboom, and Chakmo Tso for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.