A court in western China’s Sichuan province has handed a three-year prison term to a Tibetan monk suspected of involvement in protests challenging China’s rule in Tibetan areas, sources said.
Lobsang Soepa, 43, was sentenced on June 20, 2013, in Marthang (in Chinese, Hongyuan) county in the Ngaba (Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, a Tibetan living in exile told RFA’s Tibetan Service this week.
There has been a clampdown in the flow of news on developments in Tibetan-populated areas in China following stepped-up security measures amid self-immolation protests challenging Chinese rule.
Soepa, a monk of Dzoege (Ruo’ergai) county’s Drenpa monastery, “was detained on Jan. 18, 2013, on suspicion of taking part in a rally calling for the release of another monk suspected of involvement in local self-immolation protests,” Tamdin Kyab told RFA, citing sources in the region.
No information was immediately available regarding the precise charges for which Soepa was jailed.
Soepa, who had traveled twice to India and met with exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, had come to authorities’ attention in the past in connection with an anti-China leafleting campaign in Dzoege, Kyab said.
“In December 2011, several leaflets appeared in Changtsa township calling for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet,” he said.
The authorities blamed Soepa for the leaflets and detained him on Jan. 15, 2011, Kyab said, adding, “He was held for six months and was finally released only on assurances given by the senior monks of Drenpa monastery.”
Support for Dalai Lama
Soepa had also publicly supported calls by the Dalai Lama for Tibetans to give up the wearing of animal furs and to abandon the worship of a controversial “protector” deity deemed divisive and sectarian, sources said.
“In 1992, Lobsang Soepa visited India and then returned to Tibet. He again visited India during 2005 and 2006 and met with the Dalai Lama,” Tamdin Kyab told RFA.
“When he went back, he called on the monks of Lhamo Sertri monastery and others to stop worshipping Shugden, as prescribed by the Dalai Lama.”
Chinese police frequently investigate and arrest Tibetans deemed to have responded to the wishes or policy directives of the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing considers a dangerous separatist bent on “splitting” Tibet from Chinese control.
Soepa, a native of Changtsa Choegyal village in Dzoege, is now being held in jail in Marthang county, Kyab 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 127 Tibetans have also set themselves ablaze in self-immolation protests calling for Tibetan freedom, with another six setting fire to themselves in India and Nepal.
Reported by Lobe Socktsang for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.