A Chinese court has ordered nine Tibetans jailed for “anti-state” activities in the wake of widespread actions in a county in Tibet resisting orders to fly the Chinese national flag, sources said.
Three of those jailed—Tenzin Rangdrol, 32, a businessman; Konchok Choephel, 28, a monk; and Tobden, 30, a nomad and writer—were sentenced on Nov. 30 and were residents of Shakchu township in Driru (in Chinese, Biru) county in China’s Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).
Information on the specific charges on which the three were convicted, and on the identities of the other six who were jailed, were not immediately available, a Tibetan source in exile told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Monday.
“But the common accusations made against them alleged conspiracy with forces aligned with [Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama and the commission of acts aimed at ‘splitting’ the Chinese nation,” RFA’s source said, citing local contacts and speaking on condition of anonymity.
Konchok Choephel was sentenced to six years in jail, while Rangdrol and Tobden both received five-year terms, he said.
Tobden’s writings on Tibetan national themes may have especially angered Chinese authorities, RFA’s source said.
“He wrote about the sufferings of Driru and called on the world to urge justice for the county’s residents, who suffer under unjust laws and regulations.”
In addition to intense restrictions now imposed on Driru county by Chinese security forces, “Driru residents and others now staying in other parts of the TAR are being watched, and their activities are restricted,” the source said.
“Many of them have been told to return to their hometowns in Driru,” he added.
Separately, the Dharamsala, India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) confirmed the jailings, saying that of the nine Tibetans sentenced, the three identified so far had been charged with maintaining contacts with “the Dalai clique” and with “engaging in activities to split the nation.”
“Splittism” is a charge frequently leveled by Chinese authorities against Tibetans who assert their national and cultural identity in the face of China’s rule in Tibetan areas.
The identities of the other six Driru residents sentenced are still unknown “due to extreme government censorship and surveillance in Driru and neighboring counties in Nagchu [Naqu] prefecture,” TCHRD said.
Meanwhile, authorities detained two other Driru residents—Lobsang Choying and Pasang Tashi—in late November on suspicion of involvement in area protests, sources told RFA.
Choying, a resident of Ngayang village, was taken into custody on Nov. 18 for taking part in a students’ protest, while Tashi, a monk at the Driru Rabten monastery, was detained on Nov. 23, sources said.
“Family members and friends are not allowed to contact them,” one source said, adding, “Many Tibetans are now being held in Driru’s local jail, in the Nagchu prefecture jail, and in [Tibet’s regional capital] Lhasa.”
Forced displays of loyalty
For over two months, Driru county has been at the center of a campaign by Tibetans resisting forced displays of loyalty to the Chinese state.
The campaign began in early October when villages refused orders to fly the Chinese flag from their homes, throwing them instead into a river and prompting a deadly security crackdown.
Shootings in Driru’s Sengthang and Trinring villages on Oct. 8 left at least four dead and about 50 injured, sources said.
Two days earlier, Chinese security forces shot and wounded at least 60 Driru-area Tibetans demanding the release of a villager who had led protests against Chinese orders to hoist the flags.
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 123 Tibetans in China 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 Pema Ngodup, Lobe Socktsang, Rigdhen Dolma and Lumbum Tashi for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.