Two Tibetan students jailed in northwestern China’s Qinghai province for leading protests calling for the use of the Tibetan language in their schools are in “poor health,” according to family members, sources said.
Family members noticed the deteriorating health condition of Dorje Wangchuk, 22, and Jampa Gyaltsen, age unknown, when officials allowed them to visit the duo in prison in the provincial capital Xining, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Thursday.
“The family members who saw them witnessed the young men’s poor health condition and are now seriously concerned about their health,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Their family members were not allowed to see them for a long time,” the source said. ”However, relatives were recently allowed to see the men at their jail in the provincial capital Xining and exchanged information.”
The two were handed four-year prison terms on March 8, 2013 by a court in the Malho (in Chinese, Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.
Wangchuk, a resident of Rongwo village in Tsekhog (Zeku) county, and Gyaltsen, a resident of Nyalung village in Rebgong (Tongren) county, had been identified by authorities as taking a leading role in student demonstrations in 2012.
On Nov. 9, 2012, several thousand students took to the streets in Malho prefecture’s restive Rebgong county to demand greater rights, including the right to use Tibetan as their language of instruction in the schools.
The students shouted slogans calling for the “equality of nationalities and freedom of languages” and demanding the return of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
Protesters described area streets filled with Chinese security forces, plainclothes police, and military vehicles, but said that no move was made to crack down on the protesters.
“A few students were beaten up, though, and some were taken to the hospital with injuries,” one source 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 Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.