Authorities in a Tibetan prefecture of China’s Qinghai province have handed jail terms of three years each to two student protest leaders who had been held in detention since March, a relative of one of the young men said on Friday.
Tashi Tsering, 22, and Choeyang Gonpo, 21, were picked up on March 18 following student demonstrations four days earlier challenging Chinese rule and opposing policies favoring Chinese over Tibetan as the language of instruction in area schools.
The two men, both students at the Kangtsa County School of Nationalities, were charged with advocating independence for Tibet, but were chosen from other students for prosecution because of their age, a relative told RFA on condition of anonymity.
“[Chinese authorities] explained that Tashi and Choeyang were singled out because of their status as head and assistant monitors of their class,” the relative said.
“Secondly, both of them were of legal age for action to be taken against them. Therefore, they were picked out for detention and sentencing,” he said.
Sentencing date unknown
Details of when the sentences were handed down were not immediately clear.
“We know that they were sentenced by the Qinghai provincial level court, but the details are still not known,” the man said.
Family members were able to meet with the two men on July 16 in the prison complex at Duoba in the Qinghai provincial capital of Xining, the man said.
Attempts to visit the two in jail had been made over 20 to 30 times before without success, the man said.
Tibetan community leaders had advised family members not to be “too aggressive” in their search for the young men for fear of endangering their safety, he said.
The March 14 student protest in Kangtsa involved more than 4,000 young Tibetans from Qinghai schools, including 100 to 200 students from the Kangtsa School of Nationalities.
It was the largest protest since October 2010, when thousands of Tibetan middle and primary school students from four Tibetan prefectures in Qinghai province demonstrated for days against the language change policy.
Reported by Gaitho for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.