A court in China’s northwestern province of Qinghai has ordered a local Tibetan community leader jailed for 10 years for his involvement in a self-immolation protest challenging Beijing’s rule in Tibetan areas, sources in the region said.
Washul Dotruk, 51, a resident of Dungda township in Pema (in Chinese, Banma) county in Qinghai’s Golog (Guoluo) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, “was sentenced to 10 years in jail by a court in Huzhou, near [the provincial capital] Xining,” a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Wednesday.
“He was a well-known mediator who had resolved several disputes” in his community, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The local people are worried and concerned over the loss to the community created by his jail sentence.”
Though the date of Dotruks’s sentencing and the charge on which he was convicted are still unclear, he is believed to have been taken into custody “on suspicion of involvement” in the Dec. 3, 2012 self-immolation of an area monk, Lobsang Gendun, the source said.
He was picked up by police two days after the burning protest and is believed to have been sentenced “recently,” a second source in the region said, also speaking anonymously.
Dotruk had previously been detained for several months in 2008 “allegedly for leading Tibetan protests against the Chinese authorities,” one source said, adding that he had been “sent from prison to prison in Golog” before being released.
Dotruk’s father Trabum is 84, and mother Shigemu, is also in her 80s. He also has five brothers and two sisters, the source said.
Lobsang Gendun, 29, set himself ablaze at around 7:00 p.m. on Dec. 3, 2012 in Pema county in a protest against Beijing’s rule and walked an incredible 300 steps with hands folded in prayer before he collapsed and died, according to local sources.
Chinese police and Public Security Bureau officers “arrived at the scene and tried to take his body away,” one source said, adding, “However, local Tibetans managed to wrest his body away from the Chinese and brought it to a monastery.”
A total of 122 Tibetans living in China have now set themselves ablaze calling for Tibetan freedom and for the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India in 1959 following a failed national uprising against Chinese rule.
The latest self-immolation protest occurred on Sept. 28 when Shichung, a 41-year-old father of two, burned himself to death in Sichuan province’s Ngaba (Aba) county. It was the first Tibetan self-immolation protest in China in more than two months.
Another six Tibetans have staged self-immolation protests in India and Nepal.
Chinese authorities have tightened controls in a bid to check the burning protests, arresting and jailing Tibetans whom they accuse of being linked to the self-immolations and forbidding activities deemed to have supported the protests.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.