WASHINGTON, Oct 3, 2003�A young Tibetan political prisoner known for boldly signing his own name to posters calling for Tibetan independence has died in hospital in an historically Tibetan area of Sichuan Province, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports.

Nyima Drakpa, a monk in his late 20s, died at 4 a.m. local time Oct. 2 in Dawu (in Chinese, Daofu) County, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"He was taken to hospital 10 days before his death," one source told RFA�s Tibetan service. "When he was brought in, he could not speak and his legs were thin and lifeless."

The precise cause of death wasn�t immediately known. Chinese authorities had transferred Nyima Drakpa from prison to hospital in late September as his health deteriorated sharply.

"After his death, his body was handed over to our monastery in Dawu where Buddhist rituals were performed," said the source.

Nyima Drakpa had been serving a nine-year term for alleged "activities to split the motherland and destabilize the community." Reports from Tibetan exile groups, based on interviews with Tibetan refugees, say Nyima Drakpa was sentenced in late 2000 or early 2001.

"While in prison, Chinese officials told him to confess his mistakes in exchange for early release, but he just reiterated that what he had written was true, and he told them to do whatever they wanted to him," the source said.

Another source who spoke on condition of anonymity said Nyima Drakpa had been severely beaten in prison.

No further information was immediately available.

An official with the Chinese public security office in Dawu, contacted by telephone Oct. 2, said at the time that Nyima Drakpa was in good health. "He committed a serious mistake by getting involved in splittist activities and undermining stability in the community," the official said.

"He is healthy, and I don�t know of any ailment. I also don�t know where he is detained. There are others detained in prisons who are accomplices of Nyima Drakpa."

Nyima Drakpa was a monk at the Nyatso monastery in Dawu, according to people who knew him. He joined the Ganden monastery in India after fleeing there in 1990.

He returned to Dawu in 1994 and began posting pro-independence posters at local Chinese government offices. After several people were wrongly arrested in connection with the posters, he began signing his name to them in an effort make clear that he alone was responsible. He fled to Lhasa, where he was arrested. He was sentenced in October 2002.

Nyima Drakpa attended Khampa University in Dawu, where he read Tibetan history.

According to the 2002 State Department report on human rights around the world, Chinese authorities in Tibet "continue to commit serious human rights abuses, including instances of torture, arbitrary arrest, detention without public trial, and lengthy detention of Tibetan nationalists for peacefully expressing their political or religious views."

"Individuals accused of political activism faced ongoing harassment during the year. There were reports of imprisonment and abuse of nuns and monks accused of political activism," it said. "There were no reports of prisoner deaths during the year. Deaths of at least 41 Tibetan political prisoners since 1989 can be attributed to severe abuse under detention; at least 20 of those prisoners had been in Lhasa�s Drapchi Prison."

RFA broadcasts news and information to Asian listeners who lack regular access to full and balanced reporting in their domestic media. Through its broadcasts and call-in programs, RFA aims to fill a critical gap in the lives of people across Asia. Created by Congress in 1994 and incorporated in 1996, RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan (Uke, Amdo, and Kham), and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest standards of journalism and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance, and fairness in its editorial content. #####


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