KATHMANDU—Chinese authorities in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) have jailed a prominent local businessman for three years after finding banned CDs of the exiled Dalai Lama’s teachings in his home, sources in the region say.
Accounts from a number of sources who asked not to be identified suggest that Penpa, who is in his 50s, attracted the attention of officials by taking in ever-increasing numbers of livestock, in an outlawed gesture of support for the Dalai Lama, sources in the region say.
Penpa was a businessman in Tsakor village in Dingri county, where he was detained before being taken to the region’s second city, Shigatse, in December 2006, the sources said.
He was handed a three-year sentence in February, which he will serve in Nyari prison, in Shigatse (in Chinese, Rikaze), they said.
Dingri county officials, contacted by telephone during business hours, declined to comment on the case.
The Dalai Lama appealed to Tibetans inside China during his traditional Kalachakra teachings in Amaravati, northern India, in 2006 to protect endangered animals in Tibet and stop using animal skin on clothing.
Sheep- and goat-saving is common among Buddhists, who believe saving the lives of other sentient beings will create positive karma that can affect the nature of future rebirths. Saving the lives of animals destined for slaughter is frequently prescribed by lamas as a form of spiritual practice.
The exact reason for Penpa’s arrest remains unclear, and none of his relatives has been permitted to see him since he was taken into custody, according to numerous sources who asked not to be named.
“No one has been able to say for sure the reasons for his detention. But...the local Tibetans are presuming that the Chinese authorities suspect his actions to save sheep and goats from butchers was meant [to ensure] the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” one source said.
“The Chinese police searched his house and found two CDs of the Dalai Lama’s Kalachakra teaching in India in 2005. They took away all the sheep and goats that Penpa saved from the butchers and [that had been] donated by Tibetans in Nepal and along border areas who were sick and old for accumulating merit,” the source said.
The Chinese police searched his house and found two CDs of the Dalai Lama’s Kalachakra teaching in India in 2005. They took away all the sheep and goats that Penpa saved from the butchers and [that had been] donated by Tibetans in Nepal and along border areas...
Another source suggested that police may have become suspicious when the number of livestock in Penpa’s care increased sharply.
“Penpa used to save 10 sheep every year [but] this [past] year he saved 100 sheep and also a dri (female yak). This was noticed by the local Chinese informers, and they informed Dingri county officials that Penpa had saved 100 sheep for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. When they raided his house, they found the two CDs,” the source said.
Penpa barely avoided arrest in 2000, the sources said, after authorities found a banned photo of the Dalai Lama in his home, the source said. “Other houses display these when they need to pray and then hide them away. Penpa didn’t do this.”
“He was a successful businessman. He bought shops and also owned cars. The local Tibetans of Tsakor village respected and listened to what he said. In our areas, there were many cases of clashes among different groups. He was also effective and influential. In fact he was doing better than the official head of Tsakor village,” another source said.
In late 2005, an official at the Shigatse Intermediate People’s Court told RFA’s Tibetan service said the court had jailed more than 20 Tibetans in the preceding decade for “reactionary” offenses, including the possession of photos of the Dalai Lama.
“The court has the authority to sentence any individual who commits reactionary actions,” an official at the Shigatse Intermediate People’s Court said. The official added that the maximum penalty for carrying materials relating to the Dalai Lama or other “separatist” activities was five years’ imprisonment.
In August 2006, TAR Party Secretary Zhang Qingli told the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel that in China, “we have religious freedom…Religious communities must make their own decisions, and we cannot have interference from abroad.”
The Dalai Lama, Zhang said, “did many bad things later on that contradict the role of a religious leader. The core issue is this: Everyone must love his motherland. How can it be that he doesn't even love his motherland? We have a saying: ‘No dog sees the filth in his own hut, and a son would never describe his mother as ugly.’”
“Tibet is the home of the 14th Dalai Lama, but China is his motherland. He deceived his motherland. He rebelled in the 1950s and in the late 1980s he incited unrest in Lhasa that was directed against the people, the government and society. He destabilized Tibet.”
The Dalai Lama fled the region after a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. China has said the Dalai Lama will play no role in Tibet’s future. China’s People’s Liberation Army troops marched into Tibet in 1951. The Dalai Lama has accused Beijing of implementing policies of “cultural genocide” against the region and its Buddhist heritage.
Original reporting by RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Edited and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.