Two Tibetan leaders of a village at the center of a campaign resisting forced displays of loyalty to China have been sentenced to long terms in jail, with their families unsure of their present whereabouts or condition, according to sources in the region and in exile.
Ngangdrak, 55, and Rigsal, 31, were each handed 10-year terms for their role in leading protests last year in Mukhyim village in Tibet’s restive Driru (in Chinese, Biru) county, Driru Samdrub, a Tibetan living in Europe, told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Thursday.
“Because they were leaders of the village, all blame was dumped on them and they were sentenced to 10 years,” Samdrub said, citing sources in his native county.
Held in custody since November, the two were sentenced in January, a local source told RFA.
“Ngangdrak and Rigsal were sentenced to 10 years in jail for ‘political reasons’ on Jan. 14,” the source said, adding, “They were detained on Nov. 24, 2013, after they refused to fly the Chinese national flag from their homes.”
Over 1,000 Tibetans from Mukhyim and areas nearby had also joined in rallies protesting Chinese orders to fly the flag, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Whether Ngangdrak and Rigsal were tried in formal court proceedings or if opportunities were allowed for their defense is still unclear, and their present condition “is unknown, even by their families,” Samdrub said.
Meanwhile, another resident of Mukhyim village known only as Trigyal was recently handed a 13-year jail term, but no details are available regarding the date of his sentencing or the charges made against him, Samdrub said.
Driru, now considered “politically unstable” by Beijing, is one of three neighboring counties in Tibet’s eastern Nagchu prefecture from which Chinese authorities fear political unrest may spread unchecked to other parts of the region.
About 1,000 Driru-area Tibetans have been detained since authorities launched a crackdown in September when Beijing began a campaign to force Tibetans to fly the Chinese national flag from their homes, sources say.
The campaign intensified in early October when villagers refused to fly the flags, throwing them instead into a river and prompting a deadly security crackdown in which Chinese police fired into unarmed crowds.
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 130 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 Sonam Wangdu for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.