Tibetan Singer Gets Prison

Rare court papers also show jailing of a Tibetan monk.

Tashi-Dhondup-305.jpg Tashi Dhondup in an undated photo.
Local resident

KATHMANDU—Authorities in a Tibetan area of western China have sent a local singer to prison after he recorded and distributed CDs of songs protesting Chinese rule over Tibetans, according to legal documents made available to Radio Free Asia (RFA).

In the first of two judicial documents recently smuggled out of China, Tashi Dhondup, 30, was sentenced by the Malho [in Chinese, Huangnan] municipal re-education through labor committee to 15 months’ “re-education through labor.”

The sentence did not require a court trial.

A second set of legal papers, which along with the first offer a rare glimpse of government actions against those suspected of opposing Chinese rule in the region, recounts the trial of a Tibetan monk in connection with a region-wide uprising against Chinese rule in early 2008.

Tashi Dhondup, an ethnic Mongol from Yulgan [in Chinese, Henan] county, Malho [Huangnan] Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, in Qinghai province, “violated laws” by singing songs in support of Tibetan independence and of the Dalai Lama, according to a written decision by the Yulgan county re-education through labor committee.

“Tashi Dhondup ... violated laws as given below. He was detained Dec. 3, 2009, by county Public Security officials for separatist activities,” said the decision, issued by the re-education through labor committee and dated Jan. 5.

According to the document, Tashi Dhondup was interrogated by Yulgan Mongol Autonomous County police on April 16 and April 18, 2009, and warned not to sing a song titled “1958”—evoking the failed 1958-59 uprising against Chinese rule during which thousands of Tibetans fled across the border to India.

Thousands of CDs

The singer was detained again in Xining city, the Qinghai provincial capital, after thousands of copies of his “Torture Without Marks” music CDs began to appear on market stalls in the region.

“He and some other associates copied about 3,000 CDS and distributed them in 11 counties in Qinghai, Sichuan, and Gansu,” according to the document.

Investigators found that Tashi Dhondup had continued to sing “1958,” which described “a dark year, a year of fear, a year of internal conflicts, the killing of citizens by a black earth.”

“These songs were fabricated and contained serious provocative themes,” the labor re-education board said.

Other songs had included the singer’s wish for Tibetan independence, his longing to see the exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and the looting of Tibet’s treasures.

“The person who composed the lyrics and tune escaped, but Tashi Dhondup sang the songs, made copies, and distributed them,” the document said, adding that the singer had “acknowledged his activities without any hesitation.”

The evidence presented to the board included lyrics of songs sung by Tashi Dhondup, translated from Tibetan into Chinese, some of his songs in which he calls for Tibetan independence, drawings and photos of him singing, and statements of witnesses.

“In accordance with Clauses 4 and 13 of the re-education through labor policy of the State Council of China, Tashi Dhondup is sent for one year and three months’ hard labor from Dec. 3, 2009 to March 2, 2011.”

Tashi Dhondup had the right of appeal to the labor re-education committee within 60 days, or to the county court within three months of the decision, it said.

Huangnan’s population is majority Tibetan, together with a large number of Mongolians and a smaller number of Han Chinese.

Monk jailed for 2008 role

Thabkhe Gyatso in an undated photo.
Local resident
A second document from the trial in Gansu province of a Tibetan monk convicted in connection with a 2008 region-wide uprising against Chinese rule paints a detailed picture of the case made against him.

Dated May 21, 2009, a verdict from the People's Intermediate Court in the Kanlho [in Chinese, Gannan] Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture found Tibetan monk Thabkhe Gyatso guilty of carrying and distributing Tibetan snow-lion flags in March 14 street protests, shouting slogans for Tibetan independence, and passing on information to outside "separatist" groups.

The three-judge panel said the 31-year-old monk, from the prominent Labrang monastery, was detained on March 22, 2008 in the midst of a widespread Tibetan uprising that swept through the region and prompted a deadly crackdown.

He was formally arrested on April 29, 2008, a procedure that in almost every case precedes a conviction, and is said in the court papers to be “currently detained at the Gansu Provincial Public Security Detention Center.”

“Tsondu Gyatso, who was also a participant in the protest, testified regarding the presence of Thabkhe Gyatso in the March 14 protest,” the verdict said.

Another witness, Sonam Gyatso, testified that he "heard Thabkhe Gyatso raising slogans, and putting up flags ... Four photos indicated the presence of Thabkhe Gyatso during the protests.”

“The defendant confessed that he held the snow-lion flag during the protests ... Evidence of Thabkhe Gyatso’s involvement was found in the documents and computers seized by the Kanlho security office. The court rejects the defendant’s argument that he did not raise slogans for independence when other witnesses confirmed his commission of activities.”

“Therefore the Court has concluded that Thabkhe Gyatso instigated others for committing separatist activities and found him guilty of violating Articles 55, 56, and 103 of the Criminal Code of the People’s Republic of China and sentenced him to 15 years imprisonment and deprivation of his political rights for an additional five years.”

The verdict notes that Thabkhe Gyatso had the right to appeal within 10 days to the Gansu Higher People's Court, and is signed by Presiding Judge Bai Yuanlian, Judge Cho Lhamo, and Judge Li Yuanhong.

In March 2008, a protest against Chinese rule in and around the Tibetan regional capital, Lhasa, sparked rioting throughout the region in which Beijing said 22 people, mostly Chinese civilians, died.

Chinese authorities blamed Tibet's exiled leader, the Dalai Lama, and his followers.

The Tibetan government-in-exile in India says about 220 Tibetans died and nearly 7,000 were detained in the subsequent regionwide crackdown.

Original reporting by Dolkar for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated from the Tibetan by Karma Dorjee. Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo. Written in English by Sarah Jackson-Han and Luisetta Mudie.


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