Defiant Tibetan Monk From Labrang Monastery Jailed For Five Years

An undated photo of Jigme Gyatso.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

A Tibetan monk from a monastery renowned for its resistance against Chinese rule in Gansu province has been jailed for five years after the authorities detained him for the fourth time in his campaign for Tibetan freedom, according to sources.

Hailed as a “hero” among Tibetans for his defiance of Chinese authorities, Jigme Gyatso of Labrang monastery was convicted by a Chinese court in Lanzhou, the capital and largest city of Gansu, last week and jailed for five years for allegedly conducting “splittist activities,” the sources said this week.

The conviction on Sept. 5 was confirmed after a second trial following his detention in August 2011 for the fourth time in a five-year period, they said.

“He was sentenced to five years in jail by a court in Lanzhou at the second trial,” a source from Tibet told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

At the second trial, a government prosecutor insisted that Gyatso was “guilty of actions to split the nation,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Splittism” is a charge often brought against Tibetans who assert their national culture and identity or who protest China’s rule in Tibetan regions, where a series of self-immolations and protests have led to a crackdown by security forces and the arrest of scores of Tibetans.  

It was not immediately clear where Gyatso is being imprisoned. His relatives had been kept in the dark about his whereabouts during his detention.

Detained before

Gyatso’s Labrang monastery in the Kanlho (in Chinese, Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture was the scene of major demonstrations against Chinese rule during region-wide Tibetan protests in March 2008. Monks disrupted a government-controlled tour of the monastery by foreign journalists a month later.

Chinese authorities first detained Gyatso in 2006 following his return to Labrang after he attended a religious ceremony conducted in India by Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

He was released without charge after being held and questioned for a month.

In 2008, Gyatso, who also goes under other names including Labrang Jigme and Jigme Goril, was picked up during region-wide protests against Chinese rule and was held for a year. He was severely beaten in detention, but again was not formally charged.

In 2010, he was held for six months in a hotel for political “re-education” before he was once again released, again without charge.

Following his latest arrest in 2011, Gyatso’s friends had expressed concern about his health in custody as he was believed to be ill and not receiving medical treatment.

'Instant hero'

Gyatso became an instant hero among the Tibetan community after a 2009 video in which he testified about his brutal treatment in custody was widely circulated on the Internet.

Tibetan writer and poet Tsering Woeser had said then that “Tibetan people everywhere recognized him as a hero of their people, naming him ‘Labrang Jigme.’

Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 131 Tibetans to date self-immolating to oppose Beijing’s rule and call for the Dalai Lama’s return.

Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.


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