Authorities in northwestern China’s Qinghai province have granted early release to a Tibetan monk handed a 10-year term as a “key player” in protests that swept Tibetan areas of China in 2008, sources said.
Khedrup Gyatso, 33 and a monk of Tsang monastery in Gepasumdo (in Chinese, Tongde) county in the Tsolho (Hainan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, was freed on March 8 in poor health, Gyatso’s younger brother Busang Gyatso told RFA’s Tibetan Service, speaking from exile in India.
“Before he was sentenced, he was severely beaten in detention,” Gyatso said. “And this disfigured his face and damaged his eyes.”
“He is being treated at present in the county hospital, but his complete recovery is doubtful,” Gyatso said.
“He wanted to return to his monastery, but this was forbidden by the authorities, and they have now ordered him to stay within the boundaries of his village,” he said.
Khedrup Gyatso was allowed to rest for a month before his release after serving eight years of his 10-year term, his brother told RFA.
“When he was finally freed, he was forced to assure the local police chief that he would not let himself be photographed and that he would not allow his release to attract public attention.”
News of Gyatso’s release from prison was briefly delayed in reaching outside contacts because of strict communications clampdowns imposed by Chinese authorities in the area.
Accused as ringleader
In 2008, the monks of Khedrup Gyatso’s Tsang monastery staged a peaceful protest challenging Chinese rule in Tibetan areas, and over 80 Tibetans were detained, Busang Gyatso said.
“Khedrup Gyatso and Choktrin Gyatso were accused of leading the protests and were given ten-year terms,” Gyatso said, adding that another monk, Tsultrim Gyatso, was handed a nine-year term.
Khedrup Gyatso served his term in a prison close to Qinghai’s provincial capital Xining, he said.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule and calling for the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.
Reported by Ugyen Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.