Tibetan Monk Freed From Prison Three Years Before Term Ends

No explanation is given for Lobsang Tenzin's early release from a 10-year prison term for 'aiding and abetting' a self-immolation protest.

Lobsang Tenzin is shown in a photo taken after his June 5, 2018 release from prison.

Chinese authorities have released a Tibetan monk jailed for supporting a 2011 self-immolation protest three years before serving his full 10-year term in prison, Tibetan sources say.

Lobsang Tenzin, aged 28 and formerly a monk at Kirti monastery in Sichuan’s Ngaba prefecture, was freed on June 5 and has returned to his home town, a Tibetan source in Ngaba told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“His present health condition and the reason for his early release are still not known,” RFA's source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Also speaking to RFA, Kanyak Tsering, a monk at Kirti's branch monastery in India, confirmed Tenzin's release.

“He is now back in his home town, but it is hard to get further details regarding his release,” Tsering said, citing sources in the region.

Tenzin was convicted on Aug. 30, 2011, by a court in Ngaba’s Barkham county for “aiding and abetting” the protest in March of a Kirti monk named Phuntsog, who had set himself ablaze to protest Chinese rule in Tibetan areas.

On March 16, 2011, Phuntsog set himself on fire and walked, shouting slogans, to the market square of Ngaba town. There, Chinese police kicked and beat him while extinguishing the flames, sparking an angry protest by monks and local Tibetans.

The protest, which then spread to include a larger crowd, was later violently suppressed, and Chinese security forces later moved to surround Kirti monastery and block roads leading into Ngaba, sources told RFA in earlier reports.

Sporadic protests challenging Beijing’s rule meanwhile continue throughout Tibetan regions of China.

In March, a Tibetan man named Tsekho Tukchak set himself on fire in Ngaba , bringing to 153 the number of self-immolations by Tibetans living in China since the wave of fiery protests began in 2009.

Most protests feature demands for Tibetan freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama from India, where he has lived since escaping Tibet during a failed national uprising in 1959.

Reported by Lhuboom for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.