Prison authorities in northwestern China’s Qinghai province have freed a young Tibetan jailed for promoting Tibetan language and culture, releasing him before his full term was served without any explanation, sources said.
Dorje Rinchen, formerly a middle school student in Rebgong (in Chinese, Tongren) county in the Malho (Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, was released in good health and returned home earlier this week, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“He was detained on Nov. 26, 2012, and held in Jianxin prison in Qinghai for two years and was freed on Dec. 2, 2014,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“On Dec. 3, many of his relatives and friends gathered at his house to welcome his release,” the source said, adding, “He is said to be in good health.”
The main reason for Rinchen’s detention was “the key role” he had played in establishing a Tibetan Cultural Service Center in Rebgong dedicated to promoting Tibetan traditions and to ending community conflict, public intoxication, and theft, the source said.
“He was vice president of the center, and because of his involvement in work for Tibetan culture, he was taken into custody and held until now.”
Defending language, traditions
Separately, a Tibetan living in Europe confirmed Rinchen’s release, citing local contacts in Rebgong.
Rinchen, a native of Rebgong’s Dowa Kyinga village, had been detained during a period when many other local Tibetans were rounded up “for opposing Chinese policies and actions,” the source, named Sonam, said.
“At his initiative, the Tibetan Cultural Service Center, was started to protect and promote the Tibetan language and to defend Tibetan nomadic traditions,” Sonam added.
“Sometime in the beginning of February 2013, he was sentenced to two years and six months in jail,” he said.
“He was then held in Jianxin prison in Qinghai until his release on Dec. 2, 2014.”
Tibetans have long complained about eroding religious, cultural, and linguistic traditions in Tibetan-populated regions of China, and language rights have become a particular focus for Tibetan efforts to reassert national identity in recent years, sources say.
On Nov. 9, 2012, several thousand students took to the streets in Rebgong to demand greater rights, including the right to use Tibetan as their language of instruction in the schools.
The students shouted slogans calling for the “equality of nationalities and freedom of languages” and demanding the return of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Chinese rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 133 Tibetans to date setting themselves ablaze to oppose Beijing’s rule and call for the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.