A Tibetan monk jailed for 13 years for his role in protests challenging Chinese rule is in uncertain health in a prison in Sichuan province, leading family members to fear he may not survive the remaining six years of his sentence, sources say.
Lobsang Choedar, a monk of Kirti monastery in the Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, was detained in 2009 after calling the previous year for the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, a source in the region told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“He is now languishing in Mianyang prison in Sichuan, and his family members are very worried about his health, as he still has six years of his sentence left to serve,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Choedar has received visits in prison three times this year, with family members speaking to him through a closed glass window, and relatives have formed changing impressions of his health, the source said.
“His family members are very worried, but at the same time they are very proud because he is serving his sentence for the sake of Tibet and the Tibetan people.”
“His mother, who is 72, is concerned that she may not see her son again before she passes away, though,” he said.
At one point during his incarceration, Choedar had gone on a 12-day hunger strike in protest over the poor diet fed to the prison’s more than 1,000 prisoners, the source said.
“Later, he was physically forced to eat and was moved to another location within the prison complex,” he said.
“He is now reported to be in slightly better condition,” the source said, adding that Choedar has told relatives that changes in his appearance may be due to long periods of exercise while in prison.
Choedar’s Kirti monastery has been the scene of repeated self-immolations and other protests by monks, former monks, and nuns opposed to Chinese rule in Tibetan areas.
Authorities raided the institution in 2011, taking away hundreds of monks and sending them for “political re-education” while local Tibetans who sought to protect the monks were beaten and detained, sources 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.
A total of 145 Tibetans living in China have now set themselves ablaze in self-immolations since the wave of fiery protests began in 2009, with most protests featuring calls for Tibetan freedom and the Dalai Lama’s return from India, where he has lived since escaping Tibet during a failed national uprising in 1959.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.