Tibetan Monks Believed to Be in Failing Health in Jail

tibet-lobsang-jinpa-crop.jpg Nyatso Zilkar monk Lobsang Jinpa in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener

Updated at 5:00 p.m. ET on 2014-05-27

Two Tibetan monks held for more than a year without charge in northwestern China’s Qinghai province are feared to be in failing health amid concerns over inadequate food and denial of medical care in jail, according to local sources.

Lobsang Jinpa, 32, and Tsultrim Kalsang, 27, both monks of Tridu (in Chinese, Chenduo) county’s Nyatso Zilkar monastery, were taken into custody in 2012 on suspicion of “involvement in separatist activities,” area residents told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

"Though Jinpa was never charged with any crime, he is still being held in a jail in the southern part of [provincial capital] Xining,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“His health has deteriorated,” the source said, adding, “He is suffering from kidney and liver ailments, and during his detention he has been deprived of medicine and decent food.”

“Living conditions in the jail have also affected his health,” he said.

Prison authorities have confiscated all medicine and food brought to the jail by family members for Jinpa’s use, and have refused all requests to provide him with appropriate care, the source said.

“His relatives are really worried about his health,” he said.

'Helpful and kind'

Tsultrim Kalsang, who was handed a ten-year term in jail though he too was never charged, "was already ill before he was detained," a local source told RFA.

Tsultrim Kalsang in an undated photo. Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.
Tsultrim Kalsang in an undated photo. Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.
"He had been operated on twice for a liver disease, and was taken into custody not long after his second operation," the source said.

"Some of his relatives were allowed to see him a few times, but his mother has not been allowed to visit without a written permit."

"She is really worried about his health," he said.

Before his detention in 2012, Kalsang was briefly detained in 2008 following anti-China protests in the Tibetan regional capital Lhasa, and later sent back to his hometown, according to the source.

After returning, Kalsang taught classes and conducted training courses at Nyatso Zilkar monastery for both monks and laypeople, to whom he was always "helpful and kind," he said.

Monastery raid

Jinpa and Kalsang were taken into custody in September 2012 when hundreds of armed Chinese security forces raided Nyatso Zilkar monastery, taking away Jinpa, Kalsang, and two other monks—Ngawang Monlam, 30, and Sonam Yignyen, 44—previously targeted for detention and holding another monk, Sonam Sherab, 45, for taking photographs of the raid, according to Tibetan sources.

Computers and DVDs found in the monks’ rooms were seized by police, who also beat and pointed guns at other monks who pleaded with them not to take the men away, a source said.

At least three of those taken into custody were suspected of having provided foreign media outlets with details about two nearby self-immolation protests earlier in the year, while another was believed to have been found in possession of photos of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, he said.

Meanwhile, Chinese authorities earlier this month removed members of Nyatso Zilkar monastery's management committee, replacing them with monks of their own choosing, according to sources in the region.

The move has heightened local fears that the monastery's new managers will now be acting under exclusive Chinese control, one source said.

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 setting themselves ablaze in self-immolation protests calling for Tibetan freedom since February 2009.

Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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