Tibetan Monk Who Celebrated Dalai Lama's Birthday Now in Failing Health in Prison

Already in poor health before his arrest, he was tortured and has been made to perform hard labor in prison.

Jailed Tibetan monk Choekyi is shown in an undated photo.

A Tibetan monk jailed two years ago for celebrating the birthday of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama is in failing health in a prison in Sichuan, Tibetan sources say.

Choekyi, a monk of Phurbu monastery in Sichuan’s Serthar (in Chinese, Seda) county, was already in poor health before his arrest in 2015 on a charge of conducting “separatist activities,” a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“He had kidney problems, jaundice, and other health-related issues which then got worse because he was tortured in detention,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“And though he was already severely ill, prison authorities forced him to perform hard labor, resulting in a further weakening of his health,” the source said.

After being charged, Choekyi was briefly held in a prison in Kardze (Ganzi) prefecture’s Dartsedo (Kangding) county, and was finally sent to Sichuan’s Mianyang prison to serve a four-year term, the source said.

Family members and other relatives were allowed at first to visit Choekyi twice a month in prison, but in October of this year orders were passed to prison authorities that family meetings would be limited to five to ten minutes, the source said.

“Family members are also not allowed now to bring food or medicine for him,” he said.

The Dalai Lama, who turned 82 this year, fled Tibet into exile in India in the midst of a failed 1959 national uprising against Chinese rule, and displays by Tibetans of the Dalai Lama’s photo or public celebrations of his birthday have been harshly punished in the past.

Self-immolations and other sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule and calling for the Dalai Lama’s return have continued in Tibetan areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.

Reported by Dawa Dolma for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Benpa Topgyal. Written in English by Richard Finney.