A court in western China’s Sichuan province has ordered two Tibetan monks from restive Kirti monastery jailed for up to three years for holding solo protests opposing Beijing’s rule, sources said.
Lobsang Tenpa, 19, was handed a two-year term while Lobsang Gyatso, 20, received a three-year term at a Nov. 7 hearing of the People’s Intermediate Court in Barkham (in Chinese, Ma’erkang) county in the Ngaba (Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, a Kirti monk living in exile told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“[Tenpa] was accused of staging a solo protest on April 26 in the downtown area [of Ngaba’s county seat],” the source, Kanyak Tsering, said, citing contacts in the region.
During his protest, Tenpa had carried a photo of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in his hand and had worn a hand-drawn Tibetan national flag tied around his head, Tsering said.
“He called out for freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet, and was quickly taken away by police,” Tsering said, adding that Tenpa had been “tortured and harassed” during his time in detention.
Tenpa’s father Ngakchung and mother Dolma Choekho live in Ngaba county’s Meruma township, while one older brother studies at Kirti monastery and another studies at Sera monastery in India, Tsering said.
“His relatives were informed that the trial would take place and were allowed to attend, but were not permitted to hire the services of a lawyer,” Tsering said.
Captured after escape
Lobsang Gyatso had protested on April 2 on the main street of Ngaba town holding a Tibetan flag and calling for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet, Tsering said.
“Though he managed to get away on that day and return to his monastery, the police captured him on April 15, and he was tortured in detention for a long time,” he said.
Gyatso‘s father Bhetse and mother Shichung, together with a younger sister, also live in Meruma township, Tsering said.
“His family were also allowed to witness the trial, but were not permitted to hire a lawyer to defend him,” he said.
Kirti, located in the Ngaba prefecture of China’s Sichuan province, 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 in earlier reports.
In March, a 20-year-old Kirti monk, Lobsang Palden, died after setting himself ablaze on Ngaba town’s “Heroes’ Street” to mark the anniversary of a March 16, 2008 crackdown in which Chinese police opened fire on a crowd of protesters, killing at least 10.
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 Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
Reported by Lhuboom and Rigdhen Dolma for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.