Three Tibetans detained since last year for attempting to reclaim land seized by local authorities went on trial last week in western China’s Sichuan province, joined by a fourth man who had earlier been released but was then taken back into custody, sources said.
The four were part of a group of Tibetans who had briefly reoccupied confiscated community land in Thangkor town in Dzoege (in Chinese, Ruo’ergai) county in the Ngaba (Aba) Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“On March 31, three Tibetans who were under detention and another person who had previously been released were put on trial by the Dzoege People’s Court,” the source said speaking on condition of anonymity and identifying the men as Jigje Kyab, Rinchen Dorje, Phurko, and Kurde Yeshe.
“Four family members of each of the accused were allowed to attend the hearing, with no others permitted to witness the proceedings,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“They were also subjected to a thorough search before entering the courtroom,” he said.
During the trial, each defendant was asked who had been responsible for marking and fencing off the disputed land, which had been taken from them five years before for a government development project, though no developer had begun work on the land and local authorities were instead leasing it out to private individuals.
“During the proceedings, Jigje Kyab asked the court to spare Rinchen Dorje, who is in poor health, and to send him to prison in his place, with Rinchen Dorje asking that he be sentenced instead of Jigje Kyab, “who is still young and has his whole future ahead of him,” RFA’s source said.
Protest in Chengdu
Entrusted by community members with documents supporting Tibetan claims to the confiscated property, Kyab had briefly gone into hiding last year so that he could present the community’s case to higher provincial authorities, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
He had also played a role in organizing a Jan. 28, 2015 protest by 20 Thangkor-area Tibetans in the Sichuan provincial capital Chengdu, sources said.
In that incident, authorities quickly broke up the protest and detained 11 Tibetans after the group petitioned in front of government buildings during a meeting of the Sichuan Provincial People’s Congress for the return of their land.
Separately, a second Tibetan source confirmed to RFA that the men had gone on trial.
“All four have been put on trial, and it is said that a verdict could come in about a week’s time,” the source, a Thangkor resident, said.
The requisitioning of rural land for lucrative property deals by cash-hungry local governments triggers thousands of “mass incidents” across China every year.
Many result in violent suppression, the detention of the protests’ main organizers, and intense pressure on the local population to comply with the government’s wishes.
Reported by Lobe Socktsang for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.