Authorities in a Tibetan area of China’s western Sichuan province have sentenced a Kirti monastery monk to five years in prison on charges related to a self-immolation protest against Chinese rule, according to sources in the region.
Lobsang Sangye, 36, was handed the jail term on March 28 “in a closed trial” conducted by the People’s Court of Barkham, in Sichuan’s Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) county, a source familiar with the situation told RFA’s Tibetan Service, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A second source, who also declined to be named, told RFA that Sangye—who is originally from Chigdril (Jiuzhi) county, in Qinghai province’s Golog (Guoluo) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture—had been “charged with an offense related to a Tibetan self-immolation, and for engaging in political activities.”
The monk had been subjected to a lengthy detention beginning in August 2012 “but he was released afterwards,” the source said, without providing details.
“He was then rearrested in August 2017, and has been held incommunicado since,” he added.
The source confirmed that Sangye’s trial on Wednesday was held “in secret.”
“If he is really guilty of a crime, then his family and relatives would have been told about it, but the Chinese authorities didn’t inform them about either the trial or the sentence.”
According to the source, local authorities have increased control and monitoring of internet traffic, and warned Tibetans from making contact with people outside of China, making “open discussion about happenings in Tibet very difficult.”
“The public has remained tight-lipped, even on the case of monk Lobsang Sangye’s arrest and sentencing,” he added.
Earlier this month, a Tibetan man named Tsekho Tukchak self-immolated in Ngaba county in an apparent protest against Chinese rule and policies in the far-western region of China.
Sources told RFA at the time that Tukchak likely self-immolated because he assumed the heavy security presence would have made it difficult to carry out his plan on March 10, referring to the 59th anniversary of the failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese occupation of the formerly self-governing region.
Security forces had spread throughout the region in the run-up to the anniversary of the incident, which saw thousands of Tibetans killed amid a crackdown by Chinese authorities and led to the 1959 flight into exile of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people.
Tukchak’s protest brought to 153 the number of self-immolations by Tibetans living in China since the wave of fiery protests began in 2009.
Most protesters who have set themselves on fire have called for Tibetan freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama from India, where he has lived since escaping Tibet in 1959.
Reported by Lhuboom and Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.