Updated at 10:35 a.m. EST on 2012-06-11
Chinese officials in Qinghai province have suspended the trial of a senior Tibetan monk and others linked to a self-immolation protest in February, referring a decision in the case to higher authorities, according to a local Tibetan source.
The monk, Bongtak Khedrub Gyatso, and five other Tibetans connected to the Bongtak monastery in Themchen county of the Tsonub (in Chinese, Haixi) prefecture had been called to trial on May 29, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The Chinese authorities were just about to announce a sentence when Bontak Khedrub declared he was not guilty of any crime and complained of having been unjustly detained for over 100 days,” the source said.
“He also said that he would not accept even one more day in jail.”
Surprised by the monk’s statement, Chinese court officials suspended the trial without issuing a ruling, and said that they would refer the case to higher authorities.
“This shows how local government makes decisions without regard to rules and regulations,” the source said.
Chinese security forces had detained Gyatso and other monks following the February 17 self-immolation death of Damchoe Sangpo, a Bongtak monk.
Damchoe Sangpo had objected to the cancelling by Chinese authorities of a traditional prayer festival at the monastery and to the presence of Chinese security forces in the area, an India-based monk named Shingsa said.
It was among the 38 self-immolations so far by Tibetans challenging Beijing’s rule in Tibetan regions.
Following Sangpo’s fatal protest, Chinese forces detained Bongtak Khedrub Gyatso, the monastery’s senior teacher, together with eight other Tibetans, identified as Sangye, Konchok Dargye, Kelsang Jangsem, Damchoe Tsultrim, Jamyang Woeser, Drakpa, Konchok Gyatso, and Sherab Sangpo.
Three from this group were then brought to trial on unknown charges, with two, Konchok Gyatso and Sherab Sangpo, handed jail terms of a year and a half.
Konchok Gyatso is currently imprisoned in the Qinghai city of Golmud, and Sherab Sangpo is imprisoned in Terlenkha, the capital of Tsonub prefecture.
The third monk, Konchok Dargye, is believed to have received a “longer” prison term for having established contacts with persons outside Tibet.
Reported by RFA’s Tibetan service. Translations by Rigdhen Dolma. Written in English by Richard Finney.