Tibetan Jailed For Having Photos of Self-Immolators

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An undated photo of jailed Tibetan artist Ngawang Tobden.
An undated photo of jailed Tibetan artist Ngawang Tobden.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

Updated at 11:20 a.m. EST on 2013-02-27

A young Tibetan traditional artist was sentenced to two years in a reeducation-through-labor facility for having photos on his mobile phone of two compatriots who self-immolated in protest against Chinese rule, according to exile sources Saturday.

Ngawang Tobden, 20, was detained in October last year in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), but relatives learned of the sentence for "subversion" only four months later, the sources said, citing contacts in the Himalayan region.

"His relatives and family couldn’t see him at all until he was sent to the Toelung Shungpa jail near Lhasa," Tibetan Yeshe Gyaltsen, who lives near India's hill town of Dharamsala, told RFA's Tibetan Service.

"The relatives said there weren’t any court proceedings nor were family and relatives informed when he was sentenced,” he said.

According to Yeshe Gyaltsen, the relatives said they saw many other Tibetans from the TAR's Chamdo (in Chinese, Changdu) and Nagchu (Naqu) prefectures serving sentences on unspecified charges at the same facility.

Chinese authorities have been cracking down hard on any efforts by Tibetans to publicize self-immolation protests after steps taken by Beijing to stop the burnings failed.

Some 104 Tibetans have so far set themselves ablaze in protests questioning Chinese rule in Tibetan-majority areas and calling for the return of Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

Traditional art

Ngawang Tobden, who had been studying traditional Tibetan thangka art in Lhasa, was detained on Oct. 21 after Chinese security personnel discovered on his cell phone two photos of Tibetan self-immolators along with images of a Tibetan national flag and of "repression" by Chinese security forces on Tibetans, sources said.

"Owing to this, he was arrested and detained at Lhasa police station for several days and thoroughly interrogated. Afterward he was transferred to the Gutsa detention center and there he was interrogated again [for possession of the photos]," Yeshe Gyaltsen said.

"Finally, he was sentenced to two years imprisonment."

Ngawang Tobden was accused of "subversion, propagating incorrect political messages, and  causing disharmony among ethnic minorities," he said.

Reported by RFA's Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Ngawang Tobden's name.

Comments (2)


from NJ

The CCP's talk about reforming the re-education through labor camps is just that, merely talk. They don't intend any substantive changes. They might change the name but the prison camps will remain. Tibetans have no due process rights under Chinese rule and no freedom of expression. China treats Tibet like its colony & the Tibetans like subjugated people. Tibet will only truly be free when China is gone from our homeland.

Feb 28, 2013 03:56 PM


from New York

China 's talk of reform on labour camp, how that is going impact things in Tibet. Or Tibet regions will be excluded from such reforms. Store images of self-immolaters as a hero worshiping, could certainly frighten the communists out of their wits.

Feb 24, 2013 10:29 AM





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