Tibetan Singers Who Praised Self-Immolations Jailed

They are sentenced in secret as China cracks down on Tibetan assertions of national identity.

Chakdor (L) and Pema Trinlay (R) in undated photos.

UPDATED at 09:35 a.m. EST on 2013-06-14

Two Tibetan singers detained nearly a year ago for distributing politically sensitive songs, including songs praising self-immolations in protest against Beijing’s rule, have been jailed for two years each following a secret court hearing, according to Tibetan sources.

Pema Trinlay, 22, and Chakdor, 32, both natives of Sichuan province’s Meuruma nomadic settlement, were taken into custody in July 2012 in Gansu province’s Machu (in Chinese, Maqu) county, a Tibetan monk living in Dharamsala, India, told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Thursday.

“They were then detained for six months in Sichuan’s Ngaba [Aba] county because of their release of a DVD that contained songs praising self-immolation protesters and [exiled spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama,” Kanyak Tsering said, citing sources in the region.

Other songs on the DVD, titled “The Unbearable Pain of an Open Wound,” contained verses praising Tibetan exile leaders and religious figures, Tsering said.

“This year, sometime in February, they were sentenced to two years in prison,” Tsering said.

Separately, Tibet’s India-based exile government, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), confirmed the sentences, saying, “Family members have been denied permission to visit them despite repeated appeals.”

“The authorities of the Minyang county jail also refused to acknowledge that the two Tibetan singers are in their captivity, raising their families’ concern about their well-being and whereabouts,” CTA said in a statement Thursday.

Others missing

CTA identified the singer Chakdor as the close relative of a self-immolation protester named Choepa, who burned himself to death in August 2012 “to protest against the repressive policies of the Chinese government.”

Two other Tibetans who helped the singers record their album are now missing, the Dharamsala-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) said in a July 13 statement.

“The whereabouts and well-being of musician Khenrap and lyricist Nyagdompo remain unknown,” TCHRD said.

China has jailed scores of Tibetan writers, artists, singers, and educators for asserting Tibetan national and cultural identity since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.

Meanwhile, 120 Tibetans have set themselves ablaze to date in protests challenging Beijing’s policies and rule in Tibetan areas—most recently a nun who self-immolated on Tuesday during a large religious gathering in Sichuan’s Tawu (Daofu) county.

Reported by Tenzin Wangyal and Lobe Socktsang for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mistakenly placed Machu county in China's Qinghai province.