Tibetan Monks are Jailed for Leading Prayers

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An undated photo of Wangchen Norbu.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

A court in northwestern China’s Qinghai province has ordered two Tibetan monks jailed for organizing prayer services for a deceased self-immolator amid a crackdown on those backing burning protests challenging Chinese rule, sources said.

Tsondru, 27, and Gendun Tsultrim, 30, were sentenced on April 18 to three years each for their role in leading funeral services for Wangchen Norbu, who burned himself to death on Nov. 19 in Yadzi (in Chinese, Xunhua) county, a monk living in South India told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Tuesday.

“They had no legal representation, and their family members and other relatives were not present,” Yarphel said, citing sources in the region.

News of their jailing was delayed apparently due to a clampdown on information on self-immolations.

Tsondru was charged with leading prayers at the funeral ceremony held at Bido monastery, while Gendun Tsultrim was charged with soliciting donations and organizing bus travel for attending monks, exile sources said.

Both men were detained on Nov. 21, 2012, Yarphel said.

“Owing to the Chinese authorities’ continual harassment of the monks at Bido monastery following the prayer service, Tsondru and Gendun Tsultrim confessed to having organized and led the ceremony themselves,” Yarphel said.

“Before their sentencing, the monastic community and other local Tibetans had unsuccessfully appealed to authorities to release the men,” Yarphel said, adding that the two monks were afterward taken to Ziling (Xining) prefecture to serve their sentences.

Family members were still being refused visitation rights, he said.

Tightened controls

Wangchen Norbu, 25, had set himself ablaze at around 8:00 p.m. on Nov. 19, a Tibetan resident of the area told RFA in an earlier report.

“As he burned, he called for the return of [exiled spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama to Tibet … and for freedom for Tibetans,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A total of 119 Tibetans have now set themselves ablaze to challenge Chinese rule in Tibetan areas since the wave of fiery protests began in February 2009.

Chinese authorities have tightened controls in Tibet and in Tibetan prefectures in Chinese provinces to check the self-immolations, cutting communications links with outside areas and jailing Tibetans they believe to be linked to the burnings.

More than a dozen have been jailed so far, with some handed jail terms of up to 15 years.

Reported by Guru Choegyi for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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