Authorities in northwestern China’s Gansu province have freed from jail a Tibetan monk held incommunicado for almost five years, releasing him amid warnings to supporters and family members not to photograph him on his return, sources in exile and the region said.
Aku Tenzin Gyatso, a monk at Gansu's Labrang monastery, had been taken into custody after greeting popular Tibetan singer Tashi Dondrub after Dondrub’s own release from jail, a source living in the region told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“He then disappeared for many years,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Dondrub, a well-known singer, had been detained in December 2009 and was handed a one-and-a-half-year prison term for singing songs deemed politically sensitive by Chinese authorities, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
He was released sometime in June or July 2011, likely dating the beginning of Gyatso’s own period of confinement to that time.
“At the beginning of this month, [Gyatso’s] relatives received a notice that he would shortly be released from a prison near Lanzhou city in Gansu,” RFA’s source said.
“He was released on April 7 and reached home at about 10:00 p.m. on that same day,” he said.
Male supporters were forbidden from greeting Gyatso on his return, though women were allowed to welcome him home, a Tibetan living in exile said, citing contacts in the region.
“The Tibetans who were allowed to see him were also warned not to take his picture, and were told that if any photos of Gyatso were later found in circulation, everyone who was present on his return would be held responsible,” the source, named Yangtso, said.
Gyatso had been detained before in 2008 after taking part in protests in Ngago town in the Kanlho (in Chinese, Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and at Labrang monastery, RFA’s source in Tibet said.
“He then disappeared for a few months without his relatives knowing where he was, but later he was released,” he said.
After being allowed now to stay at his family home for some time, Gyatso will be permitted to return to Labrang, RFA’s exile source Yangtso said.
Reported by Lobe Socktsang for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.