Chinese authorities in Sichuan province have released six Tibetan nuns from prison about a year before their sentences were due to expire, while another was released after completing her full term, according to local sources.
All seven had been jailed for their roles in peaceful protests challenging Beijing’s rule in Tibetan areas, sources said.
It was not clear why the six were freed earlier than scheduled.
Details concerning the nuns’ present whereabouts and condition are not known, though Tibetan prisoners freed early by Chinese authorities are sometimes released due to ill health resulting from harsh treatment suffered in prison.
Among the six, Sonam Lhamo, 30, Tashi Choetso, 30, and Jampa Choeden, 37, had protested in a downtown area of the Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) county seat on May 5, 2011, “and were immediately taken into custody by Chinese police,” an area resident told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“They belonged to the Gemadrak nunnery in Kardze,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Their date of release is unknown,” he said.
The other three freed were Kalsang Dechen, 30, of the Lamdrak nunnery, and Choenyi Lhamo, age unknown, and Tashi Drolkar, age unknown, both of the Ganden Choeling nunnery.
“All six nuns had been sentenced to three years in prison, but were released before their terms had expired,” RFA’s source said, adding, “They were given no explanation for why they were freed.”
Separately, the online Tibet Express on June 28 confirmed Choenyi Lhamo’s and Tashi Drolkar’s release, giving their release date as June 19.
Choenyi Lhamo had protested in Kardze on June 20, 2011, calling for freedom for Tibet and for the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, and had been held at Mianyang prison in Sichuan, according to Tibet Express.
Tashi Drolkar had protested, also in Kardze, on June 18, 2011, Tibet Express said.
Meanwhile, a seventh nun, Yeshe Pamo, was also recently released, an area resident told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“She had distributed protest leaflets in Kardze on June 1, 2006, escaped detention and fled the area, but was picked up by police in Lhasa five days later,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“She was detained in Sichuan for about a year and was then sentenced to a six-year term,” he said.
“She appears to have completed her full term before being released.”
Beginning in 2008, a wave of anti-China protests swept Tibetan regions, prompting a widespread security crackdown.
Sporadic demonstrations and a campaign of self-immolations have continued since then, with 120 Tibetans to date having set themselves ablaze to challenge Chinese rule and call for the return of the Dalai Lama.
China routinely accuses the Dalai Lama and his supporters of orchestrating the burning protests.
But Tibetan exile leaders, while publicly honoring what they call the “sacrifices” made by self-immolators, have denied involvement in the burnings and have called on Tibetans in Tibet to refrain from “drastic actions.”
Reported by Norbu Damdul and Sonam Wangdu for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.