Hard Labor for Kalachakra Returnee

Tibetan businessman brought 'forbidden' items from India back to Tibet.
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Tibetan pilgrims receive Buddhist teachings at the Kalachakra in Bodhgaya, India, January 2012.
Tibetan pilgrims receive Buddhist teachings at the Kalachakra in Bodhgaya, India, January 2012.
RFA / Thomas L. Kelly

Chinese authorities have sentenced a Tibetan businessman to two years at hard labor after finding him in possession of “illegal” materials following his return from a religious gathering conducted by Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in India, according to sources.

Jigme Topgyal, 55, also known as Junggar, was punished after undergoing two months of political “re-education” with hundreds of other Tibetans who returned from the “Kalachakra” gathering in January 2012, a source close to Topgyal’s family told RFA's Tibetan Service.

Topgyal was taken into custody and held for questioning and political “re-education” by police on his return to the Tibet Autonomous Region in March, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“After completing two months of re-education, he returned to his home in [Tibet’s regional capital] Lhasa, where he remained for 15 days until he was again detained on May 15,” the source said.

That evening, Lhasa police came to ransack his family’s home and shop, and discovered 15 DVDs of the Dalai Lama’s Kalachakra teachings along with photos of the Dalai Lama himself.

“These were all confiscated, along with an old radio that the family owned.”

Images of the Dalai Lama are frequently banned by Chinese authorities in Tibet, who regard the exiled spiritual leader as a dangerous separatist and symbol of Tibetan national identity.

Police also asked Topgyal’s family for a computer thumb drive and a “green book,” neither of which the family had in their possession, the source said.

Two-year term

An undated photo of Jigme Topgyal.
An undated photo of Jigme Topgyal. Photo: RFA

After trying for two weeks to learn where Topgyal was being held, family members finally learned that he had been sentenced to a two-year term of hard labor.

The information was contained in an announcement posted outside the Gutsa detention center in Lhasa, RFA’s source said.

“The announcement said that Topgyal had been charged with going to the Kalachakra in India and bringing back forbidden items.”

“He may not even have had to appear in court. It was the police who arbitrarily sentenced him to two years of re-education through labor,” the source said.

After being sentenced, Topgyal was taken to the Toelung detention center outside Lhasa, where relatives were able to visit him on Dec. 15.

“They learned that he had been severely beaten during the first 15 days he was held and had even lost consciousness, but after being sentenced he was no longer beaten.”

Among the 350 detainees held at Toelung, most are Tibetans from the eastern regions of Kham and Amdo who had attended the Kalachakra teachings, the source said.

Another is a 16-year-old Tibetan named Sonam Lhamo who had attended school in India.

Topgyal is now scheduled for release on May 15, 2014, the source said.

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





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