Tibetan Freed in Sichuan After Serving Four Years, 10 Months

He was convicted on unknown charges after warnings of self-immolation protests circulated in Serthar.

Sherphel (R) is shown in an undated photo.

A Tibetan man jailed more than four years ago in Sichuan over suspected links to self-immolation protests has been freed from prison after serving his full term, sources in the region and in exile say.

Sherphel, a resident of Serthar (in Chinese, Seda) county, was released on Nov. 25, 2016, Golog Jigme, a former political prisoner living in Switzerland, told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“It has been several months since his release, but the news was delayed in reaching outside media contacts because of a Chinese clampdown on communications and other restrictions in the area,” Jigme said, citing contacts in Serthar.

Sherphel was taken into custody on Jan. 24, 2012, after a notice circulated in the Serthar county town warning of imminent self-immolation protests challenging Beijing’s rule in Tibetan areas, Jigme said, adding that local Tibetans then vowed to prevent immolators’ remains from falling into Chinese hands.

“The self-immolations never happened,” Jigme said.

“But the Chinese police then took Sherphel into custody, and he was later sentenced to a prison term of four years and 10 months on unknown charges,” he said.

On the day Sherphel was detained, Tibetans living in Serthar town staged a peaceful demonstration calling for Tibetan freedom and the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, Jigme said.

“Chinese security forces fired live rounds into the crowd, killing a 25-year-old man named Dawa Drakpa and critically injuring many other Tibetans,” Jigme said. “They detained about 30 protesters at the same time.”

Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.

A total of 146 Tibetans living in China have set themselves ablaze in self-immolations since the wave of fiery protests began in 2009, with most protests featuring calls for Tibetan freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama from India, where he has lived since escaping Tibet during a failed national uprising in 1959.

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