Three Tibetans detained last year on suspicion of involvement in activities challenging Chinese rule have been handed long terms in jail, with their families only recently learning of their fate, according to sources in the region and in exile.
The three—a monk, a writer, and a former policeman—were taken into custody in Driru (in Chinese, Biru) county in the Tibet Autonomous Region’s Nagchu (Naqu) prefecture in December and October, respectively, sources said.
Whether any of the men had been tried in formal court proceedings or if opportunities were allowed for their defense is still unclear.
“Thardoe Gyaltsen, the chant leader of Drongna monastery, was detained in December and was sentenced to 18 years, presumably for ‘political offenses',” Driru Samdrub, a Tibetan living in Europe, told RFA’s Tibetan Service this week.
“He was found in possession of teachings and photos of [exiled spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama, and he had also established a school and worked for the preservation and propagation of the Tibetan language and culture,” Samdrub said, citing contacts in his native Driru county.
Thardoe’s Drongna monastery was one of three—including Tarmoe and Rabten—monasteries closed in December by Chinese authorities, according to sources in the region.
The closings came after paramilitary police were assigned to enforce political re-education campaigns in the county while screening for dissident monks and restricting activities in the monasteries.
Authorities only later informed Gyaltsen’s family that he had been sentenced, Samdrub said, adding there was no indication that a trial had ever been held.
“No charges were specified, and no chances were given to his relatives to attend in court or help in his defense.”
“There was only a statement ‘from above’ announcing his sentence,” he said.
'Nothing in writing'
Meanwhile, relatives of a Tibetan writer and a friend also detained last year have learned that the two men are being held in Chushul prison near Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa, a Tibetan source in exile said.
Tsultrim Gyaltsen, also known as Shogdril, and Yugyal, a former policeman, were taken into custody separately on Oct. 10 and 11 and were handed jail terms of 13 years and 10 years respectively, RFA’s source said, citing local contacts and speaking on condition of anonymity.
“It was only in March of this year that family members were told they are now in Chushul,” he said.
“Shogdril’s brother and Yugyal’s wife went to see them, but they were given only 10 minutes to speak with them. It was then that the families were informed of their sentences.”
Tibetans living in the men’s hometown “have been waiting for some kind of document to confirm the sentences and charges made against them, but nothing in writing has ever been received,” he said.
Since resistance began last year to a Chinese campaign in Driru forcing displays of loyalty to Beijing, hundreds of Tibetans have been detained in the restive county, the source said.
“We have documented about 13 cases of Tibetans who were given sentences of from three to 18 years, and none of them was given a proper trial,” he said.
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 130 Tibetans have also set themselves ablaze in self-immolation protests calling for Tibetan freedom, with another six setting fire to themselves in India and Nepal.
Reported by Tsewang Norbu, Rigdhen Dolma, and Lumbum Tashi for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.