Authorities in China’s northwestern Qinghai province have sentenced a popular Tibetan singer to prison for releasing an album of songs promoting Tibetan national identity and for other protest activities, according to Tibetan sources.
News of the sentencing follows earlier reports that the singer had been severely beaten while in custody, leading to his mind and body becoming “disabled,” sources said.
The singer, Ugyen Tenzin, was sentenced to two years in prison on or around March 20, Drukdrak Nyima, a Tibetan living in New York, said, citing sources in Tibet.
“He was charged with singing Tibetan patriotic songs, for obstructing [Chinese] mining, and for being a ringleader of mass protests in Nangchen,” Drukdrak Nyima said, referring to a county in Qinghai’s Tibetan-populated Yulshul prefecture.
Further details concerning Tenzin’s present whereabouts and condition, along with the precise charges made against him, were not immediately available.
The 25-year-old singer, who was jailed for a year in 2008 for protesting against Chinese mining operations in Tibetan areas, was most recently detained in February after releasing an album of songs titled “An Unending Flow of My Heart’s Blood.”
The songs—one of which is dedicated to Tibet’s exile prime minister Lobsang Sangay—contain calls for Tibetan freedom and unity in the face of China’s presence and policies in Tibetan regions.
“The distributor of the DVD of songs was also arrested and sentenced to two years in prison,” Drukdrak Nyima said. “The Chinese are now looking for the composer of the lyrics.”
China has jailed scores of Tibetan writers, artists, singers, and educators for asserting Tibetan national identity and civil rights since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.
Another popular Tibetan singer, Tashi Dhondup, was released from jail last year after serving most of a 15-month sentence for recording songs calling for Tibetan independence.
The singer was convicted of violating laws by singing songs in support of Tibetan independence and the Dalai Lama.
Meanwhile, also in Qinghai, two other Tibetans—Urgyen and Yonten Phuntsok—were sentenced to three and two years respectively because of their involvement in mass protests in Nangchen in February, Drukdrak Nyima said, citing contacts in the region.
Three others, whose names are still unknown, were also recently sentenced to prison terms of varying length for their own participation, Drukdrak Nyima said.
Qinghai province is among three key Tibetan-populated provinces where tensions have risen in recent months following a wave of protests challenging rule by Beijing and calling for the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
There have been 33 Tibetan self-immolation protests since 2009 in Tibetan regions of Gansu, Sichuan, and Qinghai, triggering ramped-up security across those areas and in the neighboring Tibet Autonomous Region.
Two other Tibetan protesters have set themselves ablaze in India, with the latest burning taking place in March in advance of a visit to India by Chinese president Hu Jintao.
Reported by Dorjee Damdul for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translations by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.