Authorities in China’s northwestern Qinghai province have ordered two Tibetans jailed for “inciting separatism” and “shouting independence slogans” in connection with a spate of self-immolation protests last year, sources said.
The two were sentenced to between two-and-a-half and four years in jail in February, but news of their trial and conviction was slow to reach outside media sources due to a heavy clampdown by Chinese security officials on information flows out of the region.
Both had been held since November, Tibetan sources in the region and in exile told RFA’s Tibetan Service this week.
“Aku Gyatak, 63, a native of Dowa Township in Rebgong [in Chinese, Tongren] county, was detained in November 2012 in connection with self-immolation protests in Rebgong,” a Tibetan living in the area said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Gyatak was sentenced by Malho (Huangnan) prefecture’s People’s Intermediate Court on February 8 to four years’ imprisonment, followed by two years’ deprivation of political rights, on a charge of “inciting separatism,” RFA’s source said.
Gyatak was punished in part because of his “attitude” toward Chinese officials who came to Rebgong to investigate a string of burning protests that rocked the area in early November, he said.
“On November 11, Chinese officials from the provincial, county, and local levels visited Dowa township to look into the burnings and other issues related to Tibetan protests. At that time, Aku Gyatak expressed his displeasure to the visiting officials,” the source said.
Gyatak claimed also to be solely responsible for protest gatherings following the self-immolations, “and he confessed to extending condolences to the self-immolators’ families and to donating money for prayers to be held on their behalf,” he said.
Calls for independence
Also in early February, the Malho People’s Intermediate Court handed a two-and-a-half year prison term to a middle school student named Dorje, a Swiss-based Tibetan named Sonam told RFA.
“Dorje was detained in November 2012 along with many others on charges of involvement in self-immolation protests in Rebgong,” Sonam said.
“He was especially accused of shouting slogans calling for Tibet’s independence and with establishing an organization called Inheritors of the Tibetan Tradition.”
Both men are currently being held in a prison in Qinghai’s provincial capital Ziling (Xining), sources said.
A total of 121 Tibetans in China have set themselves ablaze to date in self-immolation protests challenging Beijing’s rule and calling for the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
Another six have self-immolated in India and Nepal.
In November 2012, 11 Tibetans set fire to themselves in Rebgong county alone, but the pace of self-burnings in Tibet and in Tibetan-populated Chinese prefectures appears now to have slowed, with two reported in April and one each in May, June, and July.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin and Lumbum Tashi for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.