A Tibetan political prisoner and monk who was jailed by authorities for five years for refusing to participate in a "patriotic reeducation campaign" died on Monday in western China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, RFA has learned.
Khenrab Tharchin, who was about 40 years old when he passed away, was jailed in 2008 and had suffered beatings and torture while in prison, said a Tibetan source in Nepal.
He was released in 2013 because of poor health, and his health continued to deteriorate thereafter, he said.
“His relatives took him to the hospital, but he died on the way there,” the source said.
Tharchin hailed from Drushe village, Shelkar township, in Dingri county of Shigatse (in Chinese, Xigaze) prefecture in southwestern Tibet.
At the time of his arrest in May 2008, he was one of several monks at Dingri Shelkar Choedhe monastery who opposed a patriotic reeducation campaign imposed upon them by local Chinese authorities, the source said.
Authorities began conducting new patriotic reeducation campaigns in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and nunneries in April 2008 following unrest a month earlier that spread across region as a result of protests that started in the Tibetan capital Lhasa and led to rioting, burning, looting, and ethnic killing.
The campaigns were conducted in an effort to control religious practices, suppress support for exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, and quash notions of independence or genuine autonomy for Tibet.
Under the reeducation program, work teams temporarily moved into religious institutions and provided instruction on the Chinese government’s official version of Tibet's history as well as religious policy and the law. Monks and nuns were required to comply or risk arrest or expulsion.
When Tharchin was arrested, he was 32 years old and a member of the monastery’s democratic management committee set up by Chinese authorities to ensure that the monks did not disrupt social order through protests or self-immolations, according to an article on the Tibetan news site Phayul.com on June 1, 2008.
Tharchin stood up while the reeducation campaign was in session, openly opposed it and told the visiting work team that he could not denounce the Dalai Lama as required under the campaign, the article said. Eleven other monks also stood up and opposed the campaign.
That night, Chinese security forces raided Dingri Shelkar monastery and arrested the 12 monks, taking them to unknown locations, the article said.
It later came to be known that authorities had sentenced three of the monks to 18 months in prison and had handed Tharchin a five-year sentence, the Tibetan source said.
Tharchin was first detained at a facility in Shigatse but later moved to Chushul (Qushui) prison on the outskirts of Lhasa.
Reported by Sangye Dorjee for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.