KATHMANDU—Chinese authorities in Tibet's Markham county have sentenced four monks to jail terms of four to nine years for "terrorist actions" in connection with a series of small blasts during massive anti-China protests in the region earlier this year, according to several knowledgeable sources.
"The Tibetans were given lighter sentences for some genuine reasons," a security official in Markham county who declined to be named said, confirming the Sept. 23 sentencing by the Chamdo [in Chinese, Changdu] Intermediate People's Court.
"Those who were involved in the explosions were instigated from the outside. There were no casualties in the explosion, and damage to government property was minimal."
They carried out terrorist actions."
The mostly teenage monks were among dozens detained in Markham county on or around May 14 and were charged with "obstructing the Olympics" and "damaging national stability."
Three of the monks sentenced were named by sources in Markham county as: Tenzin Tsangpa, 19, who was jailed for four years; Lobsang Gyatso, 19, who received a five-year sentence; and Tenphel, 19, who was handed an eight-year sentence. The identity of the fourth sentenced monk wasn't immediately known.
All the monks are believed to have been from Markham county's Oser monastery or one of its branches.
The security official said: "They carried out terrorist actions...If they don't appeal, they will be taken to Kongpo for imprisonment 10 days after sentencing. None had lodged an appeal by Sept. 30."
A total of 22 Tibetans were detained in Markham county over 12 days from May 13. Only six are known to have since been released. A further five monks from Phunlag Gonsar and Khenpa Lung monasteries are also believed to have been jailed in connection with the blasts.
“Another five monks were sentenced to imprisonment. Those are monks from Gonsar monastery, and Khenpa Lung monastery. But I don't know details about the length of the sentences."
Tibetan sources in the region reported eight separate explosions in the Markham area during the Tibetan protests earlier this year.
No one was hurt in the blasts, three of which occurred at a Chinese military base camp, one at the Markham county office, three at an electric power transmission station, and one at the residence of a Tibetan who worships Shugden, a controversial deity espoused by Beijing but regarded with suspicion by those loyal to the Dalai Lama.
Overseas rights groups have expressed concern over the "disappearance" of monks from Markham county following the blasts.
Detained in May
Knowledgeable Tibetan sources have identified some of the monks detained May 24 from Gonsar monastery in Markham as: Gonpo, 20; Choedrub, 25; Palden, 30; Ngawang Phuntsok, 17; and Kunga, 20.
The three Oser monks sentenced Sept. 23 along with Riyang, 21, and Choegyal, 23, were also detained around that time.
The Khenpa Lung monks were identified as Lobdra, 15; Namgyal, 18; Butrug, 13; Jamyang Lodroe, 15; Tsepag Namgyal, 15; Kalsang Tashi, 17; Jamdrub, 21; Wangchug, 22; Penpa Gyaltsen, 26; Pasang Tashi, 30; and Lhamo Tsang.
Two detained laypeople were identified as Dargye Garwatsang, 19, and Konchog Tenzin, 21.
Chinese authorities have made numerous arrests and launched a “patriotic education” campaign aimed at Tibetans after protests and riots that began in Lhasa in mid-March and spread to other Tibetan areas.
Beijing says 22 people were killed in the rioting. Tibetan sources say scores of people were killed when Chinese paramilitary and police opened fire on crowds of demonstrators.
Chinese authorities have blamed exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama, for instigating the protests and fomenting what they regard as a “splittist” Tibetan independence movement. The Dalai Lama rejects the accusation, saying he wants only autonomy and human rights for Tibetans.
Original reporting in Kham by Lobsang Choephel. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo. Written and produced in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.