A Tibetan jailed for his role in protests against Chinese rule has been released after serving six years in prison, receiving a hero’s welcome in his hometown, his uncle and other sources said Thursday.
Tsedak Gonpo, who was imprisoned for leading protests in his hometown of Meruma in Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) county of Sichuan province amid unrest that swept the region in 2008, was released from Mianyang prison on Tuesday, his uncle said.
Gonpo reached Meruma on Wednesday, as residents lined the side of the road to greet him with traditional offerings of scarves, he said.
“He received a grand welcome by all the Tibetans in the village,” his uncle told RFA’s Tibetan Service, identifying himself only as Delek.
“The monks of Natso monastery and nuns of the local monastery also welcomed him with scarves,” he said.
Another source said local residents had made elaborate preparations in advance to welcome him home, throwing paper prayer flags in the air when Gonpo arrived.
“Several lines of vehicles waited on both sides of the road to welcome him, as people held white scarves in their hands,” said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Delek said that although Gonpo had endured torture and harsh conditions in prison, he appeared to be in good health.
“Outwardly there are no obvious marks of injury or damage on his body, but he was tortured and placed in dark cells for a long time. When he came out of the jail, he complained of some headaches, but otherwise we are not aware of any serious health issues,” he said.
Gonpo had been arrested on March 22, 2008 amid a crackdown on widespread anti-government protests that swept the region in the worst Tibetan unrest in years, according to another source speaking on condition of anonymity.
He was sentenced on November 5, 2008, according to the source.
On March 16 that year, shortly after violence erupted in the Tibetan capital Lhasa following the anniversary of a failed revolt against China, several Tibetans in Ngaba were killed after Chinese police fired on Tibetan protestors.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since the unrest, with 130 Tibetans setting themselves ablaze in self-immolation protests calling for Tibetan freedom since February 2009, and another six setting fire to themselves in India and Nepal.
Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.