Updated at 9:45 a.m. EST on 2014-12-15
An elderly Tibetan man has been ordered jailed by Chinese authorities for advising a group of Tibetan students to abide by the Dalai Lama's call not to participate in a controversial form of worship deemed “divisive” by the exiled spiritual leader, sources said.
Jamyang Tsering, 77, was handed a one-and-a-half year term in early December by a court in Dzogang (in Chinese, Zuogong) county in the Chamdo (Changdu) prefecture of China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“He is currently being held in the Dzogang detention center pending transfer to a jail in Chamdo,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“His relatives are worried about his health, which is said to be not good,” the source said, adding that Tsering suffers from abdominal disorders, diabetes, and high blood pressure, among other ailments.
“He himself says he has done nothing wrong and has no regrets. His only concern is for his wife, who is 86 and was left behind in [the regional capital] Lhasa after he was detained,” he said.
Tsering, a native of Chamdo, was taken into custody in early June after encouraging a group of Chamdo-area students visiting Lhasa to follow the wishes and guidance of the Dalai Lama and to always “hold to their pride in being Tibetan,” the source said.
“He had also advised as many people as possible in local gatherings not to worship Shugden,” a Tibetan “protector” deity whose rituals have been denounced by the Dalai Lama as divisive and sectarian, he said.
Chinese police frequently investigate and arrest Tibetans deemed to have responded to the policy directives of the India-based Dalai Lama, whom Beijing considers a dangerous separatist bent on “splitting” Tibet from Chinese control.
Earlier this year, a young Tibetan stabbed himself to death when police attempted to detain him in Chamdo’s Markham (Mangkang) county over the destruction of a Shugden statue six years ago, sources told RFA in an earlier report.
Tashi Tsering, a 28-year-old layman, had joined together with at least eight monks of Chamdo’s Khenpaluk monastery in 2008 to destroy the statue of the deity after the Dalai Lama urged Tibetans to abandon its worship, one source said.
When the Dalai Lama in 2008 publicly criticized Shugden worship as damaging to harmony among Tibetans, Khenpaluk monastery was the first religious establishment in the area to ban the practice, the source said.
“Some monks of Khenpaluk then volunteered to dismantle the statue,” which had been installed by a private sponsor, he said.
Chamdo police in April issued a set of regulations including a ban on “anyone using the protector 'Gyalchen Shugden' to create differences among the believing masses” and using language that appeared to be “aimed primarily at opponents or critics of the Shugden practice,” Columbia University Tibet scholar Robbie Barnett told RFA in an e-mail on Friday.
“From the perspective of the Chinese, they have a responsibility to prevent violence and conflict over this, as with any other contentious issue among Tibetans,” Barnett said.
“However, the Chinese authorities have published numerous statements attacking the Dalai Lama on the Shugden issue both in Tibet and internationally,” he said.
“So they are widely perceived within Tibet as favoring the pro-Shugden side in this dispute.”
Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Written in English with additional reporting by Richard Finney.