KATHMANDU—Three men who tried to carry pictures and audio tapes of Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, into the Himalayan region were sentenced to jail terms of up to four years by a Chinese court, RFA has learned.
The three Tibetans, two in their forties and a man of 22 who spoke recently to RFA’s correspondent in Nepal, were arrested by Chinese police for political offences in July 2001, the young man, identified by a pseudonym Jigme, said.
After their arrest following a border crossing from Nepal in June 28, 2001, the men were taken to the Intermediate People’s Court in the central Tibetan city of Shigatse, which brought formal charges against them of "splitting the country", according to a court document seen by RFA.
“They accused us of bringing in photos of the Dalai Lama and audio tapes of his teachings, and other documents which could harm socialism and damage the unity of the people,” Jigme, an ethnic Tibetan from the northwestern Chinese province of Gansu, said.
The young man had undertaken the trip to visit his aging parents. “Since many older Tibetans in Tibet could not read but they are very keen to listen to His Holiness teachings. Therefore I took some audio tapes of teachings […] and some photos,” he said.
All three men were handed over to national security officers in Shigatse on July 4, 2001, where they were interrogated and submitted to “physical and verbal abuse,” according to Jigme. They were formally arrested on August 1 on charges of "instigation to split the country", and illegal entry into China, the court document said.
“The court sentenced me to two years’ imprisonment and two years’ deprivation of political rights,” Jigme said, adding that the two older men, one of whom, named Lungtok, was his relative, were each handed four-year jail terms. The other monk, Aku Tennam, was accused of possessing a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Jigme said Chinese officials told him that Tibetans were allowed to practice their religion, but that the materials relating to the Dalai Lama were considered a “political crime”, he told RFA. “It was religiously right, but politically incorrect.”
Jigme, who escaped to Nepal again in July, said the other two men had by now also completed their sentences and had been released from Tibet’s notorious Drapchi Prison. During his detention, Jigme never knew what happened to the monk and met him again while traveling back to Nepal last month.
“When we were arrested, I pleaded that we were Buddhists, and had the freedom to practice religion,” he said.
“We believe in and respect the Dalai Lama as our teacher, and revere him…Many Tibetans in Tibet have never heard his teachings,” Jigme added.
China has ruled out calls from the Dalai Lama for a greater degree of autonomy under Chinese rule. The Dalai Lama fled the region after a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. China has said he will play no role in Tibet's future.
China's People's Liberation Army troops marched into Tibet in 1951. The Dalai Lama has accused Beijing of implementing policies of "cultural genocide" against the region and its Buddhist heritage.
Original reporting in Tibetan by Thupten Sangyal in Kathmandu. RFA Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo. Produced in English for the Web by Luisetta Mudie.