WASHINGTON—Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan have sentenced a Tibetan nomad to an eight-year prison term after he called publicly for the return of the Dalai Lama. Three other Tibetans were jailed on related charges, sources in Sichuan said.
Ronggyal Adrak was handed the sentence Tuesday by Karze Intermediate Court in Dartsedo (in Chinese, Kangding), which had convicted him of “splitting the country” and subverting state power. The other three defendants were convicted of providing information that jeopardized national security to unnamed foreign organizations and handed sentences ranging from three to 10 years, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency.
All four men -- the other three were identified as Adruk Lopoe, Jamyang Kunkyen and Lothok -- protested when their sentences were read out in court, and security officers bundled them away, witnesses told RFA’s Tibetan service.
"This is not a fair trial," they called out. "We cannot accept this decision."
A court official in Karze, known in Chinese as Ganzi, confirmed the sentencing.
The Chinese court took many things into consideration. They committed political crimes and the crimes were very severe.
"The sentence for the four persons was announced today," she said.
"The Chinese court took many things into consideration. They committed political crimes and the crimes were very severe."
She said the court had acted with lenience after taking different factors into account.
Ronggyal Adrak is being tried according to Chinese law, and we are not wrongfully accusing him of anything. He is being charged according to the law of the land.
"In Chinese law there is no specific sentence for specific crime and the court had to study all the facts. It is not like the United States, where there are specific punishments for specific crimes," the official added.
Adrak was arrested and charged with subversion after calling for the return of the Dalai Lama at a meeting Aug. 1 in Lithang county during the annual horse-racing festival.
Relatives of the four men who traveled from Lithang to hear the sentence vowed to protest and demanded respect for human rights, freedom of religion, and an invitation for the Dalai Lama to come to Tibet, witnesses said.
They said after the sentencing that the four men had made their August protest against being forced to denounce the Dalai Lama, not in order to invite him to China.
Ronggyal Adrak is a member of the Yonru nomadic group, which lives in the largely Tibetan regions of Sichuan, on high grasslands near the Himalayan plateau.
The Aug. 1 incident and detention prompted a surge of nomads into police and government office compounds, prompting the police to threaten to shoot when tensions were at their height. Authorities managed to negotiate an uneasy truce, but thousands of troops converged on Lithang as a result, and local Tibetan Communist Party officials were replaced with Han Chinese.
According to Xinhua, Adruk Lopoe and Jamyang Kunkyen were sentenced to 10 and nine years in jail, respectively, for sending photos to overseas organizations. Another Tibetan named Lothok was jailed for three years for providing information to foreign organizations. Ronggyal Adrak told the judge from the dock during an Oct. 29 hearing: “When I shouted ‘Long live the Dalai Lama’ and called for the release of Tibetan political prisoners, I was detained and then formally arrested.”
“The main reason was that there is nobody in Tibet who does not have faith in, loyalty to, and the desire to see the Dalai Lama,” he told the court. “On the contrary, the Chinese government sends out propaganda saying that the Tibetans inside Tibet have no desire to meet him and have lost faith in him.”
“That is wrong, and we have no freedom to say so.”
The judge told Ronggyal Adrak in October that his crimes were “very severe”, and said he was responsible for causing the mass protests that followed, during which hundreds of nomads surged into government and police compounds demanding his release.
Ronggyal Adrak, who has met the exiled Tibetan leader twice in northern India where his two daughters are studying, was responsible for the mass protest by Lithang nomads, and “economic losses” suffered as a result of his public protest, the judge said.
Court officials have said Ronggyal Adrak was fairly tried according to the laws of the People’s Republic of China.
However, the authorities have warned that anyone speaking or acting in support of him could face jail terms of between three and 10 years, depending on the extent of their involvement.
The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 and is regarded by China as a dangerous figure seeking independence for his homeland, although he says he wants only autonomy and for Chinese repression of Tibetans to end.
China has ruled the Dalai Lama out of Tibet’s future and has recently launched major political campaigns in Tibetan areas of Sichuan and among Tibetan cadres in Tibet to get people to renounce him.
China has ruled Tibet since 1951, after sending in troops a year earlier to “liberate” the devoutly Buddhist region.
Original reporting in Kham dialect by RFA’s Tibetan service. Director: Jigme Ngapo. Translated and edited by Karma Dorjee. Written and produced in English by Luisetta Mudie and Sarah Jackson-Han.