High-profile Tibetan political prisoner released
On 4 June, Tibetan abbot and teacher Khenpo Kartse (also known as Karma Tsewang) was released from prison in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, after two and a half years in prison. Harassed by authorities for a number of years, he was arrested in December 2013 and reportedly convicted for harbouring fugitives. Free Tibet and other Tibet groups and human rights organisations had campaigned for his release and his case had been raised repeatedly by governments, lawmakers, Tibet NGOs and international human rights organisations.
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Highly respected for his Buddhist teaching as well as his community work and advocacy, he was amongst the first to organise local people into rescue teams during the 2010 earthquake in Yushu. In the same year his ‘political rights’ were removed, with restrictions placed on him such as being required to have special permission to travel outside of the immediate area.
Following his arrest on 6 December 2013, major local protest action took place in the area calling for his release. According to respected Beijing-based Tibetan source Tsering Woeser, he was denied medication for three months after his arrest, despite suffering from bronchitis, tuberculosis and hepatitis.
Tibetan social media postings show photos of Khenpo Kartse dressed in lay clothing, and a poem he wrote about his situation has also been circulating amongst Tibetans. In the poem, he expresses his gratitude to those who have shown care and concern towards him, saying that he is in good health and ready to continue his work. He has not, however, not been allowed to return to Japa monastery in Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture where he was abbot. Since his release he has been kept under close surveillance, required to stay with a relative in the main city of Yushu Prefecture.
Khenpo Karste had been widely expected to receive a longer sentence than the two-and-a-half years he was given. The high international profile of his case following his arrest is likely to have contributed to that more lenient approach.
Khenpo Kartse had been featured as one of our Robed Resisters - monks and nuns imprisoned for falling foul of the authorities in Tibet. Many others face lengthy sentences. Please take action on behalf of Tibet’s religious political prisoners.