Musicians "arrested for singing" released after four years in prison

Chakdor (left) and Pema Trinlay (right)

10th October 2016

Pema Trinlay and Chakdor were cases in Free Tibet's Jailed Musicians campaign

Two Tibetan musicians who were imprisoned  in 2012 have been released from prison after serving four-year sentences. Chakdor and Pema Trinlay, both from Meruma Village in Ngaba, eastern Tibet, were released from Mianyang Prison on 3 October. They have since returned home.

Pema Trinlay and Chakdor were arrested in 2012 after producing an album called “The Pain of an Unhealed Wound” celebrating Tibetan culture and protesting against the Chinese occupation. Songs on the album praised the Dalai Lama as well as Tibetans who have died through self-immolation. Chakdor is a close relative of self-immolation protester Choepa, who burned himself to death in August 2012 in protest at China’s repressive policies.

Pema Trinlay and Chakdor were charged with separatism, tried in secret and sentenced to four years in prison.

Information withheld

The families of Pema Trinlay and Chakdor were not informed about their prison sentences. When they visited Mianyang Prison, where they believed Pema Trinlay and Chakdor were being held, they were unable to get information from prison officials confirming their exact whereabouts.

Free Tibet campaigned for the release of Pema Trinlay and Chakdor as part of its Tibet’s Jailed Musicians campaign. In 2014 Free Tibet sent a submission to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights, one of the UN’s top human rights officials, raising the arrests and disappearances of eight musicians.

Following the letter, the United Nations contacted China, requesting that it reveal the status of the jailed musicians. Obliged to respond, China confirmed that the musicians had been jailed for “separatist” activities because China believed their songs challenged its rule.

Chakdor being by welcomed by local Tibetans after his release

Imprisoned for singing

After serving their sentences, Chakdor and Pema Trinlay, now 35 and 27 years old respectively, returned home, where they were welcomed by local Tibetans and several former prison mates including writer, Theurang, who had shared a cell with Pema Trinlay in Mianyang Prison.

Theurang announced the release of the pair on social media. Theurang gave a summary of their arrests in 2012; as he put it: “two cousins had to go to prison for singing.”  

Take action

Tibetans are frequently arrested and held without charge. Many of them have been arrested for protesting against the occupation and human rights abuses. Take action for Tibet's political prisoners by joining in with our Robed Resisters campaign.