Eighteen-year sentence for Tibetan monk accused of "separatism"

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Free Tibet media release
immediate use

Eighteen-year sentence for Tibetan monk accused of “separatism”

Thardhod Gyaltsen is senior monk from county targeted by China after protests

Thardhod Gyaltsen was detained in December 2013 during a crackdown in Driru County, central Tibet. In January 2014 he was sentenced to eighteen years’ imprisonment. According to local sources, he was convicted of separatism on the basis of being in possession of banned pictures and recordings of the Dalai Lama (1).

Thardhod Gyaltsen was the chant leader and part of the monastic management of Drongna monastery in Driru county, Nagchu prefecture of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (2). The monastery was forcibly closed by authorities in December 2013. Tharghod Gyaltsen’s father, Jungney, was killed by Chinese polices during the mass protest in Driru in 1969.

Driru County has been a recent focus of Chinese attention following an anti-mining protest in the area last May (3). In October, security forces fired upon a peaceful demonstration in the county (see below), following demonstrations and clashes after thousands of officials had flooded the area to impose a “political re-education” campaign in September. On 28 September, after being instructed to fly Chinese flags over their houses, Tibetans in Mowa township threw the flags into the river.
Authorities responded by sending paramilitary and police forces into the area in large numbers. In subsequent clashes around 40 Tibetans were arrested and many were severely beaten and injured. A protest to secure the release of a local man on 6 October was fired upon by security forces who also broke up the demonstration with beatings. An estimated 60 Tibetans were injured (4).
In the period since the shooting, Driru has seen further protests and a continued crackdown. Large numbers of arbitrary detentions have taken place and individuals have been given sentences of up to 13 years for their involvement in the original mining protests (5). In December 2014, the authorities forcibly closed Drongna monastery and two others - Tarmoe and Rabten – in the county.

Driru residents have also been monitored when travelling to other parts of Tibet (6) and hotels in Lhasa have been required to report any guests from the area (amongst other selected Tibetan areas) to the police and seek permission to register them (7). Neighbouring Sog county has also seen an increased security presence and arrests in an attempt to contain protests (8).
Driru is situated in the Tibet Autonomous Region and Nagchu prefecture borders the prefecture of Lhasa, Tibet’s capital. The situation in the county remains extremely tense. Monks are forbidden from carrying out prayer sessions and daily monastic activities are severely restricted due to the conditions imposed by authorities. All communication lines are restricted.

Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:

“The punitive sentence imposed on this respected religious figure is just the most recent example of China’s knee-jerk response to Tibetan protest. The sequence of events in Driru is emblematic of China’s failed strategy in Tibet: a legitimate environmental protest was followed up with an attempt to impose political re-education, leading to forceful but peaceful Tibetan resistance and a violent and sustained crackdown.

“Driru has been the focal point of Tibetan resistance to Chinese rule for months and has paid a heavy price. China is especially sensitive to protests in the Tibet Autonomous Region because resistance spread from the area to the rest of the country in 2008. In other parts of Tibet they say ‘fire in Lhasa, smoke here’ but China’s determination to stamp down on Driru instead of addressing the grievances of those who live there is as counter-productive as it is vindictive.”

Information provided by Tibet Watch.

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For further information or comment, contact Alistair Currie:
E: alistair@freetibet.org
T: +44 (0)207 324 4605

Notes for editors

(1) “Separatism” is a vaguely defined crime under Article 4 of China’s 1993 State Security Law, involving acts intended to “dismember the State” http://www.china.org.cn/english/China/218754.htm. Suspects accused of such crimes receive less legal protection than other defendants and may face the death sentences or life imprisonment. http://www.china.org.cn/english/government/207319.htm
(2) Chinese: Biru county, Naqu Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region
(3) Free Tibet news story 30 may 2013 http://freetibet.org/news-media/na/thousands-tibetans-protest-mining-sacred-site
(4) Free Tibet press release 8 October 2013 http://www.freetibet.org/news-media/pr/60-tibetans-injured-security-forces-fire-peaceful-protest
(5) Free Tibet news story 13 January 2014 http://freetibet.org/news-media/na/singer-jailed-nine-years
(6) Police codes http://www.freetibet.org/news-media/pr/%E2%80%9Cplease-extend-hospitality%E2%80%9D-police-codes-tibet-exposed
(7) Hotels http://www.freetibet.org/news-media/pr/hotels-tibet-implicated-racial-profiling-security-services