Prison photos of musicians emerge as latest Tibetan singer convicted for “seditiously splitting the state”

Friday, 22 May 2015

Gonpo Tsezin latest conviction of ten singers imprisoned since 2012

Photographs taken in jail have been obtained from Tibet of popular singers imprisoned for the content of their songs. The photographs of Gonpo Tsezin and Lolo emerged as the former was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail after more than a year in detention. Lolo was sentenced to six years in 2013, also for “seditiously splitting the state”. Photographs show both men looking unwell. Relatives are concerned about their health in prison (photos and pre-detention photographs available, 1).

Lolo (32 yrs) and Gonpo Tsezin (27 yrs, also spelled Gonpo Tenzin and Gongpo Tsezin) are among ten singers imprisoned since 2012 (see below). In April last year, a joint appeal by human rights officials at the United Nations forced China to account for the whereabouts of five of them (2). China claimed at that time that Gonpo Tsezin had been released on medical bail “due to several illnesses he suffers” and was receiving treatment (3). According to unconfirmed reports from Tibetan sources, relatives say he was tortured in detention (4).

Gonpo Tsezin is from Driru County, one of the most restive areas of Tibet in recent years. His songs promote Tibetan culture and one of his DVD’s - No Losar - refers to many Tibetans' decision not to celebrate Losar (Tibetan new year) because of repression in the country. Lolo’s songs contain explicit political content and include "Raise the Tibetan flag, Children of the Snowland”. Neither has any known connection to protests or other political activity.

Free Tibet is campaigning for the release of all singers imprisoned in Tibet. The campaign has received the backing of Peter Gabriel, members of Radiohead, jazz star Brad Mehldau and many other musicians.

Other singers confirmed to have been sentenced are:

• Pema Tinley, sentenced to four years for seditiously splitting the state, February 2013
• Chakdor, sentenced to four years for seditiously splitting the state, February 2013
• Shawo Tashi, sentenced to five years for seditiously splitting the state, February 2013
• Choksal, sentenced to two years, reportedly for “disturbing social stability and harming national unity” (sentencing date and current status unknown);
• Pema Rigzin, sentenced to two years in November 2014
• Trinley Tsekar, sentenced to nine years for “impacting state organs” in December 2013.

The following singers have been arrested and are still in detention as far as is known:
• Kalsang Yarphel, arrested in July 2013;
• Achok Phulshung was arrested in August 2013

Singer Gebe was arrested last year but released on bail. Other singers are reported to have been arrested but no further information is available.

For more information, see Free Tibet website http://freetibet.org/get-involved/tibets-jailed-musicians

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For further information, contact Free Tibet campaigns and media manager Alistair Currie:
E: alistair@freetibet.org
T: +44 (0)207 324 4605

Notes to editors
(1) Prison and before detention photographs of Gonpo Tsezin and Lolo available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/freetibetorg/sets/72157650931795403; photographs of other imprisoned musicians at http://freetibet.org/get-involved/tibets-jailed-musicians
(2) A “joint appeal” was made by Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations on 3 February 2014 https://spdb.ohchr.org/hrdb/25th/public_-_UA_China_03.02.14_%281.2014%29.pdf. China’s reply, dated 30 April 2014, was published in the Communications report of special procedures, 2 June 2014. (No direct link, copies available from Free Tibet). Information provided about Lolo, Gonpo Tenzin, Pema Trinley, Shawo Tashi, Chakdor and Trinley Tsekar.
(3) ibid
(4) Central Tibetan Administration 19 May 2015 http://tibet.net/2015/05/tibetan-singer-sentenced-to-three-and-a-half-years-in-prison/ Free Tibet has verified the conviction and sentencing of Gonpo Tsezin but has not verified the additional information in this report.