Tibetans sentenced to prison following Panchen Lama gathering
Two Tibetans were sentenced to prison in Sershul County in Kardze, eastern Tibet (1) on Wednesday 8 May. Their arrests and prison sentences resulted from a series of gatherings by locals in late April to mark the 30th birthday of the Panchen Lama (2).
Wangchen, a man in his twenties, was sentenced to four and a half years in prison on state security charges. He had been in detention since 29 April, having been arrested after one of the gatherings. His aunt, Dolkar, received a sentence of one year and three months for causing social instability by sharing information about Wangchen’s arrest.
The gatherings took place between 20 and 29 April. During these dates, several Tibetans in Sershul County carried out rituals and prayers for the Panchen Lama, the second highest authority in Tibetan Buddhism and who has been missing since he and his family were detained by Chinese authorities in May 1995.
On 29 April, four Tibetans, Wangchen, his friends Lobsang and Youten, and a fourth Tibetan who has not been identified, raised prayer flags on the hillside of Sershul Monastery and shouted slogans demanding the release of the Panchen Lama and for the Panchen Lama and the exiled Dalai Lama to be reunited again in Tibet.
On their way back from the monastery, at around 10:30 am (Tibet local time), the four were apprehended by a police officer. Wangchen, Lobsang and Youten were subsequently detained while the fourth person was released.
Authorities warned the families of those detained to stay away from them until their trial. They were also ordered not to tell others about the arrest.
On 3 May, Sershul Court summoned Wangchen’s aunt Dolkar, on the suspicion that she had shared information about the arrests. Local sources say that the court told her that she had been watched closely during previous days and that she would face consequences for any lies that she told.
On the morning of 8 May, Wangchen, Dolkar, Lobsang and Youten appeared in court. Five family members were allowed to attend. They were kept under surveillance throughout the trial. Wangchen and Dolkar received sentences of four and half years and one year and three months respectively. Their whereabouts since the sentencing are unknown. Lobsang and Youten received fines of 15,000 yuan each and are required to report to Sershul National Education Department for six months of compulsory re-education.
John Jones, Campaigns and Advocacy Manager at Free Tibet said:
“The arrests and sentencing of Dolkar and Wangchen are the latest link in a chain of cruelty, one that can be linked back to the detention of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima in 1995 and beyond that, to the invasion and occupation of Tibet in 1950. Under the occupation, dissent and alternative thought are ruthlessly punished, ruining lives.
“Instead of using prison as a solution for all of its problems in Tibet, the Chinese government should consider why Tibetans continue to voice opposition to its rule and policies and address their concerns. The immediate and unconditional release of Dolkar and Wangchen, neither of whom have committed anything even resembling a recognisable offence, would be a good start.”
For further information or comment, contact Free Tibet campaigns and communications manager John Jones:
T: +44 (0)207 324 4605
Notes to editors
- Location: Sershul County (Chinese: Serxu County), Kardze (Ch: Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province)
- The Panchen Lama is the second highest authority in Tibetan Buddhism after the Dalai Lama. The 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, was detained as a six year old, along with the rest of his family, on 17 May 1995. Over the past 24 years, there has been almost no information released about his whereabouts or well-being, despite requests from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Union, numerous governments and human rights organisations. Tibetans continue to push for information on his case, which received renewed media attention on 23 April 2019 when it was featured on the BBC programme The One Show: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-48071043
- Pictures of Dolkar and Wangchen are available for use by journalists. The can be accessed here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmy4JmJu