Tibetan Prisoner Released Early in 'Poor Health'

Authorities in western China’s Sichuan province have released a Tibetan prisoner in poor health after he had served all but seven months of a three-year term for staging a protest against Chinese rule, according to Tibetan sources.

Sonam Choegyal, about 20 years old and a resident of Kaka village in the Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, was released last week, a Tibetan monk living in India told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Tuesday, citing sources in the region.

“He was released on Sept. 7,” the monk said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“His health is reported to be poor, but he suffered no major injuries during his time in jail,” he said, adding, “I have no idea why he was released early.”

Though Chinese authorities did not allow local Tibetans to arrange a convoy of vehicles to welcome Sonam Choegyal home, “relatives and community members received him warmly with [ceremonial] scarves when he returned home at around 5:00 p.m. on Sept. 9.”

“Sonam Choegyal is the son of Tamdrin Wangyal, his father, and Lhaga, his mother. Both are residents of Kaka village in Kardze,” he said.

Sonam Choegyal and a friend, Tenzin Nyima, had staged a protest in Kardze town in 2011 challenging Chinese rule, for which he was detained and sentenced to a three-year term by the Kardze prefectural court, RFA’s source said.

He was then confined in Miyang prison near Sichuan’s provincial capital Chengdu.

“His friend Tenzin Nyima was released about two months earlier, after serving a little over two years in jail for the same protest.”

Nun also released

In August, authorities in Sichuan released a Tibetan nun, also in poor health, after she had served a one-year jail sentence for protesting China’s rule in Tibetan areas.

Shedrub Lhamo, a 40-year-old nun of the Ganden Choeling nunnery in Kardze had been beaten and tortured in custody, a Tibetan living in Europe told RFA, citing contacts in the region.

During her solitary protest on Aug. 25, 2012, Shedrub Lhamo had called for the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and for freedom for Tibet, the source said.

“She also threw leaflets in the air, though witnesses could not see what was written on them,” he said.

Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.

A total of 121 Tibetans in China have also set themselves ablaze in self-immolation protests calling for Tibetan freedom, with another six setting fire to themselves in India and Nepal.

Reported by Sonam Wangdu for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.