Tibetan Monk Released From Prison Before Sentence Ends

Authorities in northwestern China’s Gansu province have released a Tibetan monk from prison before he had served his full sentence for his role in protests five years ago challenging Beijing’s rule in Tibetan areas, sources in exile said.

Choedrak Gyatso, 31, walked free Monday morning from a prison in Gansu’s provincial capital Lanzhou, a Tibetan living in India told RFA’s Tibetan Service, citing sources in the region.

“Friends and family members, along with several hundred monks and laypeople from his area, gathered to welcome him and offer him [traditional] white scarves,” the source said.

Gyatso, a monk from Shitsang monastery in Gansu’s Luchu (in Chinese, Luqu) county, had been arrested in March 2008 for taking part in anti-China protests in Luchu, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Initially, he was handed an eight-year prison sentence, but he has now been released early,” the source said.

The reason for his early release was not immediately available.

Eight-year term

Gyatso and Jamyang Tenpa, another monk from Shitsang monastery, had pleaded guilty to taking part in the protests and were sentenced in November 2008 by the Luchu County People’s Court, another source said, also citing contacts in the region.

“Choedrak Gyatso was sentenced to an eight-year term, and Jamyang Tenpa was given seven years,” he said, adding that Jamyang Tenpa is still being held in Lanzhou.

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 122 Tibetans have set themselves ablaze in self-immolation protests calling for Tibetan freedom since February 2009, with another six setting fire to themselves in India and Nepal.

Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Rigdhen Dolma. Written in English by Richard Finney.