Tibetan Political Prisoner Dies After 14 Months in Custody

UPDATED at 9:45 a.m. EST on 2015-07-27
A Tibetan village chief being held in prison for his role in protests against a Chinese gold mine died in a Lhasa hospital,  a Tibetan source living in exile told RFA's Tibetan Service.

Lobsang Yeshi, a father of eight in his 60s, died on July 19 at Lhasa Hospital, where he had been taken after his health deteriorated in Chushul prison in Lhasa, the source told RFA.

The cause of the man's death was not immediately clear. But the website of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the Tibetan exile government in India, said he had been tortured since his detention in May 2014 after a protest in his village.
"Due to severe beating in the prison, Lobsang Yeshi sustained grievous injuries and suffered dizziness as a result of poor health," said the CTA report.

Lobsang Yeshi, who was the head of Gewar village in Chamdo  (In Chinese, Changdu) prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region, near where a Chinese mine was being built, and two other village men were sentenced to two years in jail for their roles in protests that rocked the village a year earlier.

On May 7, 2014, Gewar village resident Phakpa Gyaltsen died in a solitary protest after stabbing himself and jumping from a building in Tongbar town to oppose Chinese plans to mine gold in an area of Dzogang (Zuogang) near Madok Tso called Ache Jema, according to Tibetan sources at the time.

"At that time, the Tibetans, led by some elderly Tibetans including Lobsang Yeshi who was head of the village, protested at Dzogang county center. The protest continued even after threatening warnings given by Chamdo and Dzogang police," the exiled Tibetan source told RFA.

"The leader and others continued with frequent protests and refused to budge under the threat. The tension was eased when the county level officials tried to mediate between the police and the protestors and allowed the Tibetans to go home without any action," the source added.

Later, however, Lobsang Yeshi was one of seven Tibetans taken into custody by the authorities and detained in Dzogang county for almost one year, he said.

Tibetan areas of China have become an important source of minerals needed for China’s economic growth, and mining operations have led to frequent standoffs with Tibetans who accuse Chinese firms of disrupting sites of spiritual significance and polluting the environment as they extract local wealth.

“None of the relatives and friends of Lobsang Yeshi was allowed to see his body. Only a monk was finally allowed in to see his body and conduct prayers," the exile source said.
Lobsang Yeshi's body was cremated on July 21, with two of his brothers attending the cremation, the source said.

Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Paul Eckert.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this report gave an incorrect name for the Lhasa-area prison where Lobsang Yeshi was held.