KATHMANDU—A Chinese court in the Tibetan city of Shigatse has jailed more than 20 Tibetans in the last decade for ‘reactionary’ offenses, including the possession of photos of the exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, court officials said.
“The court has the authority to sentence any individual who commits reactionary actions,” an official at the Shigatse Intermediate People’s Court told RFA’s Tibetan service.
The court has the authority to sentence any individual who commits reactionary actions.
The official added that the maximum penalty for carrying materials relating to the Dalai Lama or other ‘separatist’ activities was five years’ imprisonment.
“Since 1996, more than 20 such cases have been decided by this court,” said the official, who asked not to be named. “The length of the sentences ranged from one to five years.”
The official was responding to enquiries regarding the cases of three Tibetans jailed in 2001 for bringing photos and audio tapes of the Dalai Lama back into Tibet from India.
A judge at the court confirmed the two-year sentence handed down to Jigme Gyatso.
One of Jigme Gyatso’s relatives, identified as Lungtok, and a monk, Aku Tennam from Chomdo, were traveling with him, and each received a four-year jail term at the same time.
“If there was my name in the court paper, then yes, Jigme was sent to jail from this court,” the Shigatse Intermediate People’s Court judge said.
Any document that relates to Tibetan independence, Dalai Lama photos, or any other documents or literature containing reactionary themes or subjects are punishable.
“There are rules that guide us for making such decisions. It depends on the quantity of illegal materials brought in from abroad. The court documents specify guidelines for the decisions we should make. The materials could be photos of the Dalai Lama, or other documents inciting separatist activities,” the judge told RFA call-in show host Tseten Dolkar.
He said the length of sentence depended on the nature of the materials brought into Tibet.
“Any document that relates to Tibetan independence, Dalai Lama photos, or any other documents or literature containing reactionary themes or subjects are punishable,” he said.
“This court has decided so many of these cases,” the judge said.
Jigme Gyatso, who has escaped to neighboring Nepal since his release, said he and his companions were detained in a Shigatse reception center and interrogated for three days and nights.
“While interrogating, they resorted to physical and verbal abuse to extract information,” he told RFA in a recent interview.
He said one of his companions, monk Aku Tennam, was accused of possessing a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Shigatse is the second-largest city in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), at China's western edge. It is the main processing center for Tibetans who are arrested for crossing the border illegally.
Detainees are usually held for a standard three-month period and released after their relatives and local officials have been informed, according to accounts from former detainees.
China has ruled out calls from the Dalai Lama for a greater degree of autonomy under Chinese rule, saying his intentions are still separatist.
The Dalai Lama fled the region after a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. China has said the Dalai Lama will play no role in Tibet’s future.
China’s People’s Liberation Army troops marched into Tibet in 1951. The Dalai Lama has accused Beijing of implementing policies of “cultural genocide” against the region and its Buddhist heritage.
Original reporting in Tibetan by Tseten Dolkar. RFA Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo. Produced for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.