RFA: Five Tibetan Monks Imprisoned in Qinghai

January 26, 2006

Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on February 13 that five monks of Dragkar Traldzong Monastery in Qinghai province have been sentenced to prison terms of two to three years, "apparently for publishing politically sensitive poems." The abbot, Tashi Gyaltsen, was reportedly one of those imprisoned. The monks were detained in mid-January 2005 and sentenced about three weeks later, according to RFA’s source, who asked not to be named. The monks were involved in producing a monastic newsletter that contained a poem that officials may have interpreted as praising two monks from the same monastery who were jailed in mid-2002 for pro-independence activity.

According to the source, Tashi Gyaltsen, also the newsletter’s chief editor, was sentenced to three years imprisonment, as were Tsultrim Phelgyal and Jamphel Gyatso. Tsesum Samten and Lobsang Dargyal received two-year sentences. Dragkar Traldzong, about 12 miles from the seat of Tsigorthang (Xinghai) county in Tsolho (Hainan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, has about 400 monks and is considered one of the areas most important Buddhist sites, according to well-informed sources.

Monks Ngawang Dondrub and Kalsang Dondrub were detained in July 2002 and sentenced in January 2003 to three-year sentences for establishing an "illegal underground organization that called for Tibet independence," according to official Chinese information reported by Tibet Information Network (TIN) in July 2004. They established a group that was "well organized, with membership certificates and a 12-page charter." According to the report, the group aimed to "overthrow the Communist Party” and "drive the Chinese government out of Tibetan areas." A June 2003 report by TIN said that the monks were serving their sentences at a prison near the provincial capital, Xining, where inmates work in a brick factory.

According to RFA, the five monks recently sentenced are held in the same prison.