10 Tibetan Writers and Teachers Arrested, Detained or Sentenced

by Madeleine Barnes    /  June 28, 2011  / No comments



On June 12, 2011, Tsering Woeser posted details on her blog about Tibetan writers and teachers who have been arrested or imprisoned since 2008 by authorities in Sichuan province. Woeser provides photographs about the writers along with details that were translated to English by the blog High Peaks Pure Earth on June 14. The blogpost appeals for international support for the intellectuals and cultural figures in Tibet who have been affected by recent crackdowns on freedom of expression. Read more about Woeser in Issue 7 of Sampsonia Way.

“Documenting 10 Tibetan Writers and Teachers Arrested, Detained or Sentenced By Sichuan Local Authorities”

By Tsering Woeser

This is a documentation that is very difficult to write.

Because these Tibetan writers and teachers were arrested in secret, detained in secret and sentenced in secret, their current status is shrouded in darkness and even their close relatives and friends do not know any details.

Recently, media reported the sentencing of writer Tashi Rabten (pen name: Theurang) to 4 years in prison. On June 2, Tashi Rabten’s relatives received notice that Sichuan Province, Ngaba Prefecture’s Intermediate Law Court sentenced him “on suspicion of inciting separatism”.

Tashi Rabten of Dzoege County, Ngaba Prefecture, Sichuan Province, is now 25 years old. He graduated from North-West University for Nationalities and edited the Tibetan language journal “Shar Dungri” (where various Tibetan intellectuals bravely expressed the truth and their ideas) and he also published a Tibetan language documentation of the uprising in Tibet in 2008 “Written in Blood”. In 2009 he was detained. On April 6, 2010, he was arrested again and held until the end of the year in Ngaba Prefecture’s Barkham County Detention Centre.

What the outside world doesn’t know is that at the same time Tashi Rabten was sentenced this June, there are others who have been sent to prison:

Choephel, from Dzoege County, Ngaba Prefecture, Sichuan Province, Teacher at Ngaba Prefecture Middle School for Nationalities, Sentenced to 2 years in prison.

Tamey, from Ngaba County, Ngaba Prefecture, Sichuan Province, Masters graduate from North West University for Nationalities, Teacher at Ngaba Prefecture’s Middle School for Nationalities, sentenced to 1 year and 8 months in prison.

(Unfortunately I can’t find their photos at the moment)

The outside world also has no idea that in May this year, there were three other teachers who were handed down prison sentences by the Ngaba Prefecture People’s Intermediate Court:

Kirti Kyab: from Dzoege County, Ngaba Prefecture, Sichuan Province, Graduate from North West University for Nationalities, teacher at Ngaba Prefecture’s Middle School for Nationalities, sentenced to 3 years in prison.

Sonam: from Dzoege Country, Ngaba Prefecture, Sichuan Province, teacher at Ngaba Prefecture’s Middle School for Nationalities, sentenced to 2 years in prison.

Tohlha: Tibetan from Qinghai (details of place of origin are unclear), teacher at Ngaba Prefecture’s Middle School for Nationalities, sentenced to 1 year and 8 months in prison. **June 16, 2011 update on Tohlha via Woeser’s Twitter**: Real name: Dorje Tsering  (Tohlha is an alias), from Kazhur Township, Dowi County, Qinghai Province, graduate of Qinghai University for Nationalities, sentenced in May 2011.

(Unfortunately I can’t find their photos at the moment)

Additionally, due to their writings about the Tibetan protests of 2008, three writers who were sentenced to prison terms on December 30, 2010 by Sichuan Province’s Ngaba Prefecture Intermediate People’s Court (this has been reported by media) are:

Jangtse Dhonkho, (Official name on his ID: Rongke, Pen name: Nyen): Born in 1978, from Kyungchu County, Ngaba Prefecture, Sichuan Province, working for Kyungchu County local office for historical affairs. Member of Sichuan Province Writers Association, published a collection of poetry, recipient of many Tibetan Literary Awards. Sentenced to 4 years in prison.

Bhudha, (Pen Name: Buddha): Born in 1979, from Ngaba County, Ngaba Prefecture, Sichuan Province, graduated with a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree from Chongqing University, working in the hospital in the town of Barma in Ngaba County, poet, editor of Tibetan language periodical “Modern Self”. Sentenced to 4 years in prison.

Kelsang Jinpa, (Pen name: Garmi): Born in 1977, from Labrang, Kanlho Prefecture, Gansu Province, was living in Ngaba County doing business, poet, editor of Tibetan language periodical “Modern Self”. Sentenced to 3 years in prison.

At the moment, there is a writer and teacher facing imminent sentencing:

Dawa: from Ngaba County, Ngaba Prefecture, Sichuan Province, a teacher at Ngaba County Middle School for Nationalities. Founder of monthly Tibetan language periodical “Modern Self”. Also an editor and writer. Arrested on October 1 2010, currently held at Jinchuan County Detention Centre, no family visits are allowed, denied legal representation.

Also, on my blog I have documented several Tibetan writers and authors who have been sentenced:

Kunchok Tsephel, from Machu County, Kanlho Prefecture, Gansu Province, founder of the first Tibetan literature website inside China. Sentenced to 15 years in prison in November 2009.  (On the photo, Kunchok Tsephel is on the right hand side)

Kunga Tsayang (Pen name: Gangnyi), from Golok Prefecture, Qinghai Province. Photographer for Golok Nyenpo Yurtse Association of Environmental Protection. Sentenced to 5 years in prison in November 2009. (On the photo, Kunga Tsayang is on the left hand side)

Khang Kunchok, from Ngaba County, Ngaba Prefecture, Sichuan Province, studied at Ngaba Prefecture Barkham Nationalities Teacher’s College, co-founder of the Barkham Nationalities Teacher’s College magazine “Nanjia”, had previously edited “Kangsel Metok”, the Kirti monastery magazine. On the evening of March 20, 2008, he and a number of students were detained when protesting against the killing of Tibetans by security forces. They were sentenced to two years in prison.

These writers and teachers have all been detained for documenting, discussing and reflecting on the uprising in Tibet in 2008, the year of the Earth Mouse. Clearly the local authorities’ oppression of Tibetans has already spread from the ordinary masses to the elite. There are many victims, the punishments are cruel and it is difficult for them to receive legal assistance or fair judicial proceedings. From what is known, the real number of oppressed Tibetan elites is far greater than the number made public.

Some of the Tibetan elites’ troubles are a direct result of the authorities’ intentional politicization of events. These Tibetans aimed to protect their culture and their environment. However, their actions led to retaliation when they encountered corrupt local government officials. Officials everywhere know the dark art of political tricks very well and use these opportunities to repress “separatists.” They link Tibetans dedicated to social affairs with politics because they want to destroy them.

We must pay attention to local authorities cracking down on the Tibetan elite. The crisis we face is not just political and economic. A much bigger crisis is the destruction of our culture. It is not just the old buildings in Lhasa that have been destroyed. Many talented and knowledgeable men and women are being intentionally eliminated. This is far more terrible than other forms of destruction.

I sincerely appeal to international media, International PEN and international human rights organizations for concern, support, and help.

About the Author

Madeleine Barnes is a recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, where she received a bachelor's degree in Creative Writing and Fine Arts. Her poems have appeared in places like The Rattling Wall, Weave Magazine, Open Thread, The Albion Review, Allegheny Review, 5AM, and North Central Review. She is the recipient of the Borders Open Door Poetry Prize, the Princeton Poetry Prize, and the Women's Press Club award for journalism. In the fall she will travel to Trinity College Dublin to pursue a Masters of Philosophy in Creative Writing.

View all articles by Madeleine Barnes

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