Nearly two months after widespread Tibetan protests against Chinese rule, authorities in a heavily Tibetan area of Sichuan province have handed down jail terms to seven nuns for joining the demonstrations—and 14 more nuns are taken into custody for staging new protests.
KATHMANDU — Authorities in China’s southwestern Sichuan province have detained 14 nuns for protesting despite a massive security presence and handed jail terms to seven others for joining widespread demonstrations in March, Tibetan sources say.
The 14 nuns from nunneries in Kardze [in Chinese, Ganzi] demonstrated May 11-12 in a central area of Kardze, near the local television station, witnesses said.
They were protesting the detention of two nuns from Drakar nunnery—Bumo Lhaga, 32, and Sonam Dekyi, 30—who were detained April 23 for calling for the return of Tibet’s exiled leader, the Dalai Lama.
Sources identified the 14 nuns as Sey Lhamo, 36; Thubten Drolma, 40; Ani Taga, 36; Lhawang Chokyi, 41; Yangkyi, 28; Gyayul Seyang; Gyayul Thinley; Gyayul Shachotso Bodze; Tamdin Tsekyi; Seshuktin Tamdin Tsekyi; Seshuktin Dekyi, 29; Bendetsang Yangchen; and two others whose names weren’t immediately available.
“They protested in support of those two nuns who protested April 23 and were detained. These nuns shouted for the independence of Tibet, and for the long life and return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” one source said. “They protested right at the center of Kardze town, close to the local TV station.”
“Chinese security forces rounded them up and beat them. They severely assaulted one of the nuns, Taga, by striking her head against the pavement. She was bleeding profusely. Bloodstains were found on the pavement where the nuns were detained and beaten up.”
Tensions remain high in Kardze, sources said, with armed security forces and paramilitary People’s Armed Police still on patrol, nearly two months after a widespread uprising against Chinese rule in heavily Tibetan areas of China.
Sources said all 14 nuns are believed to be held at Kardze prison.
Jail terms handed down
Other Tibetan sources meanwhile said seven nuns and one layperson were sentenced to prison April 29 for protesting in Chori, Draggo [in Chinese, Luhuo] county, Kardze, in March.
Of some 200 people taken into custody in Kardze beginning March 24, the sources said, 20 remain in detention. “Among those detained, 93 were nuns and the rest were monks and laypersons,” one source said.
On April 29, the source said, authorities announced the sentencing of four nuns to seven-year jail terms: Khandro Lhamo, 32; Khagongtsang Choedron, 43; Drolma Yangtso, 23; and Wangmo, 29.
Three other nuns were sentenced to three-year jail terms: Yibu, 22; Drolyang, 42; and Sonam Choedron, 28. Kalsang Dorje, a layperson, 39, was handed a three-year term, the sources said.
An official at the Luhuo county People’s Court declined to discuss the trials. Asked if trials had occurred, he replied, “I don’t know… You just don’t ask questions about the trial.”
Crackdown after protests
Chinese authorities have made numerous arrests and launched a “patriotic education” campaign aimed at Tibetans in the wake of rioting that began in Lhasa in mid-March and then spread to other Tibetan areas.
Beijing says 22 people were killed in the rioting. Tibetan sources say scores of people were killed when Chinese paramilitary and police opened fire on crowds of demonstrators.
Chinese authorities have blamed the Dalai Lama for instigating the protests and fomenting a Tibetan independence movement. The Dalai Lama rejects the accusation, saying he wants only autonomy and human rights for Tibetans.
Original reporting by RFA’s Mandarin and Tibetan services. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo. Translated by Jia Yuan and Karma Dorjee. Written and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.