By Kalsang Rinchen
From L to R, Lungtok Gyatso, Soepa Gyatso, Kalsang Gyatso and Soepa Gyatso (file photo)
Dharamsala, December 27 – Chinese authorities in Tibet’s Mangra County have released four Tibetan monks weeks ahead of their scheduled prison-term, reported The Voice of Tibet
radio. The four monks, Kalsang Gyatso; 23, Soepa Gyatso; 26, Lungtok Gyatso; 24, and Soepa Gyatso;21, belonging to the Lutsang Monastery in Mangra County in Tsolho "Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture", Qinghai province, were among the 109 monks arrested on the first day of the Tibetan New Year 2136 (February 25, 2009) after they took part in a protest vigil before the Mangra County government headquarters.
Despite their early release, it is feared that the monks have been subjected to severe torture and beatings while in prison, rendering them vulnerable to untimely death under policy custody. “I was told by people back home that the four were physically very weak, and in poor health, and were currently with their families”, said Lobsang, a Tibetan exile with contacts in Mangra.
Chinese security forces locked up the 109 monks in a nearby school where they were subjected to severe patriotic reeducation sessions, sources had told phayul
. However, 105 monks were later released and 4 were kept in detention. The monks walked with candles in silent protest from Lamo Yongzin Phodrang (spelled as pronounced) to the Mangra county government headquarters.
The four were sentenced to 2 years each in prison by the Mangra County People’s Intermediate Court for leading the protest vigil around March 2009. The monks did not hold any official positions in the monastery but were considered seniors in terms of monastic education which could have led the authorities into believing that they masterminded the protests.
The 109 monks of Lutsang monastery presented a list of demands before the Mangra county authorities though details of the demands had not been known. A former monk of Lutsang living in New York had told Radio Free Asia in February 2009 that the monks demanded that China understand the aspirations and thoughts of the younger Tibetan generation. The monks, according to the source, wanted China to understand that boycott of Tibetan New Year could be more widespread than the previous year’s protests.
The vigil by the monks came amid widespread boycott of the Tibetan New Year by Tibetans living in Tibet and exile to pay tribute to those killed and jailed during the nationwide protests against Chinese rule in 2008.