DHARAMSHALA, February 1: China has sentenced six Tibetans to heavy jail terms of up to 12 years for their alleged roles in trying to rescue a Tibetan self-immolator from falling into the hands of Chinese officials.
The Xiahe County People's Court passed the sentence on January 31, the same day when a Chinese court in Ngaba, eastern Tibet, sentenced Lobsang Kunchok, to death with a two year reprieve for “instigating” self-immolations and Lobsang Tsering to 10 years.
The court in Sangchu sentenced Pema Dhondup to 12 years, Kalsang Gyatso to 11 years, Lhamo Dhondup to seven years, and a female Pema Tso to eight years on charges of intentional homicide.
According to China’s state agency Xinhua, two other Tibetans, Dugkar Gyal and a female Yangmo Kyi were convicted of "picking quarrels and provoking troubles" and sentenced to four and three years in prison, respectively.
The Tibetans were sentenced in connection with the self-immolation protest of Dorjee Rinchen, 57, who set himself on fire in Sangchu region of eastern Tibet on October 23, 2012. He carried out his protest near the local PLA recruiting center in Labrang and succumbed to his injuries at the scene.
However, Xinhua in its report said that Dorjee Rinchen self-immolated “near a shopping center,” while omitting to provide reasons for his fiery protest.
The Central Tibetan Administration in a statement released today following the court sentences noted that “even mere expression of sorrow on the loss and sharing of news by families can lead to criminal prosecution.”
Dorjee Rinchen engulfed in flames in Sangchu region of eastern Tibet on October 23, 2013.
“This and other forms of brutal crackdown reflect the draconian measures adopted by Chinese leadership and as feared, criminal prosecution and undue process carried out to target the families and friends framed to be involved in the self-immolations,” the exile administration said.
Dharamshala based rights group Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy today said the court sentencing comes in the backdrop of “relentless crackdown on self-immolation protests including arbitrary arrests, detention, intimidation, monetary inducements, and long prison terms.”
The group pointed out that China’s criminalisation of the self-immolations as “murder” is a “highly condemnable” misuse of legal provisions for fulfilling political objectives.
TCHRD further noted that the “politicised nature of Chinese judiciary allows government and Party officials to interfere in politically-sensitive cases.”
“The Chinese government needs to seriously address the real causes of self-immolation protests; it needs to acknowledge that the burning protests are a direct result of its destructive policies,” the rights group said.
“Far from acting as a deterrent to self-immolation or damaging the reputation of the “Dalai clique”, such arbitrary and unjust sentencing will only aggravate the already explosive situation in Tibet.”