A screen shot of Dolma Kyab and Phagpa standing trial in a Chinese court in eastern Tibet.
DHARAMSHALA, February 8: In no let up to the sentencing of Tibetans in connection with the self-immolations protests, another Tibetan was today sentenced to 13 years in jail by a Chinese court.
The sentencing comes even as the United States and international rights groups such as Human Rights Watch have condemned earlier similar court rulings, calling the prosecutions “utterly without credibility.”
According to Chinese state agency Xinhua, the Intermediate People's Court of the Huangnan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture convicted Phagpa, 27, of “intentional homicide and inciting split of the state.”
He was found guilty of “indoctrinating” Dolma Kyab, 25, a monk at the Dowa Monastery in Rebkong and “convincing” him to self-immolate to achieve "freedom and independence for the Tibetan ethnic group," the report said.
Phagpa is supposed to have accepted his “mistake” and said that he will not lodge an appeal.
The court ruling further accused Phagpa of propagating ideas related to "Tibetan independence" giving the self-immolators' relatives money, as well as portraits of members of the "Tibetan government-in-exile."
Xinhua earlier said that Dolma Kyab was arrested on November 19 after he was found to have stored gasoline in a hotel room and accused Phagpa of maintaining “close contact with key members of the Tibetan Youth Congress, the exile based largest pro-independence group.
Last month, Chinese courts sentenced a Tibetan Lobsang Kunchok to death with a two-year reprieve and Lobsang Tsering to 10 years on charges of “intentional homicide.” The same day, another court sentenced six Tibetans to varying jail terms of 12 to three years in jail on similar charges.
Following the sentencing, New York based global rights group, Human Rights Watch, said Chinese authorities should “immediately release” Kunchok and Tsering, while noting that their conviction “relied solely on confessions they gave during five months in detention.”
“These prosecutions are utterly without credibility,” said Sophie Richardson, China director. “The Chinese government seems to think it can stop self-immolation by punishing anyone who talks about it. But in pursuing these ‘incitement’ cases, the government compounds the tragedy of these suicide protests.”
HRW noted that it has documented “endemic use of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and coercion of Tibetans in detention.”
Earlier this week, Dharamshala based rights group Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy 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.