DHARAMSHALA, August 1: Chinese authorities have released a Tibetan political prisoner in poor health after having served his full 18 months prison term in eastern Tibet.
Sonam Rinchen, who was released on July 24, is being described in a poor health condition and is also carrying injuries, according to Jampa Palden, a Tibetan monk living in India with close contacts in the region.
Rinchen was arrested on February 12 last year in Drango region of Kham for his alleged role in a peaceful protest against China’s rule in the same region on January 23 last year.
In a strong expression of solidarity, Rinchen, upon his release was given a grand welcome by local Tibetans in his hometown with Tibetan ceremonial scarves, the same source added.
Hundreds of Tibetans had come out on the streets in Drango on January 23, 2012, the first day of Chinese new year, calling for Tibet’s freedom and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from exile. Chinese security forces retaliated by firing indiscriminately at the unarmed demonstrators, killing and injuring scores of people.
The protests flared after local Chinese Public Security Bureau officials began to arbitrarily arrest Tibetans on suspicion of their involvement in the appearance of leaflets and posters around the town following the wave of self-immolations in the region. The posters had warned of more Tibetan self-immolations if the Chinese government did not listen to Tibetan concerns.
Following the protests, Chinese authorities led a large-scale manhunt for suspected demonstrators, arresting over a hundred Tibetans and in one instance, killing two brothers in their hideout in the nearby hills of Drango.
Several Tibetans have been sentenced to heavy prison terms for taking part in the Drango protests.
Earlier this year in January, a Chinese court sentenced two monks
of the Drango Monastery, Tashi Dhargyal and Namgyal Dhondup, to 14 years in prison for “leading the protests and instigating others to join the peaceful demonstrations.” Three lay Tibetans were also sentenced for up to 11 years.