DHARAMSHALA, December 17 : Peter Gabriel, Thom Yorke and Ed O’Brien (Radiohead), Serj Tankian (System of a Down) and Tjinder Singh (Cornershop) have expressed their support to a campaign by Free Tibet for the release of eight Tibetan singers jailed by China.
A petition signed by them says, “Singing songs in your own language about the issues of concern to your own people is not a crime. China claims to protect Tibetan culture but by imprisoning these musicians it is suppressing that culture, as well as violating the human rights of these individuals… I urge you to ensure that all artists in Tibet and all Tibetans are free to express themselves without fear of arrest, imprisonment or any other form of punishment.”
Lolo, Chakdor, Pema Trinley, Kalsang Yarphel and Shawo Tashi were arrested or sentenced in 2013, while Ugyen Tashi, Achok Phulsung and Choksal were jailed last year. Lolo is serving six years in jail, the longest of the sentences. Two other singers – Trinley Tsekar and Gongpo Tenzin – were arrested in November 2013.
Director of the London based Tibet advocacy group, Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said, "Music is a vital part of Tibet’s resistance. Singers such as Lolo not only keep alive a culture that China is trying to erase but their songs articulate the aspirations, fears and courage of a people who remain proud and defiant after 60 years of occupation.
“Last year, the world community responded with justified outrage to the treatment of Pussy Riot but musicians in Tibet have no platform or profile. Their protests consist of singing songs and seeking to have their music heard; their arrests, trials and sentencing take place where no media are permitted to go. China may be able to silence these musicians for now but it cannot silence the voices of people outside Tibet calling for their release.”
Citing an April 2013 US State Department report, the Free Tibet said China has implemented “severe repression of Tibet’s unique religious, cultural and linguistic heritage by, among other means, strictly curtailing [Tibetans’] civil rights”.
Since widespread protests against China across Tibet in 2008, Tibetan singers, writers, and artistes promoting Tibetan national identity and culture have become easy targets of China’s ongoing crackdown on intellectuals and artistes.