By Tenzin Dharpo
Undated photo of Wangchen and his aunt, RFA photo
DHARAMSHALA, May 9: A Tibetan youth detained by the Chinese police on April 29, for praying for the release of the Panchen Lama has been sentenced to four and a half years by the Sershul County People’s Court in Sichuan’s Kardze prefecture inside occupied Tibet.
The Chinese court sentenced Wangchen, 20, for the charges related to “a conspicuous protest in public against the law of the land,” according to Radio Free Asia citing an anonymous source. The court also sentenced Wangchen’s aunt to a prison term of one year and three months for her role in sharing news of his protest with contacts in exile.
Four Tibetans were detained last week after Wangchen prayed for the release of the 11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, and for his reunification with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Tibet. The Panchen Lama disappeared two and a half decades ago.
On Monday, Wangchen climbed the mountain behind the Sershul monastery where he burned incense and raised lungta prayer flags. The local Chinese police on the same day arrested Wangchen, his friends Lobsang, Younten and a fourth Tibetan man at the monastery around 10:30 am local time.
Among the three detained as accomplices of Wangchen, Lobsang and Yonten were each fined 15,000 Yuan (U.S. $2,211) and ordered to attend political re-education classes on “issues of national security” for six months, while the other man, who is disabled, was later released.
Wangchen who appeared in court on May 7, looked frail and walked unsteadily, according to sources who believe he was tortured in the days since his detention. The Tibetan youth is a permanent resident of the region. His father passed away when he was three. With his mother, a road construction worker and two sisters, he never had the opportunity to attend school.
Wangchen is a famous jockey known to have taken part in horse racing competitions across Sershul, Zatoe, Golok and Kegudo regions. The two other friends arrested are also fellow jockeys.
April 25th this year marked the 30th birthday of the 11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima who was disappeared by the Chinese on May 17, 1995, at the age of six, three days after he was recognized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
After years of denial, China said that the Panchen Lama was alive and living a normal life but refused to divulge information on his whereabouts. Beijing meanwhile has installed its own Panchen Lama who is regarded as the “fake Panchen” by Tibetans.