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Three more Tibetan writers sentenced to prison

Date: Tuesday, 01-February-2011
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ICT report, January 21, 2011

Three Tibetan writers from the Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture,Sichuan province, the Tibetan area of Amdo, have been imprisoned for"incitement to split the nation" according to various Tibetan sources.The three Tibetan men ? Dhonko, Buddha and Kelsang Jinpa -- weredetained last summer after essays they wrote about the March, 2008protests in Tibet and issues of Tibetan culture and identity werepublished.

On December 30, 2010, the Ngaba (China: Aba) Intermediate People's Courtsentenced Dhonkho and Buddha to four years in prison, and Kelsang Jinpato three years, according to the same Tibetan sources, including asource cited by Radio Free Asia, Atthe sentencing, none of the defendants, families or lawyers were allowedto address the court.(

During the October 21 trial, there had been moving scenes in the Ngabacourtroom when the Tibetans were allowed a few minutes with theirfamilies. For example, Buddha tried to pick up his two year son butfailed because his arms were chained.Before he and the two other writerswere taken away by security police, he told his wife that she shouldmake every effort to ensure that their son studied Tibetan. (ICT report,

News of these sentences increases the number of Tibetans imprisonedsince March, 2008 for attempting to express their views or share news ofthe situation in Tibet with the outside world, and provides furtherevidence of a widespread crackdown against free expression in Tibet.

The three Tibetan writers, Dhonkho (official name on his ID: Rongke, penname: Nyen), Buddha (pen name: Buddha the Destitute), and Kelsang Jinpa(pen name: Garmi), all in their early thirties, wrote powerful essays inthe Tibetan language journal Shar Dungri or Eastern Snow Mountain. Thiscollection of writings was the first published Tibetan languagecommentary about the protests and crackdown, and it offered a criticalperspective reflecting a prevailing despair, loss and darkness, but alsoa way forward. The journal was quickly banned by Chinese governmentauthorities, but not before copies had circulated in areas of Qinghaiand Gansu provinces and beyond.

Buddha, a doctor by profession, and Kalsang Jinpa, who were closefriends, were additionally associated with "I of the Modern Age," aperiodical dealing with issues of Tibetan identity and culture.A friendof Buddha?s, a Tibetan monk who lives in exile in India, said ofBuddha:?He was active establishing connections with differentintellectuals in Qinghai and Gansu. There was great interest in hiswriting and respect for him among educated people in the area.?

The 33-year-old Dhonko was detained from his home on June 21, 2010.He isa well-known writer and prize-winning poet, and also the director of theNgaba county government's local history committee.He is the author ofseveral books including ?Red-minded,? ?Zombie," and ?Skill.?He wasactive in his home are of Khyungchu and with several friends establisheda highly-regarded Tibetan day-care center.

Dhonkho published the essay ?What human rights do we have over ourbodies?? in Shar Dungri under the pen name Nyen or ?the Wild One.? (fora translation, see p. 92 of ?Great Mountain Burned by Fire,? ICT, March,2009, why he felt compelled to take the risk of speaking out in hisessay: ?When the sweet lives of monks, students and ordinary people aredragged from this world into darkness, when those sweet lives which haveprayed so hard for the swift fulfillment of their aspirations areconfiscated by the state, I for one cannot remain silent, and theconnection between their sad fates and my pen is a profound one.?

According to RFA, during the October 21 trial, the three writers deniedthe charge of "separatism," with Buddha challenging the notion thattheir writings provided evidence of the charge, saying: "I don't thinkthis is criminal evidence. Many Chinese writers have written similararticles, like Wang Lixiong and Yu Jie, for example. There are many, butbecause they are Chinese, there is no punishment. Since we are aminority people, you are considering this a crime. If this is the reasonfor which we are guilty by law, then we are not treated equally asChinese citizens and it is a heavy load on our hearts."

Buddha, aged 34, is a medical doctor by profession who works as aneditor and writer in his spare time. He was detained on June 26 at thehospital in the county town of Ngaba where he works. Buddha, whograduated from medical college in Chongqing, published the essay'Hindsight and reflection' under the pen name 'Buddha' in Shar Dungri(for a translation, see p. 83 of 'A Great Mountain Burned by Fire,' ICT,March, 2009, his essay Buddha questioned some of the fundamental assumptions beingmade in China's depiction of the Tibetan protests: "On TV and in thenewspapers they say that the demonstrations were intended to obstructand oppose China's emergence as a great power and the improvement of theliving standards of the Tibetan nationality. Supposing that such thingswere true, some questions must be asked. If the living standards ofTibetans had really improved so much, why would they feel so unhappy asto try to stop this? If Tibetan living standards are so developed, andthe demonstrations were exclusively Tibetan, why should their notenjoying a 'decent standard of living' be greeted with such dismay?"

Kelsang Jinpa, a poet and writer originally from Sangchu county, GannanTibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu, was detained from his home by theNgaba Public Security Bureau on July 19. He studied for a short time atKirti monastery in exile. Kelsang Jinpa, together with Buddha, was aneditor of the "I of the Modern Age" periodical. Writing under the penname 'Garmi' ('the Blacksmith'), Kelsang Jinpa published 'The case forlifeblood and life-force' in Shar Dungri (for a translation, see p. 99of 'A Great Mountain Burned by Fire,' ICT, March, 2009,

Placing the challenges Tibetans face within the broader issue of humanrights as well as in relation to what the Chinese themselves have facedin their own history, Kelang Jinpa writes: ?Basically, just as all thatan individual is ultimately looking for from the time he or she is bornis nothing other than happiness, and such terms as democracy, freedom,and equality have themselves become synonymous with human happiness. Andthe ultimate aim of the United Nations Universal Declaration of HumanRights was to become the fundamental principle promoting the wellbeingof all humans living on the planet.

?However, in the invasions and persecutions seen in human history,wasn't the end result of breaking down people's ability to think, andtheir hope, just the suffering of becoming subject to a dictatorialpower? For instance, in the Chinese students May 4 movement [of 1919],wasn't it because the dictators trampled on democracy, freedom andequality that those young students lost their lives form the commoncause? And thus, who would not put the case for these sufferings oflifeblood and life-force before the ears of those who favor honesty andactuality??

The writers, all from the Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in SichuanProvince, write in the Amdo dialect of Tibetan, which is renowned forits lyricism and eloquent phrasing. In the Shar Dungri collection, acopy of which is now circulating in exile, the poetic language ismatched by the substance and analytical nature of the prose, grounded inan understanding of Chinese policies and law as well as knowledge ofTibetan and Chinese culture. Indeed, these writers frequently include intheir political arguments compassionate insights into the sufferings ofordinary Chinese people and their own struggles against the Chinesestate. The second collection of Shar Dungri has recently been producedand is circulating in Tibet.

There is still no information about charges or a trial of one of theeditors of Shar Dungri, Tashi Rabten (pen name: The'urang), who wasdetained on April 6, 2010 and is still in detention. Tashi Rabten, whowas due to graduate this year from the Northwest NationalitiesUniversity in Lanzhou, also wrote an unauthorized collection of work onthe 2008 Tibetan protests called ?Written in Blood.?

Both despite of, and because of, the severe crackdown, there has been aliterary and cultural resurgence in Tibetan areas since March, 2008,particularly in Amdo, where the three writers are froman area known forits scholars. The Shar Dungri writers are representative of a newgeneration of young Tibetan intellectuals who were brought up in aChinese-ruled Tibet and did not experience the trauma of Tibet?stakeover by China or the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. A commontheme of their writing is the solidarity of Tibetans across the plateauand a pride in their unique cultural and religious identity. ?EasternSnow Mountain? is produced by a group of Tibetan intellectualsassociated with the Northwest Nationalities University in Lanzhou, knownfor their progressive, secularist and compassionate views.

Press contact:
Kate Saunders
Communications Director, ICT
Email: press@savetibet.orgTel: +44 (0) 7947 138612

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