01/04/2010, 00.00
CHINA – TIBET

Beijing imposes harsh sentences on Tibetan monks and lama

by Nirmala Carvalho
A demonstration takes place in Delhi for the release of Tenzin Delek, the Panchen Lama and all of Tibet's religious and political leaders. Beijing's response has been the deployment of troops in Nyagchuka County and the sentencing of a Tibetan abbot to eight years in prison. For China, the Dalai Lama is a "political monk".

Lhasa (AsiaNews) – A large contingent from the People's Liberation Army has been deployed to Thang Karma, a town in the Tibetan County of Nyagchuka, to intimidate the local population that has been loud in its demand for the release of Lama Tenzin Delek (sentenced to 20 years in prison for his fidelity to the Dalai Lama), the Panchen Lama and all other political dissidents in detention. In the past year, Chinese authorities have jailed about 60 Tibetan (political and religious) leaders.

The central government sentenced Tibetan abbot Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche to eight years and six months in prison on charges of seizing public land and illegal possession of ammunitions. However, his conviction (on 23 December) is in fact related to anti-Chinese riots that occurred in Tibet in the summer of 2008.

The Buddhist leader, who is well respected by the population, was arrested on 18 may 2008. A few days earlier, about 80 nuns had protested against China's imposition of "patriotic re-education" (brain-washing) in Tibetan places of worship.

Rinpoche, 53, allegedly confessed, but his attorneys say that the confession was extracted under torture. The lama has already spent 15 years in prison.

To protest these arrests, the Tibetan Youth Congress, a non-governmental organisation that represents Tibetans in exile, organised a protest march on 31 December against Chinese repression in Nyagchuka County.

Waving Tibetan flags, demonstrators gathered in front of the United Nations Offices where they handed over a memorandum on the situation in that region to be given to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao.

During the protest, participants slammed the violent crackdown of a peaceful gathering held on 5 December in the Tibetan county that brought together hundreds of people to demand the monks' release. The army responded by arresting 60 demonstrators.

Tibetan Youth Congress Information Secretary Tsultrim Dorjee said, "China must [. . .] immediately stop using force against peaceful Tibetan demonstrators and release all the arrested Tibetans without any condition." [. . . ] China must immediately release Tulku Tenzin Delek without any condition and must allow Tibetan people to exercise freedom of expression, freedom of movement and freedom of assembly. Moreover, China must allow free access for humanitarian organizations to provide emergency medical assistance for all injured Tibetans.”

China's position is not likely to change however. Yesterday, the Consul general of People's Republic of China to Mumbai, Wang Donghua, described the Dalai Lama as "a political monk", adding that people "will know his unviewed [sic] face" soon. He also called for his expulsion from the country.

Samdhong Rinpoche, prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, told AsiaNews that such remarks "do not deserve a reply".

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