08/30/2011, 00.00
TIBET – CHINA
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Monk who helped a fellow monk to hide sentenced to 11 years for murder

In March, monk Phuntsog set himself on fire to protest against Chinese persecution. His uncle Tsundue, also a monk, saved him from police who were beating him, and was convicted for this. Rights groups say China wants to snuff out all forms of protest in Tibet.
Dharamsala (AsiaNews) – Tsundue Lobsang, a Tibetan monk who tried to help fellow monk Phuntsog to hide, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for “intentional homicide”. Phuntsog, who had set himself on fire, was beaten by police after they doused the flames.

Tsundue (Drongdru in Chinese, pictured), 46, from Kirti Monastery (Ngaba, in Sichuan), was Phuntsog’s uncle and teacher. On 16 March, his nephew set himself on fire. Tsundue was arrested on 12 April and eventually convicted for preventing his nephew from receiving medical treatment.

In reality according to Tibetan sources, on 16 March, Tsundue tried to save his nephew from Chinese security staff, who, after dousing the fire that engulfed him, began beating Phuntsog rather than take him to hospital. In the end, Tibetan witnesses say, Phuntsog died from the injuries caused by the beating rather than the fire.

Human rights groups slammed the sentence. For the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, the conviction itself was a gross example of injustice. However, because Phuntsog’s self-immolation was met with outrage around the world, Chinese authorities want to make an example of his uncle and send a warning to anyone tempted to go for extreme forms of protest.

"This is a patently unjust verdict at the outcome of a purely political prosecution," Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch said. "It comes against a background of unprecedented persecution against the monastery of Kirti, from where the government has already taken into arbitrary detention dozens of monks,” he added.

In fact, for Kate Saunders, of the International Campaign for Tibet, the real cause of self-immolation is the “anguish and sacrifice due to intense repression including new measures to suppress religious practice in Tibetan areas”.

Meanwhile, the trial of two other Kirti monks, Tsering Tenzin and Tenchum, is expected to start today. The two are accused for “plotting, instigating and assisting” Phuntsog in his suicidal protest.

As one of the foremost centres of Tibetan Buddhism, the Kirti monastery has been under a heavy security lockdown for months. Hundreds of its monks have gone missing, including some 300 who were taken away in one group to an unknown location on the night of 21 April.

The area also continues to remain off-limits to foreign journalists. (NC)
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