Beijing (AsiaNews) - An Intermediate People's Court in
Ngaba (Sichuan) sentenced 37-year-old monk Yonten Gyatso (pictured when the sentence was read out in court) to seven years of
hard labour for taking the picture of a nun, Tenzin Wagmo, at the moment of her
self-immolation, and sharing it with others. Charges against the religious included
in fact "sharing information since 2008 about political events in Tibet by
attempting to make telephone calls to human rights mechanisms of the UN." He is
now serving his sentence at Mianyang Prison in Sichuan province.
Police arrested the monk on 18 October 2011 when agents
entered Khashi Gyephel Samtenling Monastery where Gyatso was chant master (Umze in Tibetan) and chief
After his arrest, he was taken to a detention centre
in Bhugang town, in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province. Whilst in
custody, he was beaten and tortured, held incommunicado until the trial.
Self-immolations have pushed China's Communist authorities
to ridiculous lengths to stop them. At the annual horse racing festival in
Machu, they put up a public notice that banned, among other things, suicide.
This was the first time in four years the popular horse
festival was allowed. According to tradition, 12 teams compete in a series of speed
and endurance trials over a five-day period.
However, given the significance of the festival, local
officials deployed hundreds of security agents in anti-riot gear, ready to move
in at any hint of protest.
The public notice contained 11 points of does and don'ts,
like showing dissent or carrying "flammable liquids," poisonous substances or
leaflets relating to political, religious, cultural and economic matters.
Point nº 10 banned activities like as "demonstrations,
protests, appeals, self-injury, suicide, [and] self-immolation".
The last point listed punishments for violators. People
guilty of "medium-range offences" would be detained, whilst those engaging in greater
criminal offences would be taken to court and sentenced accordingly.