05/02/2012, 00.00
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Sichuan: 16 young Tibetan monks and lay people sentenced to prison, including life

Court issued the sentences on 26 April against young people arrested during demonstrations in Drango and Kardze (Sichuan) on 23 January. No reasons for the convictions have yet to be released. One of the protesters, 30-year-old Sonam Lhundup, gets life in prison.

Drango (AsiaNews) - A court in Sichuan imposed heavy sentences on 16 Tibetan monks and lay people, who were arrested on 23 January for participating in protests against Communist rule in Drango County and Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Six people died during the violence; scores more were wounded and injured. Issued on 26 April, the sentence was made reported only recently. The court did not reveal the charges but the sentences range from nine years to life in prison. The accused are in their 20s and 30s. The demonstrations were organised following a spate of summary executions of monks by police and self-immolations by young religious against Chinese repression and in favour of the return of the Dalai Lama.

Sonam Lhundup, 30, was given life in prison. Kuntho, 20, was given a 14-year sentence. Brothers Jebay and Wangcheng Tsering, from the village of Gyephen Likhokma, received 12 and nine years respectively. Monk Kundup, in his early 30, was sentenced to 11 years. Sonam Dhargyal was punished with 10 years in prison, whilst Poma Woesel will spend five years in prison. Five more Tibetans received sentences ranging between ten and 15 years in prison. Choenam, Azi Shopo, Neyandak, Phurwa Tsering and Wanhtse were sentenced to only a few months in prison.

Despite numerous protests and appeals by foreign organisations and nations, Chinese police continue to arrest people expressing a dissenting point of view.

In recent months, the anti-Tibetan crackdown has intensified. For many experts, Chinese rule is tantamount to colonisation. In fact, Chinese restrictions now include a ban on teaching the Tibetan language and religion, the imposition of development policies that are wrong for Tibetan regions but favourable to ethnic Han Chinese, and constant and varied attacks against Tibet's cultural and intellectual elite.

In the last few months, dozens of Tibetan monks and lay people have chosen self-immolation as an extreme form of protest against the Chinese government.

Since the start of the year, 35 Tibetans have set themselves on fire to express their opposition to Beijing's dictatorship and to demand the return of the Dalai Lama in Tibet. (N.C.)

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