08/21/2012, 00.00
TIBET - CHINA
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Tibetan monk gets seven years of hard labour in Sichuan

Speedily convicted for sharing information about and photos of the self-immolation of a nun, Tenzin Wagmo, the monk spent eight months in jail during which he was tortured. Elsewhere, Chinese authorities issue rule banning suicide among Tibetans on pain of "detention."

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 disciplinarian.

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.

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