10/27/2015, 00.00
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Tibetan musician jailed for producing patriotic songs is released in Sichuan

Chinese authorities had sentenced Pema Rigdzin to two and a half years in prison, but released him after only 11 months. Once enrolled in a monastery, he became a producer of politically sensitive films. After his release, a crowd welcomed him home. Many other Tibetan artists remain in jail for exercising their right to assert their Tibetan cultural identity.

Chengdu (AsiaNews) – Authorities in southwestern China’s Sichuan province on Friday released a Tibetan musician after he served nearly 11 months of a two-year sentence for producing banned patriotic Tibetan songs.

It was not immediately clear why producer Pema Rigdzin, 46, was released ahead of schedule from a detention centre in the Sichuan capital Chengdu, but he returned to his home to Ngaba (Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture to great fanfare, said Sonam, a Tibetan living in Europe, citing local sources.

Rigdzin was taken into custody on 6 May 2013 and subjected to interrogation for more than a year. The Chengdu People’s Intermediate Court sentenced him on 26 November 2014 to two years and six months in jail and fined him 50,000 yuan (US$ 8,130) for producing “politically sensitive” DVDs.

Rigdzin had once enrolled in the Namtso monastery in Ngaba but left the religious life in 2008 for a career in film and music production. Some of his songs, like “Remember Tibet” and “Tears”, have been banned.

He was convicted on the same day that the court in Chengdu sentenced a popular singer, Kalsang Yarphel, to four years in prison for organising, among other things, a music festival in Lhasa, called Khawai Metok or Snow Flower, presenting song with “political themes”.

Based in Dharamsala, India, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) said that Chinese authorities have also banned Yarphel’s DVD recordings. However, copies have already been widely distributed in Tibetan-populated areas in China’s Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces.

Following violent protests that broke out in 2008, Chinese authorities detain on a regular basis writers, artists, singers and teachers who promote Tibet’s identity, language and culture.

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