Tibetans jailed for producing music with “political lyrics”

Tibetan singer Kelsang Yarphel.

Tibetan singer Kelsang Yarphel, 39, was sentenced to four years in prison by a Chinese court for calling on Tibetans to unify and speak their own language, on 27 November 2014. Yarphel's songs included "We should learn Tibetan" and "We should unite". Screen shot/YouTube

Tibet Sun Newsroom

MCLEOD GANJ, India, 2 December 2014

Two Tibetans have been sentenced by a Chinese court for calling on Tibetans to unify and to speak their own language, according to an India-based Tibetan rights group.

The court has accused them of singing songs that have “political overtones”, said Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, citing sources in Tibet.

Music producer Pema Rigzin, 44, and famed singer Kelsang Yarphel, 39, were sentenced together to lengthy prison terms and given heavy fines by the Intermediate People’s Court in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.

Both the Tibetans are from Ngaba (Ch: Aba) in the traditional Tibetan province of Amdo (today’s Sichuan Province), and were sentenced on 27 November.

Rigzin was sentenced to two and a half years in prison with a fine of 50,000 yuan for composing, releasing, and distributing music with alleged political overtones. Rigzin had been detained on 7 May 2013 in Chengdu city, and held incommunicado until the 27 November trial. Though family members were allowed to attend the trial, they were barred by authorities from hiring a lawyer for Rigzin.

Yarphel was sentenced alongside Rigzin, but the charges against him are not known. He was given four years in prison and a hefty 200,000-yuan fine. He had been detained by authorities in Lhasa on 14 July 2013 on charges that he performed a song with alleged political overtones at a concert there. Following his arrest, he was held in a detention centre in Chengdu for one and a half years.

“We condemn the sentencing of Pema Rigzin and Kelsang Yarphel. As Rigzin and Yarphel are two artists peacefully exercising their human right to freedom of expression and contributing to the cultural heritage of Tibet, there can be no legitimate grounds for such sentencing and fines,” said Tsering Tsomo, executive director of TCHRD.

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