By Lobsang Wangyal
McLEOD GANJ, India, 30 October 2020
The sentencing of a Tibetan singer to six years in prison by the Chinese authorities for criticising repressive government policies, and the custodial death of a Tibetan mother of three, have exposed China’s crimes against humanity in Tibet, explained leaders of major exile Tibetan organisations.
Chinese authorities have sentenced Lhundrub Drakpa, a popular Tibetan singer, to six years in prison for his music video which criticised the repressive Chinese government policies in Tibet. Drakpa is from Driru (Ch: Biru) County, Nagchu (Ch: Naqu) City, in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). Driru is traditionally part of the Tibetan province of Kham.
Drakpa was detained in May 2019, two months after the release of his music video “Black Hat”. He was sentenced in June this year, after more than a year of detention without access to any legal representation.
The custodial death of Lhamo, a Tibetan mother of three, and the arbitrary detention of her cousin Tenzin Tharpa, show the deteriorating situation in the region, say exile leaders from five organisations.
The extreme restrictions on basic freedoms in a highly locked-down situation have made it difficult for such reports to come out of Tibet.
It is believed that Lhamo, 36, was tortured before she was murdered in arbitrary detention. Her brother, Tashi Dhondup, who has been living in McLeod Ganj for nine years since coming into exile, confirmed her death.
“I heard of my sister’s death just recently,” Dhondup says, adding, “I don’t have more details than what’s being reported.
Tharpa and Lhamo had been detained for “suspicion of political activities” after authorities retrieved a portrait of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama from Tharpa’s house.
China has a hostile attitude towards the Dalai Lama and considers him to be a ‘separatist’, whereas he considers himself only as hoping to achieve autonomy for Tibet. Any sign of allegiance towards him by Tibetans is considered by China to be a threat to its national security.
According to Tsering Tsomo, the Director of the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), Driru and the adjoining counties of Sok Dzong and Drachen in eastern Tibet Autonomous Region have been under China’s radar following intense expressions of dissent against government policies.
“There have been a few self-immolations in Driru in the last few years protesting against repressive Chinese rule. Other protests, such as against mining activities, have been reported. Authorities have identified Driru as a politically sensitive area, with potential of spreading unrest to other parts of TAR,” Tsomo says.
“All these protests go against the Chinese claim of a politically stable TAR, and the reason for unleashing draconian policies to control the region through a policy of ‘stability maintenance’.”
Citing sources, Tsomo estimates that more than 600 Tibetans from Driru alone have been imprisoned in the past several years at Chushur Prison near Lhasa.
A coalition of six Tibetan NGOs called on the international community to pressure the Chinese government to release Lhundrub Drakpa, Tenzin Tharpa, and all other Tibetans who are subjected to arbitrary arrests and detention, and to stop the human rights abuses and crimes against humanity in Tibet.