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Senior monk-scholars, with no political record, sentenced to life and 15-20 years imprisonment - crackdown continues at Drepung

December 26, 2010

ICT – Press Release, December 21, 2010

Tibetans in Lhasa are concerned for the welfare and safety of three
senior Drepung monks who were detained in April, 2008, two of whom have
subsequently received sentences of life and 20 years. Their whereabouts
and welfare is not known. The monks’ long sentences are in the context
of a continued crackdown at Drepung, after monks from the monastery were
at the forefront of peaceful protests in Lhasa beginning on March 10, 2008.

Jampel Wangchuk, disciplinarian at Drepung’s Loseling college

Jampel Wangchuk, 55, the disciplinarian at Drepung’s Loseling college,
has been sentenced to life in prison, and Konchok Nyima, 43, the
scripture teacher at Drepung’s Gomang college, has been sentenced to 20
years, according to information from ICT sources and the Tibetan Center
for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD). A third monk, 38-year old
Ngawang Choenyi, the scripture teacher at Drepung’s Ngakpa college, who
was arrested at the same time, is also believed to be serving a sentence
of 15 years, according to sources cited by the Tibetan government in
exile. (“China Reinforces Patriotic Education at Drepung Monastery:
Report,” CTA, January 14, 2009.
http://tibet.net/en/index.php?id=670&articletype=flash&rmenuid=morenews&...).
Charges against the three monks are not known.

The three monks are highly respected scholars in their community (images
of the three monks are at: www.savetibet.org). Although Drepung monks
played a prominent role in a major demonstration on March 10, 2008,
Jampel Wangchuk, Konchok Nyima and Ngawang Choenyi are not believed to
have taken part in the protests. A source in contact with people in
Lhasa said: “The implication is that the authorities used the cover of
the protests to detain influential members of the Drepung community with
no political record. There are serious fears for the welfare of these
three monks.”

Konchok Nyima, the scripture teacher at Drepung’s Gomang college

The whereabouts of two others from Drepung arrested at the same time,
Ngawang Sertho and a cook nicknamed Gyakpa (literal translation: Fatso),
are still unknown. A monk detained at the time, Gyalpo, died in prison
following torture in August 2009, according to TCHRD. (“Heavy sentences
for Drepung monks,” TCHRD, October 7, 2010.
http://www.tchrd.org/press/2010/pr20101007.html.) The Tibetan government
in exile has reported the sentencing of 42 monks from Drepung since
March, 2008. (“China Reinforces Patriotic Education at Drepung
Monastery: Report,” Central Tibetan Administration, January 14, 2009.
http://tibet.net/en/index.php?id=670&articletype=flash&rmenuid=morenews&...
1#TabbedPanels1.) The same report stated that Drepung monk Lobsang
Wangchuk from Lhasa was left virtually blind after maltreatment in
custody in an unknown location.

There has been an increase in the imposition of life sentences in Tibet
since the crackdown began from March, 2008. Wangdu, a former Project
Officer for an HIV/AIDS program in Lhasa run by the Australian Burnet
Institute, was sentenced to life for “espionage” in Lhasa in 2008. (ICT
report: “NGOG worker sentenced to fife imprisonment: harsh sentences
signal harder line on blocking news from Tibet,” ICT, December 22, 2008.
http://www.savetibet.org/media-center/ict-news-reports/ngo-worker-senten...
-life-imprisonment-harsh-sentences-signal-harder-line-blocking-news-ti.)
Respected Tibetan businessman, hotel owner and Communist Party member
Dorjee Tashi has been sentenced to life after being held incommunicado
after the 2008 protests. Monks Gyurmey Dhondup and Kalsang Tsering were
sentenced to life in September, 2008, following alleged involvement in a
bombing incident in Chamdo (Chinese: Changdu), Tibet Autonomous Region.
(“Post-Olympics: more life sentences for Tibetan monks,” AsiaNews,
October 16, 2008.
http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Post-Olympics:-more-life-sentences-for-Ti...
an-monks-13496.html.)

Ngawang Choenyi, scripture teacher at Drepung’s Ngakpa college

Prior to 2008, the influential religious teacher Tenzin Delek Rinpoche,
who oversaw a religious revival among the communities in his area and
established schools, old people’s homes and religious institutions, had
a death sentence commuted to life following his detention in 2002 on
alleged bombing charges. Monk Choeying Khedrub was sentenced on January
29, 2001 to life imprisonment by the Tibet Autonomous Region High
People’s Court for the “crime of inciting splittism” after he was
accused of printing and distributing pro-independence leaflets.

Drepung monks at forefront of cycle of protests

The cycle of protests that led to a violent crackdown across Tibet began
with an orderly march to Lhasa by several hundred Drepung monks on March
10, 2008. The monks, already under heavy restrictions following their
attempts to celebrate the awarding of the US Congressional Gold Medal to
the Dalai Lama in October, a year before (ICT report: “New images
confirm security buildup at Drepubng on day Dalai Lama awarded the
Congressional Gold Medal,” ICT, November 14, 2007
http://www.savetibet.org/media-center/ict-news-reports/new-images-confir...
curity-buildup-drepung-day-dalai-lama-awarded-congressional-gold-meda),
were blocked by security forces. Dozens were arrested after a standoff
with security personnel following a sit-in protest by many of the monks,
many of whom wept as they recited long-life prayers for the Dalai Lama,
and the rest were compelled to return to the monastery.

Drepung monastery was blockaded by security forces following the
incident and on April 10 and 11, 2008, military trucks were seen moving
towards Drepung and the road to the monastery was closed again. Drepung
monks were prevented from leaving the monastery to obtain food. Jampel
Wangchuk, Konchok Nyima, and Ngawang Chonyi were detained on April 11,
and it is still not known where they are detained. Jampel Wangchuk
(layname: Tsepel), sentenced to life, is from Tsotoe in Phenpo Lhundrup
(Chinese: Linzhou) county in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). Konchok
Nyima is from Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) in Sichuan, the Tibetan area of Kham.
He was believed to have been sent back to his native place, like other
Lhasa monks from outside the TAR, but never arrived. Ngawang Chonyi
(layname: Kalden), is from Shasuzur neighborhood in Lhasa.

In April, 2008, hundreds of armed police raided Lhasa’s three main
monasteries, Sera, Drepung and Ganden, already under lockdown and with a
high security presence following the beginning of the protests in March.
The raids took place in the early hours of the morning over several
nights, and according to various reports, hundreds of monks were taken
away. According to one report, around 600 monks were taken from Drepung
at dawn on April 25, 2008, some with black hoods over of their heads.
Many of them were taken to Golmud (Chinese: Ge’ermu) in Qinghai by train
and held in a military prison. The authorities later said they had been
“taken for study”.

The Tibetan writer Woeser wrote about a song written by a Drepung monk
held in custody at Golmud at the time, which was based on a folk song
popular in Amdo, eastern Tibet. The song was learnt by many monks being
held in detention, and includes the lyrics: “The three seats of Sera,
Drepung and Ganden[the three great monasteries of Lhasa]/ Are struck by
the vapor of the poisonous snake/ Because of this sea of adverse
circumstance/ There’s no right to diligently study the scriptural
texts.” (ICT report: “A Great Mountain Burned by Fire: China’s Crackdown
in Tibet,” ICT, March 1, 2009.
http://www.savetibet.org/media-center/ict-press-releases/a-great-mountai....)

Since the Drepung monks took to the streets on March 10, 2008 the
Chinese government has engaged in a widespread cover-up of the torture,
disappearances and killings that have taken place across Tibet combined
with a virulent propaganda offensive against the Dalai Lama. As part of
this offensive, officials have intensified the implementation of
patriotic education campaigns in order “to offer legal education to
monks because religious activities must also be considered under the
framework of the law.” (“China scholars vow patriotism drive for Tibet,”
Reuters, March 26, 2008.
http://in.reuters.com/article/idINIndia-32688320080326?pageNumber=1.)
Patriotic education is carried out at Tibetan monasteries and nunneries
in order to tighten Party control over religion and undermine the
influence of the Dalai Lama in society and religious institutions, which
includes requiring monks and nuns to sign public declarations denouncing
the Dalai Lama.
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