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Prominent Tibetan writer Dolma Kyab released after 10 years in prison

October 12, 2015

Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, October 10, 2015 - The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy welcomes the release of Tibetan writer and teacher Dolma Kyab from prison after completing 10 years and six months. Dolma Kyab was sentenced for writing a book.

According to information received by TCHRD, Dolma Kyab received a warm welcome from family, friends and other Tibetans in his hometown of Arig in the Tibetan province of Amdo. Eyewitnesses say he is in poor health and some suspect he is suffering from complications related to stomach ulcer and kidneys. “He frequently gets dehydrated with his mouth and throat becoming dry,” an eyewitness told TCHRD. Latest photographs of Dolma Kyab show signs of premature aging and ill health.

Dolma Kyab was released at 8 am local time on 8 October 2015 from Chushur (Ch: Qushui) Prison in Lhasa. At the time, two police officers from Dolma Kyab’s hometown in Dola (Ch: Qilian) County had come to fetch the writer. Dolma Kyab was taken to Xining, capital of Qinghai Province, from Lhasa by air. After reaching Xining at 4 pm, the Chushur prison authorities handed him over to Xining Public Security Bureau (PSB). At around 9.30 pm, he was taken to Dola County PSB office to sign documents for his release and then handed over to Dola County PSB. At 10.40 pm, he was released to his family.

When Dolma Kyab reached Dola County town, some Tibetans recognized the writer and started welcoming him with khatas (‘Tibetan ceremonial scarves’). Since it was late at night, not many local Tibetans knew about the release and not many had gathered that night to welcome the writer. The two police officers from Dola County accompanied the writer on his return home going until Donglung Township. A local Tibetan said in recent times, political prisoners who were released have been receiving grand welcome ceremonies on their return home, with large numbers of Tibetans garlanding them with khatas, shouting victory cries, and making prayer flags. To avoid such large gatherings, the Chinese authorities intentionally extended the custody of Dolma Kyab for hours after release. The long hours spent on finalizing his release document.

On 9 October, a day after his release, when news spread of Dolma Kyab’s release, many local Tibetans turned up to welcome him with khatas and incense sticks to welcome him at his home.

Earlier in 2005, during his detention, he suffered severe beatings and torture at the hands of interrogation officers causing him to contract tuberculosis. He was briefly hospitalized in an army hospital in Lhasa after which he was sent back to prison. This, despite the fact that, he had not fully recovered from the disease.

During his years in prison, Dolma Kyab improved his Tibetan and English, also taking serious interest in art. He had done over a hundred drawings and sketches of people, animals, and nature. A painting of a Tibetan nomad woman and a sketch of a Tibetan Mastiff are noteworthy. 

Dolma Kyab was detained on 9 March 2005 by Lhasa PSB officers and secretly sentenced to 10 and half years on 30 November 2005 by Lhasa Intermediate People’s Court. He was convicted of “harming state stability” and imprisoned in Chushur prison, located in northern part of Lhasa. His charges also included “leaking state secrets” or espionage. Earlier it was reported by some sources that Dolma Kyab was temporarily transferred to a prison in Xining in 2009, after 2008 uprising. However, local Tibetans say he was never transferred and served his sentence at Chushur.

Dolma Kyab was unfairly and unjustly sentenced for crimes he never committed. On the night of his sentencing, Dolma Kyab wrote an appeal letter addressed to the UN Human Rights Council, international women’s groups, international environment protection groups, and UNESCO and smuggled it out through a fellow prisoner who was released.

In the hand-written letter from prison, Dolma said that he was accused of “espionage” and “separatism” for writing the book. He further stated Chinese legal provisions regarding the crime of separatism did not apply to his case, thus showing how the sentence was imposed on him. It is common for Chinese authorities to charge a writer or publisher of inciting separatism. This kind of crime usually attracts five years. To keep Dolma Kyab behind bars for longer years, he was also charged of espionage, receiving a total sentence of ten and a half years.

In the letter, Dolma Kyab had written about the secrecy surrounding his detention, arrest and sentencing. Without any evidence, he was sentenced for a book he was writing about natural geography of Tibet. His writing of the book was connected to sharing secrets with outsiders and promoting Tibetan independence. Just days before his sentencing, Dolma Kyab was moved for several days to another location. The reason was the visit of UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Dr Manfred Nowak on 26 and 27 November, to Chushur.

In 2009, he was honored with the prestigious Hellman/Hammett award in recognition of his “commitment to free expression and their courage in the face of political persecution.” In 2012, he was awarded the ‘Liu Xiaobo Courage to Write’ Award by the Independent Chinese PEN Centre, and also honored by the PEN International. 

In 2007, the PEN Tibetan Writers Abroad published Dolma Kyab’s manuscript of “Restless Himalayas” in Tibetan and Chinese; the Tibetan translation was done in Tibet. In the book, he wrote, “You might think I am being stupid. If looked from another perspective, you might see that I am standing for freedom in front of the enemy’s gun. Whatever it is, we are doing this for freedom.” In one of his writings titled “A letter Dedicated to Fellow Tibetans”, he wrote, “There is no need to fear, no need to cry, we will surely triumph! You, my dear fellow Tibetans, we must strive hard and succeed. One day we will excel and shine!”

Dolma Kyab dedicated his book ‘Restless Himalayas’ to the Tibetan people, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, his parents and siblings. He had planned to donate any proceeds from the sale of the book to the welfare of children’s education: 30 percent for the education of poor Tibetan children, another 30 percent for the education of poor Chinese children, 15 of the remaining 40 percent for Tibetan Transit School in Dharamsala where he had been a student.

Dolma Kyab (pen-name Lobsang Kelsang Gyatso) was born in 1976 in Dharlung nomadic camp no. 4 in Donglung Township of Dola County, Tsojang (Ch: Haibei) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province. Son of Mr Khetsun and Mrs Dolma, he had five sisters and five brothers. He studied at the local primary school and the county middle school, further studying history and geography at Qinghai Normal University and graduated in 1999. He had been a teacher at Dola County Middle School before he completed postgraduate studies at Beijing University.

In 2003, after graduation from Beijing University, Dolma Kyab left for India. In India, he studied English at Tibetan Transit School near Dharamsala and at the same time began writing in Chinese the book, Sao dong de Ximalayashan (Tib: Lhing 'jags med pa'i Himalaya; Eng: ‘The Restless Himalayas’). In May 2004, after his return to Tibet, he began working as a geography teacher in a middle school in Lhasa city where he also started work on his next book on Tibetan geography. He could not finish writing this book due to his sudden detention.

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