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Jigme Gyatso released after serving 5 years for “splittism”

October 31, 2016

Radio Free Asia, October 26, 2016 - A Tibetan monk jailed for the last five years in northwestern China’s Gansu province for taking part in protests opposing Chinese rule was quietly welcomed home on Wednesday after serving his full term in prison, sources in the region and in exile said.

Jigme Gyatso, also called Jigme Goril, was released in the provincial capital Lanzhou on Oct. 26 and returned to his family home in Sangchu (in Chinese, Xiahe) county’s Labrang town at around 9:00 p.m., a monk living in South India told RFA’s Tibetan Service, citing sources in Sangchu.

“Before his release, authorities told family members that Gyatso would be freed only on assurance they would not hold a welcoming reception for him or take photos or videos after he was freed,” RFA’s source, named Phuntsok, said.

“So no reception was held outdoors, but the moment he entered his home, his mother, followed by other local Tibetans, residents of the town and nearby villages, presented him with ceremonial scarves,” Phuntsok said.

Also speaking to RFA, a Tibetan resident of the area confirmed Gyatso’s release, saying that though Gyatso’s  five-year term had ended in September, his release had been delayed.

“Initially, the authorities told his relatives to come and get him at the prison when he was released, but then they changed their mind, and he was finally escorted home,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Family members were warned not to hold a reception, take photos, or otherwise publicize his release,” he said.

“Gyatso was also told that he could not put on his monk’s robes or return to his former monastery in Labrang.”

Previously detained

Gyatso’s Labrang monastery in Gansu’s Kanlho (Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture was the scene of major demonstrations against Chinese rule during region-wide protests in March 2008.

A month later, Labrang monks also disrupted a government-controlled tour of the monastery by foreign journalists.

Previously detained in 2008 and 2010, Gyatso was again taken into custody in 2011 and handed a five-year prison term by the Kanlho People’s Intermediate Court on a charge of working “to split the nation,” sources said in earlier reports.

Splittism is a charge often brought against Tibetans who assert their national culture and identity or who protest Beijing’s rule in Tibetan areas, where self-immolations and other protests have led to crackdowns by security forces and the arrests of scores of Tibetans.

 Gyatso became an instant hero in the Tibetan community after a 2009 video in which he described his brutal treatment in custody was widely circulated on the internet.

Reported by Chakmo Tso, Lobe Socktsang, and Lhuboom for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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