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Tibetan singer freed from prison after serving four years

February 6, 2017

Radio Free Asia, February 2, 2017 - Authorities in southwestern China’s Sichuan province have freed a Tibetan singer jailed for four years for writing songs praising the Dalai Lama and highlighting the hardships of life under Beijing’s rule, according to a Tibetan source.

Amchok Phuljung, whose musical recordings before his arrest were widely popular in Tibetan areas of China, was released from Sichuan’s Mianyang prison on Feb. 2 after serving his full term in prison, a source living in the area told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“The Chinese authorities informed his family of his release a few days in advance, and warned that people should not come to the prison to welcome him,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“But when Amchok Phuljung arrived in his home town in Marthang [in Chinese, Hongyuan] county that evening, there was a warm reception for him that was attended by a lot of people who offered ceremonial scarves and sang songs in his honor,” he said.

After a short period spent in hiding, Phuljung was taken into custody on Aug. 3, 2012 at a teashop in Sichuan’s Barkham (Ma’erkang) county, and was initially held in secret  before his sentencing and transfer to Mianyang prison, where he served his term, the source said.

“Before his detention, Amchok Phuljung released five albums of music that included Tibetan patriotic songs, which raised his popularity among his fans,” he said.

Among the 13 songs released on Phuljung’s fifth DVD were songs praising Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and exile prime minister Lobsang Sangay, an exile-based friend of the singer told RFA in an earlier report.

Chinese authorities regularly revile the Dalai Lama and Lobsang Sangay as dangerous separatists and harshly punish expressions of support for both men by Tibetans living under Beijing’s rule.

Monk also freed

Authorities meanwhile also freed a Tibetan monk jailed in 2013 after he was linked to a self-immolation protest challenging Chinese rule in Tibetan areas, another source said.

Yonten, aged around 37 and a monk at Thangkor Soktsang monastery in Sichuan’s Dzoege (Ruo’ergai) county, was released on Jan. 31 after serving his full term of three years and six months in prison, RFA’s source said, also speaking on condition he not be named.

“He has returned to his family home and is in sound health, the source said.

“Right now he is resting, and he will soon go back to his monastery to resume his studies,” he said.

Yonten was one of five Tibetans taken into custody following the self-immolation protest of 18-year-old Thangkor Soktsang monk Konchok Sonam, who set himself ablaze on July 20, 2013 while calling out for Tibetan freedom.

Sonam's mother and teacher at the monastery were among the five detained, but were released on July 22 after questioning by police.

Reported by Lhuboom and Lobe Soktsang for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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