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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Tibetan Jailed for Five Years

July 5, 2010

Jane Macartney, Beijing
The Times (UK)
July 3, 2010

A Chinese court today sentenced an award-winning
Tibetan environmentalist to five years in prison,
convicting him of incitement to split the nation.

Rinchen Samdrup, 44, is the third of three
brothers to be jailed in a matter of months after
they ran afoul of the Chinese authorities.

Tibet experts said their prison terms were highly
unusual because none of the men had any record of
showing an interest in political issues in Tibet,
which has been racked for decades by anti-Chinese unrest.

The main charge against Mr Rinchen involved the
posting of an article about the award in 1989 of
the Nobel Peace Prize to the Dalai Lama, Tibet's
exiled spiritual and political leader, on the
website of his environmental group.

Mention of the monk, who turns 75 on Tuesday, is
taboo in China outside the state-run media and his portrait is banned.

Mr Rinchen's lawyer, Xia Jun, told /The Times
/that the argument focused on whether the
defendant had posted the article himself, whether
he had directed others to do so or whether it had
been done without his permission.

Mr Xia said: "I and my client had expected a
verdict of innocent. So my client is very
disappointed about this. I have not had a chance
to speak to him, but he looks well." The deeply
devout Mr Rinchen, a former monk, is believed to
hold differing views from the Dalai Lama and
belongs to a separate sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

Mr Rinchen was detained last August, along with
his younger brother, after they accused local
police in eastern Tibet of poaching endangered
species. The formal charges first brought against
them was that their Voluntary Environmental
Protection Association of Kham Anchung
Senggenamzong was an illegal organisation.

The reference to the Dalai Lama, vilified by
Chinese officials who accuse him of seeking
independence for Tibet, resulted in the case
being handled as a more serious political crime.

The police chief they alleged had been involved
in hunting protected animals has since been
promoted. The NGO had mobilised about 1,700 local
villagers to reforest the area and to report
poaching. It also ran a small magazine. It worked
with international conservation groups and was praised by the Chinese media.

The NGO won several awards -- including an
environmental achievement award from the Ford Motor Company in 2006.

Robert Barnett, a leading Tibetan expert at
Columbia University, said: "People get long
prison all the time in Tibet for political
activities, but I think never for a few isolated
words on a website or in a book, and not if they
are people whose entire work has otherwise been
non-political - let alone environmentalists
working alongside government officials. This case
suggests that we may be seeing a new phase of
political control in Tibet, targeting not just
critics and dissidents but those involved in civil society as well. "

The middle brother, Karma Samdrup, 42, who was
once hailed by Beijing as a role model for
Tibetans and is an award-winning philanthropist,
was jailed last month for 15 years on charges of grave robbing.

The accusations had been dismissed 12 years
earlier because Mr Karma had a licence to trade
in antiquities. He has vowed to appeal.

The youngest brother, Chime Namgyal, 38, is
serving a 21-month sentence in a labour camp on
the vague charge of "harming national security".

The arrests of the first two brothers prompted
Karma Samdrup to rush to their defense, angering local authorities.

Many of their Tibetan neighbours and friends had
travelled from their village to Beijing to plead
for the two brothers and this defiance of local
officials may have fuelled their anger and prompted moves to retaliate.

Anti-Chinese unrest that has roiled Tibetan areas
of China in recent years may have also prompted
officials to find a way to silence three
prominent Tibetans -- even though they had shown no interest in politics.
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