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Another Tibetan Prisoner Released in Poor Health

May 6, 2013

May 3, 2013 - Chinese authorities in Tibet have released another long-serving Tibetan prisoner in poor health following completion of his full 21-year jail term, sources in the region and in exile said.

Lodroe Gyatso, 52, had been held at Chushul prison near Tibet's regional capital Lhasa, a Tibetan living in the area told RFA's Tibetan Service on Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

“[Gyatso] was released in the morning hours of May 2, 2013 after completing his jail term,” the source said.

“Four policemen arrived from Sog county [in the Nagchu prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region] and escorted him back to Sog on May 3 and handed him over to his family.”

News of the release came after another long-serving Tibetan prisoner, Lobsang Tenzin, was freed in bad health after serving 25 years in prison.  

The date of Tenzin’s release is still unclear, with the India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy saying he was released last month, and a former cellmate saying he was let go in June last year.

The Central Tibetan Administration, the Tibetan government in exile, said Tenzin “has been undergoing medical treatment at home since the end of last year.”

Damaged health

Gyatso’s health is also reported to be poor, RFA’s source said, adding that he is now troubled by severe headaches, lung disease, and kidney problems brought on by ill-treatment in prison.

Gyatso spent 21 years behind bars and was sentenced originally for 15 years for killing a man in a fight in 1991, but had his sentence extended two years later for engaging in political activism while incarcerated, sources said.

“On March 4, 1995, he called on other prisoners to protest and shouted, ‘Tibet is independent, China should leave Tibet!’ said Ngawang Tharpa, a Tibetan living in India.

He also called for the long life of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and urged all Tibetans to “unite,” Tharpa said, adding that Gyatso had also distributed protest literature in prison.

Though authorities wanted to execute him for his activism, his case was raised by Amnesty International and the U.N., and he was sentenced instead to a further six-year term, Tharpa said.

Others released

Tibetan dissident Tanak Jigme Zangpo, who was released in 2002 after 32 years in prison, holds the record of being the longest-serving Tibetan political prisoner.

Two other long-serving Tibetan prisoners were freed in March.

Activist Jigme Gyatso, 52, was freed after serving 17 years in prison at hard labor for seeking independence for Tibet and calling for the long life of the Dalai Lama.

Another activist, Dawa Gyaltsen, a former bank accountant and believed to be about 47, was released after 17 years with a limp in one of his legs having worsened due to ill-treatment and torture in prison.

Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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