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TCHRD welcomes release of political prisoner Ronggye A’drak, calls on China to stop criminalizing human rights

Ronggye A'drak
Ronggye A’drak

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) is pleased to learn that Ronggye A’drak, a Tibetan nomad who was imprisoned for staging a peaceful protest eight years ago, has been released after the completion of his sentence.

Ronggye A’drak was released from prison and brought home by officials at around 1 am local time on 31 July in Lithang (Ch: Litang) County in Kardze (Ch: Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province. There is no information available on his physical and psychological condition. Attempts to get more information on his status have come to naught due to restrictions on communication channels across Lithang County.

TCHRD expresses relief that Ronggye A’drak was able to return home alive after spending eight years in prison. He was 52 when he was first detained. During detention, he suffered severe beatings and torture that partially damaged his vision in one eye and rendered his one ear deaf. It is not uncommon for many Tibetan political prisoners to die before the completion of their terms due to lack of medical care in prison for injuries sustained during detention. TCHRD urges the Chinese authorities to refrain from putting Ronggye A’drak under soft detention or house arrest, and allow his family and friends to seek appropriate medical care for him.

Ronggye A’drak was imprisoned for staging a peaceful, solo protest, and giving expression to the common aspirations of many Tibetans. He was charged with “inciting to split the country” and “undermining national unity”, according official Chinese media sources. Tibetan sources reported that he was also charged with “inciting to subvert state power”, including two other unknown charges. Given Chinese constitutional provisions on freedom of expression, TCHRD maintains that Ronggye A’drak was wrongfully and unjustly imprisoned. His detention and subsequent imprisonment was a grave violation of his basic human right to express with peaceful means.

On 1 August 2007, at the 80th Founding Anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army organised by the Lithang County government during a horse-racing festival, Ronggye A’drak walked up to the stage where the officials and other dignitaries were seated, took the microphone and shouted slogans calling for the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet, the release of Gedun Choekyi Nyima (the 11th Panchen Lama identified by the Dalai Lama), and Tibetan independence. He also called on local Tibetans to stop fighting among themselves over land, water and harvesting of the prized Yartsa Gunbu (caterpillar fungus). He then climbed down from the stage and went straight to Naglu Tenzin, a monk who was actively involved in the “patriotic education” campaign and denounced on his face his double standard in dealing with the religious affairs of the monastery. He again went back to the stage and continued shouting slogans until the police took him away.

Some sources also reported that he called for the release of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a renowned lama from Lithang who was then serving life imprisonment. Tenzin Delek Rinpoche died under mysterious circumstances earlier this month at Chuangdong Prison near Sichuan. Prison officials cremated Rinpoche’s body and family members were not allowed to take his ashes home.

Following Ronggye A’drak’s detention, local Tibetans had approached the County Detention Centre and held peaceful demonstration calling for his release. Tibetans in and around Lithang turned up in large numbers some setting up tents and spending days holding demonstrations. On 20 November 2007, following months of beatings and torture in detention, the Ganzi Intermediate People’s Court located in Dartsedo (Ch: Kangding) sentenced him to eight years in prison. The trial was held on 20 October 2007. He completed his term at Mianyang Prison near Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province.

The same court sentenced six other Tibetans for taking part in the demonstrations calling for Ronggye A’drak’s release. Adruk Lopoe and Adruk Kelsang Gyatso, both nephews of Ronggye A’drak, were sentenced to 10 and five years respectively while artist and schoolteacher Jamyang Kunkhen was sentenced to nine years. Lothok and Jamyang Tenzin were each sentenced to three years and Lobsang Phuntsok got a year and a half in prison. They were charged with “contacting hostile foreign forces” and “sharing state secrets with separatists”. Jamyang Tenzin was released after the completion of his sentence but was arrested again and later sentenced to three years.

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