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Tibetan mother jailed in connection with self-immolation released in poor physical and mental condition

Dolma Tso garlanded with khatas; a portrait of the 10th Panchen Lama is seen in the background
Dolma Tso garlanded with khatas; a portrait of the 10th Panchen Lama is seen in the background

Last Sunday, Chinese authorities released a Tibetan woman in poor health after she completed a three-year prison term for allegedly inciting a self-immolation protest in her hometown in Ngaba (Aba) County in Ngaba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province, in the Tibetan province of Amdo.

Dolma Tso, 30, a mother of one, was released at around 9 pm local time on 4 December from Mianyang Prison. Upon arrival at her village, she received a grand welcome from her family members and about 200 local Tibetans in nomadic camp no. 3 of Meruma Town in Ngaba County, Meo Kongyam, the Australia-based brother of Tso, told TCHRD.

Photos circulated on social media show Dolma Tso welcomed by a crowd of Tibetans with Tibetan ceremonial scarves ‘khata’ and a portrait of the previous 10th Panchen Lama. ( The 11th incarnation of the Panchen Lama, recognised by the 14th Dalai Lama, has been disappeared by the Chinese authorities since 1995) Others show Tso being feted at a banquet with friends and relatives looking on. Dolma Tso is the daughter of Mr Gyerig and Mrs Dhonko. She has has a 14-year old daughter called Tsultrim Dolma.

Based on information provided by Mr Kongyam, Dolma Tso is apparently suffering from post traumatic stress disorder due to her three-year imprisonment. She suffers from dizzy spells and insomnia. She has lost her usual cheerful self and suffers from bouts of depression and anxiety. Her physical and mental condition has become poor, a result of the beatings and torture she suffered during her 11-month incommunicado detention by the police before her sentencing.

Dolma Tso at the welcoming banquet
Dolma Tso at the welcoming banquet

Last December, Dolma Tso’s family feared the worst when they received a letter from the prison authorities stating that she had to undergo an urgent surgery for an unnamed illness. Tso’s family refused to sign the letter and give their approval; they asked to see Tso first to confirm her condition but this request was denied. Later when she was able to meet with her family for several minutes in prison, she asked them not to sign it as she hadn’t. Early this year, Amnesty International launched a campaign to stop the Chinese prison authorities from undertaking the ‘forced operation’ on Dolma Tso as it could be used as a pretext to perform unnecessary medical procedures on Tso. Latest information provided by Kongyam confirms that the operation did not take place.

Dolma Tso was arrested after she helped in moving the body of Kunchok Tseten, who died of self-immolation protest on 3 December 2013. Following Tseten’s self-immolation, local police detained  around 20 Tibetans including Tso in Meruma Town. Some were released after being subejected to severe interrogation for 10 days. The remaining others including Tso, Kunchok Lodoe, Gedhun Phelgye, Lobsang Gyatso, Tenpa were detained incommunicado for 11 months. On 3 November 2014, the Ngaba County People’s Court sentenced Dolma Tso and Kunchok Lodoe each to three years and Gedhun Phelgye to two years imprisonment. All three of them were charged of ‘intentional homicide’ and inciting self-immolation. A regulation issued by in December 2012 criminalised self-immolation protests. The regulation drafted by the Ministry of Public Security, the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate announced that “people who in any form plan, organize, incite or help others perform self-immolation will be tried for intentional homicide.”

Kunchok Lodoe was also released a few hours before Dolma Tso the same day but no additional details are available at the moment. Kunchok Lodoe is from the Gotse family and a native of nomadic camp no. 2 while Gedhun Phelgye is from Marlitsang family of nomadic camp no. 4 in Meruma Town. There is no information on Phelgye’s release.

Dolma Tso
Dolma Tso

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