A Tibetan middle school teacher and musician was released from Mianyang Prison near Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, last month after serving nine years for allegedly engaging in espionage and separatist activities.
Jamyang Kunkhen was detained on 22 August 2007 in connection with solidarity protests staged against the arbitrary detention of Tibetan nomad named Ronggye Adrak.
Kunkhen was apprehended at the age of 34 and in good health. He was released on 21 August of this year, his eyesight and hearing failing and lips gnarled. His waning vision could escalate into blindness. In prison, he suffered a stroke for which he did not receive proper medical treatment resulting in a pronounced contortion of his lips. Sources say Kunkhen also suffered beatings and torture during interrogation in police custody.
Kunkhen was sentenced on 20 November 2007 by the Kardze (Ch: Ganzi) Intermediate People’s Court, located in Dartsedo (Ch: Kangding), capital of Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Along with Kunkhen, two other Tibetans, a monk named Adruk Lopoe, nephew of Ronggye Adrak, and a nomad named Lothok were sentenced to ten and three years respectively by the same court. All three were convicted of espionage. Kunkhen and Lopoe were additionally convicted of inciting separatism by “writing and posting secessionist flyers”.
Confirming the sentencing, Chinese state news agency Xinhua claimed in a report that Kunkhen, Lopoe and Lothok followed “directions from overseas sources” allegedly taking pictures and making discs to provide to overseas organizations following the protests staged for Ronggye Adrak.
Adrak, a 52 year-old nomad and father of 11 children, was arrested after his peaceful solo demonstration on 1 August 2007 at the annual horse-racing festival in Lithang County. In the aftermath of Adrak’s detention by the Lithang Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers, hundreds of local Tibetans and nomads in Lithang and surrounding areas staged protests at Lithang Public Security Bureau Detention Centre. Chinese police in full combat gear dispersed the protesters using tear-gas and firing guns into the air. Kunkhen was found in possession of a video camera and security officials later searched his residence.
Despite his release, there is concern that Kunkhen will be kept under intrusive state surveillance, which will severely affect his right to freedom of movement. This could impact his ability to obtain medical care and recover. Kunkhen must serve four years of deprivation of political rights that begins from the day of his release, Chinese authorities must ensure his basic human rights are not violated on this pretext.