Labrang monk Tsultrim Gyatso eligible for release in 2026 after life sentence commuted to 18.5 years

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A TV grab shows Tsultrim Gyatso inside the court during his trial on 21 May 2009

Tibetan political prisoner Tsultrim Gyatso has become eligible for release in November 2026 after his life sentence was commuted for the second time by the Intermediate People’s Court of Tianshui City in April last year, reported the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders on 17 July.

The Tianshui court approved a 6-month sentence reduction claiming that Gyatso had “pleaded guilty, [showed] repentance, strictly abided by prison rules and discipline, obeyed [prison] management, showed remorse and reformed well.” 

In 2014, Gyatso’s life sentence had been reduced to 19 years. He was also ‘deprived of political rights’ for seven years, a supplementary sentence that would subject him to police surveillance, house arrest, and restriction on travel and movement after his release from prison.

Before his imprisonment, Gyatso was a monk at Labrang Monastery in Sangchu (Ch: Xiahe) county, Kanlho (Ch: Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province, in the Tibetan province of Amdo. He was detained on 22 May 2008 and sentenced to life for “endangering state security” by the Gannan Intermediate People’s Court on 21 May 2009. He was 36 years old at the time. He had taken part in 14 and 15 March protests at Labrang Monastery in 2008, calling for “the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet” and shouting other slogans.

Gyatso should never have been imprisoned in the first place. He was treated inhumanely and denied the right to a fair trial simply for exercising his right to freedom of expression. That he and many other Tibetans like him continue to remain in prison for peacefully exercising their basic human rights is an affront to justice and yet another example of the Chinese Party-state’s authoritarian and inhumane rule.