26/02/2021

Nyatso Zilkar monk in poor health after imprisonment

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Sonam Yingyen
Sonam Yingyen

An imprisoned monk from the restive Nyatso Zilkar Monastery in Trindu (Ch: Chenduo) County, Jyekundo (Ch: Yushu) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (Qinghai Province) was released on an unknown date last month before the expiration of his prison term due to medical emergency.

According to information received by TCHRD, Sonam Yingyen, 44, became seriously ill soon after he was sentenced to two-year imprisonment in October 2012 in Siling (Ch: Xining) city, capital of Qinghai Province.

Sonam Yingyen was among the five monks of Nyatso Zilkar Monastery arrested on 1 September 2012 in a surprise police raid on the monastery. The other four monks were Lobsang Jinpa, 30, Tsultrim Kalsang, 25, Ngawang Monlam, 30, and Sonam Sherab, 45.

Sources told TCHRD that Sonam Yingyen’s health had deteriorated during his detention and by the time he was sentenced, his medical condition had worsened leading to over a month’s hospitalization in an army hospital in Siling.

When family members and friends learned that Sonam Yingyen was being held secretly in the army hospital – considered to be the largest hospital in Siling – they visited the hospital, only to be turned away by local security officials who said the army and police were there to do the job. Since then, fears for his life have grown among his family members and friends.

Lobsang Nyima (left) and Sonam Gewa (right) in their prison uniform talking to visitors at an unknown prison in Siling.
Lobsang Nyima (left) and Sonam Gewa (right) in their prison uniform talking to visitors at an unknown prison in Siling.

Long before this revelation, family members and friends had suspected that something was amiss, as they never got to meet with Sonam Yingyen at the prison in Siling. Sources said soon after the sentences were passed, other monks were able to meet with their relatives and friends every month for about 30 minutes but no one saw Sonam Yingyen. It later turned out that he had been taken to the army hospital. Relatives and friends who tried to visit Sonam Yingyen in prison were given no explanation when they inquired prison officials about his whereabouts.

In April this year, authorities decided to send Sonam Yingyen back to Yushu where he will be referred to another hospital for further treatment. There is no information on specific ailments he suffers from. Sources who talked to TCHRD are not sure if the monk was released on medical parole as his family members have not been given any visitation rights since his imprisonment or during his hospitalization in Siling. There is no information on the possibility of the family getting visitation rights now that Sonam Yingyen is believed to be in Yushu.

Lobsang Samten is imprisoned in Thang Karmo Prison.
Lobsang Samten is imprisoned in Thang Karmo Prison.

It has now emerged that another Nyatso Zilkar monk, Lobsang Samten, who was sentenced to one year and nine months in prison last year has now been transferred to Thang Karmo (Ch: Tanggemu) Prison near Chabcha (Ch: Gonghe) in Qinghai Province. Lobsang Samten was detained along with fellow monks, Sonam Gewa and Lobsang Nyima, on the evening of 15 February 2012.  It is suspected that they were arrested in connection with the 8 February 2012 protest march led lay people and monks in Dzatoe (Ch: Zaduo) and Trindu (Ch: Chenduo) counties in Yushu.

Situation in Trindu County, where Nyatso Zilkar Monastery is located, is said to be tense, following the February 2012 protest march and the June 2012 twin self-immolation of two Tibetan youths. Sources told TCHRD that areas around Trindu County remain the most restricted in Jyekundo Prefecture.