Tibetan dissident under house arrest

Yulo Dawa Tsering, a 58-year-old abbot at Ganden Monastery and former teacher of Philosophy at the University of Tibet, was the first Tibetan to be arrested when the Tibetan independence movement regained vigour in 1987. He was arrested in December 1987 and sentenced for 10 years as a result of having spoken about Tibetan independence with an Italian tourist six months earlier.

The Tibetan lama, now 68 years old and having spent a total of some 27 years of his life imprisoned, was released on parole on 4 November 1994. When, three weeks later, a United Nations Human Rights team was officially invited to Lhasa to assess China’s record on religious freedom, Yulo Dawa Tsering was allowed to meet with the UN Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance, M. Abdelfattah Amor. The lama spoke of his concern about the version of Tibet’s history that is known to the international community and said that he had been arrested for political reasons. He did not accept official statements that he had been released for good conduct and recognition of his guilt.

The Tibet Information Network (TIN) recently reported that Yulo Dawa Tsering has been placed under what is effectively house arrest, apparently as a punishment for his comments to UN officials two years ago.

Three members of the European Parliament visiting Lhasa in early November were insistent that they should be allowed to meet with Yulo Dawa Tsering. Finally a ten minute meeting was arranged at an unnamed destination, amidst high security, with Chinese officials present and photographs forbidden. A Tibetan-English interpreter was not provided, and communication took place through two interpreters; the first from Tibetan to Chinese and the next from Chinese to English.

Despite these difficulties, the MEPs concluded that Yulo Dawa Tsering appeared to be under some kind of restraint. While officially “under parole”, they reported that the lama was not the master of his own movements. M. Amor has commented that he will be paying very close attention to this report.

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