16/11/2019

Two Tibetan men released after serving prison for 2008 protests

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Local Tibetans welcome Woeden in his hometown after his release.
Local Tibetans welcome Woeden in his hometown after his release.

Two Tibetan men, Woeden and Lobsang Gyatso, were released after serving prison for their participation in 2008 uprising in Ngaba (Ch: Aba) Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province, according to information received by Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD).

In March 2008, a series of protests rocked many parts of the Tibetan plateau with a large chunk of protests concentrated in Ngaba area. Among them was A’khyam Township located in the lower part of Ngaba County (Tib: Ngamey), where local Tibetans staged a major protest on 22 March 2008.

Woeden and Lobsang Gyatso, both of whom belonged to A’khyam Township, took part in the protest and were detained the same day by local police. Both men were sentenced on 24 June 2008 by the Intermediate People’s Court in Barkham, capital of Ngaba Prefecture, and imprisoned at Mianyang Prison, located in Wujia Township in Mianyang Prefecture near Chengdu. 

According to the source, the court sentenced Woeden, who was also accused of being the “ringleader” of the protest, to nine years on the charge of “looting/robbery”. He was 19 at the time of his arrest. He was released less than three years before the expiration of his sentence. Woeden’s prison release document states that his sentence was reduced by 2 years and 10 months because he exihibited “good behaviour” during his imprisonment.

Lobsang Gyatso was released from a Re-education Through Labour camp at Mianyang Prison.
Lobsang Gyatso was released from a Re-education Through Labour camp at Mianyang Prison.

As in many of the politically-motivated cases in Tibet, Woeden’s ‘looting/robbery’ charge should be viewed with its full propagandistic context. The Chinese government has used its vast propaganda network to charaterise Tibetan protests as violent and unruly by labelling it with the catch-all phrase of ‘beating, smashing, looting and burning’. This phrase was first used by the Chinese authorities during the demonstrations in Lhasa in 1989.

Lobsang Gyatso was released on 25 January 2010 after the expiration of his prison term. He was sentenced to Re-education Through Labour (Ch: Laojiao) at Mianyang Prison. He is now 34 years old and lives with his parents, Dhargye and Donbey, and his younger sister Lhamo Tso.

Both Lobsang Gyatso and Woeden hail from Camp No. 2 Village of A’khyam Township, located in Lower Ngaba (Ngamey) area in Ngaba County. Woeden was born in 1988 to father Gongho and mother Desal Kyi. He is the fifth youngest among his seven siblings.

The source told TCHRD that upon his release, Woeden was welcomed with full hero’s honour by local Tibetans in A’khyam area. Local Tibetans burned incense, garlanded Woeden with khatas -ceremonial scarves- and threw lungta (paper prayer flags) in the air.

With this latest information, it has now become possible to fill some details on the aftermath of the major protest in A’khyam area since information reported earlier by exile Tibetan sources had been unclear and scattered. According to a report released by Tibetan Parliament in-exile in early 2012,  many Tibetans were arrested in A’khyam where in March 2008 a strong protest demonstration erupted. The report named three Tibetan men – Pelgye, Phagpa and Woeden- who were sentenced to 13, 12 and nine years respectively, in addition to seven other unidentified Tibetans who were given 2 year jail term each.

An undated photo of Woeden
An undated photo of Woeden

Full translation of Woeden’s prison release certificate

Certification of Release

                                                                                                            2014 Prison No. 157

Woeden , male, born on 1 March 1988, from A’khyam Camp, Shangan Village,

A’khyam Township, Ngaba County. He was sentenced to 9 years for the crime of

robbery on 24 June 2008. During the sentence, the penalty has been reduced 3 times

for 2 years and 10 months. The actual sentence was 6 years and 2 months. He is

released since the sentence has expired.

This document is stated as a certification.

                                                            22 May, 2014

A copy of Woeden's prison release certificate
A copy of Woeden’s prison release certificate