Tibetan Writer Handed Three-Year Prison Term for ‘Inciting Separatism’

A Tibetan journalist and former political prisoner held incommunicado for over a year in northwestern China’s Qinghai province was sentenced last month to a three-year term in prison for “inciting separatism,” Tibetan sources said.

Jailed Tibetan writer Tsegon Gyal is shown in an undated photo. Photo courtesy of TCHRD

Tsegon Gyal, 55, was sentenced on Jan. 10 by the People’s Intermediate Court in Tsojang (in Chinese, Haibei) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and was taken to a prison in Qinghai’s capital Xining to serve his term, a Tibetan living in exile told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“Before he was sentenced, he was allowed to visit with his family for the first time since he was taken into custody more than a year ago,” RFA’s source said, citing sources in the region and speaking on condition of anonymity.

First detained on Dec. 9, 2016, Gyal was held for eight months in Qinghai’s Kangtsa (Gangcha) county and then tried on May 3, 2017, RFA’s source said.

“The Tsojang People’s Intermediate Court put him on trial in secret, with no notice given to his parents or relatives,” the source said, adding, “The Chinese government didn’t follow due process or allow him a defense attorney.”

No explanation was given for the long period of time that passed between Gyal’s trial last year and his sentencing last month.

Gyal had most likely been charged because of a blog post he had published criticizing China for implementing a restrictive policy of “ethnic unity” in the Tibetan areas under its control, the Dharamsala, India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) said in a Feb. 18 statement.

“Successive policies and campaigns implemented by Chinese authorities have shown that the unity promoted among ‘ethnic groups’ is essentially aimed at diluting the distinct cultural and religious identity of Tibetans and other so-called ethnic groups,” TCHRD said.

Formerly a freelance journalist for newspapers and other media outlets in Qinghai, Gyal also founded a performing musical group for Kangtsa county residents with disabilities which he was later required to hand over to Chinese authorities for management, RFA’s source said.

“In 2015, he offered free food to pilgrims coming to Qinghai Lake from all over Tibet,” he said.

China has jailed scores of Tibetan writers, artists, singers, and educators for asserting Tibetan national identity and civil rights since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.

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