On the eve of an official visit to China by French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Reporters Without Borders today reminded him of the serious press freedom violations there and urged him, in particular, to intercede for the release of five Tibetan monks recently sentenced to "reeducation through work" for publishing a newsletter.
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China should not be allowed to eclipse the Beijing government’s repressive policies as regards free expression, the press freedom organization said in a letter to Raffarin.
"We believe that France should, as part of its dialogue with the Chinese authorities, press for the release of prisoners of conscience or, at the very least, for an improvement in their prison conditions," the letter said.
Reporters Without Borders asked Raffarin, in particular, to press for the release of Tashi Gyaltsen, Lobsang Dhargay, Thoe Samden, Tsultrim Phelgay and Jampel Gyatso (photo) of Drakar Trezong monastery in Tibet, who were arrested on 16 January and were sentenced three weeks later to terms of two to three years of reeducation through work. They are serving their sentences in a Qinghai labour camp near Xining, in northwestern China.
They were detained for publishing a newsletter containing poems and articles of a political nature. The Chinese authorities have been trying for decades to eliminate any sense of identity in the Tibetan population and have repeatedly cracked down on monasteries as cultural centres promoting ideas in favour of Tibetan autonomy. Monks have often been arrested in the past for publishing articles criticising the Chinese occupation of Tibet.