Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage at harsh prison sentences for “espionage” of three to ten years handed down yesterday to three Tibetans by the intermediate court in Kardze, Sichuan province on the Tibetan border.
The three, who had sent abroad photos of demonstrations held at the beginning of August by nomadic Tibetans, were charged with “espionage on behalf of foreign organisations, putting state security in danger”.
Adak Lupoe, a senior monk at Lithang monastry and Kunkhyen, a musician and teacher, were sentenced to ten and nine years respectively for taking photos and recordings of the demonstrations following the horse festival on 1st August.
Under the Chinese justice system the fact of sending pictures to “foreign organisations” constitutes a “threat to national security”. Jarib Lothog was sentenced to three years in prison for helping send the photos.
Some shots of the demonstrations were used by media run by the Tibetan community in exile and by human rights organisations. Tibetans in the region have reported that since the ‘incident’, described by the state-run Xinhua news agency as a “laying siege to government buildings”, tension has increased in the Lithan area and Chinese military reinforcements have been sent to the region.
“These very harsh sentences demonstrate the risks run by ordinary Tibetan citizens when they try to send information aboard, a step which is similar to citizen journalism,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
Runggye Adak was given an eight-year jail sentence on the same day before the same court for being the “instigator of the 1st August rally”. He was found guilty of “separatist activism” after giving a speech supporting the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet.
“It is striking that an organiser of the demonstrations was given a lesser sentence than those who took the photographs,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This shows the regime’s paranoia towards those who produce evidence of disputes within China, Tibet and Xinjiang. We call for the verdict to be quashed and the Tibetans released,” said the organisation.