Tibetan village leader dies while serving two-year prison term

DHARAMSALA, Jul 23: In yet another case of prison death, a Tibetan village leader from Tsawa Zogang County in traditional Kham province in eastern Tibet has died due to severe torture while serving a two year prison term in Chushul prison.

Leader of Gewa village in Tsawa Zogang county’s Tongbar township, Lobsang Yeshi, was arrested along with six other Tibetans on May 12, 2014 following a protest by Tibetan residents of Tongbar township against Chinese mining activities on the banks of Gyalmo Ngulchu (Salween) river.

An undated photo of Lobsang Yeshi.
An undated photo of Lobsang Yeshi.

Lobsang Yeshi and some elders of Tongbar township led the public protest for two days beginning May 9, 2014 after Phagpa Gyaltsen, a 39-yr-old Tibetan man stabbed himself and died after jumping from a high government building in Tongbar Township and another Tibetan man named Rinzin also stabbed himself thrice in protest against Chinese mining activities in the area.

Initially the protesters were intimidated and threatened by Chinese police but later provincial and county level officials arrived at the protest site and asked the Tibetans to return back to their homes saying the issue can be discussed and negotiated.

However, two days later on May 12, 2014 Lobsang Yeshi and six other Tibetans were arrested by Chinese police. For a year, they were held at detention centres in Tsawa Zogang county, Chamdo county and later at Chushul prison during which they were interrogated and tortured severely.

In May this year, Lobsang Yeshi and two others, Ngagta and Choelug Tenzin were each sentenced to two years in prison.

Due to severe torture endured in prison, Lobsang Yeshi was in critical health condition with constant bouts of dizziness.

Though he was rushed to a hospital for medical treatment, Lobsang Yeshi died at around 2 pm on May 19, 2015. He was 65.

Undated photo of Lobsang Yeshi.
Undated photo of Lobsang Yeshi.

Neither his body was returned to his family members nor were they allowed to see his body. After his family appealed to the authorities, only a monk was allowed to near his body to perform the final rites and only two family members were allowed to witness his cremation.

Lobsang Yeshi was the main bread-earner of his family of 14 and was regarded by local Tibetans as an honest and a responsible man who always looked after the welfare of his community. Out of eight children, two of Lobsang’s children have escaped into exile in India.

Despite protests by the Tibetans, Chinese mining activities on the banks of Gyalmo Ngulchu have still not stopped.


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