DHARAMSALA, 2 Aug: Chinese authorities have sentenced a Tibetan political prisoner to two and half years in prison for helping local Tibetans send money to their family members and relatives in India, Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), a rights group based in Dharamsala said.
Tharpa and his cousin Lhamo was detained by the Chinese authorities just two days apart in June 2020 from Chaktse township in Driru county in Nagchu, Traditional Tibetan Province of Kham “apparently on charges of having sent money to family members or other Tibetans in India.”
“It has now come to light that Tharpa was sentenced to prison in a secret trial. He is due for release in December this year” TCHRD said in its report.
While Lhamo died in Chinese state custody a month later, Tharpa’s whereabouts and status remained unknown until his family hired a Chinese lawyer.
According to the report, hiring a lawyer “could not ensure a fair trial for Tharpa, who continued to remain in an undisclosed location without the knowledge of his family members”.
Although sending money to India is not a crime under Chinese law, the report noted that China views “contact between Tibetans in Tibet and those abroad as endangering national security.”
As such, “Tibetans inside Tibet who wish to offer prayers for their deceased family members or relatives by sending money to Tibetan spiritual teachers living in India have not been able to do so for many years,” the report added.
Tharpa, 39, a former monk who was forced out of the famous Larung Gar monastery had been under the microscope of Chinese authorities since 2012.
A Tibetan medium school he started in Chaktse was closed down by the authorities calling it ‘illegal’. Later he started the Local Produce Trading Company, which became a successful entrepreneur dealing in medicinal herbs and other local products.