DHARAMSALA, Dec 17: Peter Gabriel, Thom Yorke and Ed O’Brien (Radiohead), Serj Tankian (System of a Down) and Tjinder Singh (Cornershop) were the first ones to sign a petition launched by Free Tibet, a London-based rights group on Dec 16 that calls for the release of eight Tibetans singers arrested by China. Lolo, Chakdor, Pema Trinley, Kalsang Yarphel and Shawo Tashi, Ugyen Tashi, Achok Phulsung and Choksal were arrested between 2012-2013 for singing songs asserting Tibetan cultural identity and calling for freedom in Tibet.
Information about two other singers, Trinley Tsering and Gongpo Tenzin who were arrested in November are being sought by the rights group.
The petition signed by the musicians calls on China’s minister of justice to release the eight Tibetan singers and says:
“Singing songs in your own language about the issues of concern to your own people is not a crime. China claims to protect Tibetan culture but by imprisoning these musicians it is suppressing that culture, as well as violating the human rights of these individuals . . . I urge you to ensure that all artists in Tibet and all Tibetans are free to express themselves without fear of arrest, imprisonment or any other form of punishment.”
Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:
“Music is a vital part of Tibet’s resistance. Singers such as Lolo not only keep alive a culture that China is trying to erase from the world, but their songs articulate the aspirations, fears and courage of a people who remain proud and defiant after 60 years of occupation.
“Last year, the world community responded with justified outrage to the treatment of Pussy Riot but musicians in Tibet have no platform or profile. Their protests consist of singing songs and seeking to have their music heard; their arrests, trials and sentencing take place where no media are permitted to go. China may be able to silence these musicians for now but it cannot silence the voices of people outside Tibet calling for their release.”