Attempt by four Tibetans to reclaim community land results in up to three years’ jail term

By Lobsang Tenchoe

DHARAMSALA, April 12, 2016: Four Tibetans were sentenced to up to three years’ imprisonment on Monday for their attempt to reclaim their land seized by local authorities eastern Tibet last year.

Out of the four, Rinchen Dorje, Kurde Yeshe and Phurko received two-year jail terms while Jigji Kyab was given a three-year term, the Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) quoted sources inside Tibet as saying.

They were among a group of Tibetan protesters who briefly reoccupied confiscated community land in Thangkor town in Dzoege county of Ngaba Prefecture in traditional Amdo province.

However, an unusual sentencing arrangement was made where in they will serve their terms on parole – not behind the bars – provided they agree to serve an additional six months; the deal was accepted by the four Tibetans.

The government had confiscated the land for development projects five years ago; however, since no developer has begun work on the land, the authorities have put it up on lease for private firms.

During the proceedings, it is believed that Jigje Kyab requested the court to spare Rinchen Dorje citing his poor health and appealed to serve the sentence on the latter’s behalf while Mr Dorje requested he be sentenced instead of of Jigje Kyab citing his young age and concern for his future.

It is learned that in April, following a visit to his home by Thangkor official and local government employees, Jigje Kyab, also known as JIgme kyab, went into hiding to evade capture so that he could present the documents, supporting Tibetan claims to the confiscated property, entrusted to him by the community to higher provincial authorities.

Mr Kyab was also involved in organizing a protest on Jan 28 by 20 Thangkor-area Tibetans in the Sichuan provincial capital, Chengdu.

The occupation of land in Thangkor, however, is not related to a specific Chinese policy but the work of local authorities who bully the Tibetan residents for their personal gain. Attempts by the Tibetans to reclaim their land are met with violent suppression, detention and lengthy jail terms.

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