Former political prisoner sentenced to 3 years for ‘inciting separatism’

By Lobsang Tenchoe

DHARAMSALA, Feb 20: A Chinese court has sentenced a former Tibetan political prisoner who was held incommunicado since Dec 9, 2016 to three years, Dharamsala-based Tibetan advocacy group Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) said.

Tsegon Gyal, also known as Gangshon Atse was charged with the crime of ‘inciting to split the country’ and sentenced to three years on Jan 10, earlier this year by the Tsojang prefecture intermediate people’s court, the Tibetan advocacy group reported.

China often arrests Tibetans activists and government critics on trumped-up charges of “endangering state security”, a charge that could result in a 15-year sentence, the advocacy group said and added that the practice must stop.

The court announced his sentence on Jan 10 earlier this year well over eight months since his trial was held behind closed doors with no legal rights provided to him, TCHRD added.

According to the report, Tsegon Gyal has since been transferred to Dongchuan prison in Siling. Before Gyal’s sentence, his parents were allowed to meet him for the first time since his detention in 2016.

Its being said that Gyal was most likely sentenced for his critical blogpost on WeChat micro messaging app over the Chinese government’s failure to promote its ‘ethnic unity’ policy, TCHRD said quoting a source in Tibet.

Tsegon Gyal, 55, was arbitrarily detained by the local state Security Bureau officers of Tsojang, Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture on Dec 9, 2016 on unknown charges. Two weeks after his arbitrary detention, charges were filled against him for ‘inciting to split the country’ on Dec 24.

While Gyal was held incommunicado, he launched a ‘silent protest’ and refused to respond to the State Security Bureau officers who have been holding and interrogating him for denying his right to hire a lawyer and seek legal protection.

Tsegon Gyal was born on Aug 12, 1963 to a nomadic family in Kangtsa region in Traditional Tibetan province of Amdo. Gyal, along with Lukar Jam and Namlo Yak Dhungser were arrested by the provisional state security officers for setting up a group called Ássociaton of Domed Youth Committed to sacrificing lives’ in collusion with outsiders to organize Tibetan independence activities in Tibet in May 1993.

The Intermediate People’s court of Tsonub Mongolia Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture convicted Gyal of espionage and counter revolutionary crimes and sentenced him for 16 years on July 28 1994. But China bowed to calls from the international rights group and released Gyal on May 8, 1999 in a bid to present a favorable image to the international community to achieve smooth handover of Hong Kong from British.

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