Tibetan political prisoner released after serving three-year prison term

DHARAMSALA, JUL 23: A Tibetan political prisoner sentenced to three years in prison in connection with a self-immolation protest in eastern Tibet’s Amdo province has been released on Jul 27.

Thupten Tsundue, a monk of Bido monastery in Kangtsa township in Yazi county in Tsoshar prefecture of traditional Amdo province was sentenced to three years in prison at a secret trial on April 18, 2013 after being kept in detention for five months.

He was detained in November, 2012 along with fellow monk Gedun Tsultrim, who also received three years’ imprisonment, for organizing final rites and prayer offerings for Wangchen Norbu who died two days after setting himself on fire on Nov 19, 2012 in an apparent protest against Chinese rule in Tibet.

Following the death of Wangchen Norbu, traditional Tibetan Buddhist rites and prayers were offered at Bido monastery. When monks of Bido and other monasteries and lay persons went to pay their respects at Wangchen Norbu’s house, County officials and police blocked them from visiting Wangchen Norbu’s house. As monks and lay Tibetans were subjected to harassment and intimidation over expressing solidarity and organizing prayer offerings for the self-immolator, Thupten Tsundue and Gedun Tsultrim took full responsibility to protect others from constant harassment.

At the secret trial, Thupten Tsundue was accused of leading and organizing final rites for Wangchen Norbu and Gedun Tsultrim was accused of collecting donations and coordinating transportation for people who went to Wangchen Norbu’s house to pay their respects.

Upon his return to his native place after his release, Thupten Tsundue was accorded a hero’s welcome by the local Tibetans; many of them offered Tibetan ceremonial scarves to him as a mark of respect.

Though Gedun Tsultrim was arrested along with Thupten Tsundue and given a similar sentence, he has not been released yet and the reasons behind his non-release could not be confirmed.

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