Monk and sister released after two years in prison

Tibet Watch has received information that a brother and sister have recently been released from prison.

Geshe Sonam Gyatso and his sister Tsering Lhamo were both arrested in early 2021 and served two years in prison. 

Tsering Lhamo was released early last month while Geshe Sonam Gyatso’s release came on Tuesday 23 May. Both are reported to be in poor health due to their treatment in prison, which included being beaten.

Geshe Sonam Gyatso previously served as abbot at Kirti Monastery in Ngawa Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. The honorific title “Geshe” refers to a Buddhist academic degree for monks and nuns.

Chinese police authorities arrested him on April 3, 2021, while he was on holiday in Chengdu.  After spending a year in detention, he was sentenced to two years imprisonment in July 2022.

His arrest and prison sentence were connected to a sum of money he sent to the India-based office of the Dalai Lama and Kirti Rinpoche, the exiled abbot of Kirti Monastery.

The offering was for a “prayer for a deceased soul”, a Tibetan tradition. It was therefore likely to have been a small sum. However, making any contact with exiled leaders has typically led to arrest in Tibet, with occupying authorities enforcing checks of people’s mobile phones. This was demonstrated days earlier by the arrest of another monk at Kirti Monastery, Rachung Gedun. Rachung Gedun was sentenced to three years in prison.

The circumstances of Tsering Lhamo’s arrest and detention are less clear, although it is known that she spent a year in interrogative detention with Rachung Gedun and her brother before she was imprisoned. Both Tsering Lhamo, and her sister who works in a Ngawa County bank, were dismissed from their jobs following their arrest.

According to information received by Tibet Watch, she was beaten in prison and has visited a hospital several times since her release.

Information supplied by Tibet Watch

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