Free Tibet’s research partner, Tibet Watch, has learned that in July 2022, Geshe Sonam Gyatso was sentenced to two years for purportedly sending a payment to the Dalai Lama and Kirti Rinpoche (the exiled abbot of Kirti Monastery).
The offering was for a “prayer for a deceased soul”, a donation in memoriam, which means it was likely a small sum and not the movement of large funds. In occupied Tibet, Chinese authorities take action against Tibetans who make any contact with exiled leaders, enforcing checks of people’s mobile phones.
This follows the news of Rachung Gendun’s imprisonment, a fellow monk at Kirti Monastery who was arrested just days before Sonam Gyatso on the same charge. Kirti monks have a strong legacy of defending Tibetan freedom and have been subject to aggressive state surveillance. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) began the mass detention of monks from Kirti Monastery in October 2021.
Sonam Gyatso was arrested by Chinese police on 3 April 2021 during a visit to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province. He spent one year in interrogative detention before being imprisoned in Mianyang Prison, near Chengdu. His sister Tsering Lhamo was also detained in 2021, but her charge and whereabouts remain unknown.
Sonam Gyatso was enrolled at Kirti Monastery, Ngawa Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, where he received his Geshe degree (monastic doctorate). He previously served as abbot at Kirti Monastery and was a member of its religious management committee.
The criminalisation of online donations is part of the CCP’s control of Tibetan Buddhism on the Internet, part of a wider program against freedom of religious expression.
Information supplied by Tibet Watch