Lodoe Gyatso had already spent more than 20 years in prison and been tortured before his arrest in May this year; Monk Lobsang Tenzin has also been released from prison
A former Tibetan prisoner who was rearrested earlier this year in Lhasa was released last week.
Lodoe Gyatso (also known as Sogkhar Lodoe Gyatso), a Tibetan from Sog County in central Tibet, served more than 20 years in prison before his release in 2013. During this time he was tortured. In May 2016 he was rearrested in Lhasa with no explanation, but on 19 July was allowed to go free.
Tortured and threatened with death
Lodoe Gyatso, now 55, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 1993 after killing a man in a fight. While serving his sentence in Drapchi Prison in Lhasa, he carried out a pro-independence demonstration, during which he shouted slogans including “Tibet is independent”, “China should leave Tibet”, “Long live His Holiness the Dalai Lama” and “The six million Tibetans are united”. He also distributed handwritten leaflets to other prisoners.
In response, prison authorities called on the Tibet Autonomous Region Intermediate Court to sentence him to death. However, news of Lodoe Gyatso’s possible execution was smuggled out of the prison and Tibet to the outside world. The United Nations and international rights groups raised Lodoe Gyatso’s case with the Chinese government, which instead had his sentence extended to 21 years in prison.
Lodoe Gyatso was severely tortured in the month following his demonstration. He was hung up by his thumbs and kept in such a small cell that he couldn't even raise his head. When he was finally released in 2013 he was in poor health.
Released and re-released
Following his release, Lodoe Gyatso was put under tight supervision. He was reportedly planning to hold a peaceful protest in Lhasa calling for the Dalai Lama to be allowed to return to Tibet, and for global demilitarisation, specifically in Tibet so that the country could become a “peace zone”.
On 14 May 2016 he was rearrested in Lhasa. His family members were unaware of the reasons behind the arrest and his whereabouts until 19 July, when he was released from Tsamda Prison in Driru County, central Tibet. Lodoe Gyatso is now in weak health.
Monk released after three years in prison
On the following day, 20 July, there was another release as Lobsang Tenzin, a monk from the Soktsang monastery of Tangkhor Township in Dzoege County, eastern Tibet, was freed from prison.
Lobsang Tenzin was arrested in 2013 and charged with assisting in the self-immolation protest of Kunchok Sonam, an 18-year-old who set himself on fire in Dzoege on 20 July 2013 while calling for Tibetan freedom. He was arrested alongside two other monks, Sangye Palden and Lobsang Yonten. The three were interrogated at Dzoege County jail and, following their trial, sent to Mianyang Prison, just outside Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan Province. Sangye Palden and Lobsang Yonten are still in Mianyang Prison, serving sentences of five and three years respectively.
Following his release, Lobsang Tenzin reached his hometown on 23 July, 2016. There he was received by a welcome committee consisting of his family, friends and other local supporters.
Under Chinese rule Tibetans risk arrest and harsh sentences for a range of crimes, including being at the scene of self-immolation protests and calling for the Dalai Lama's long life or return to Tibet. Many of those in detention or prison are political prisoners who have stood up to the occupation. Join in with Free Tibet's Robed Resisters campaign to show solidarity with Tibetan political prisoners.