Tibetan protester released early from prison in Machu County

Kunchok Dhondup
Kunchok Dhondup

12th October 2017

Kunchok Dhondup served nine years of a 12-year sentence. He has since returned home to a grand welcome from his local community

A Tibetan protester arrested in 2008 has been released after serving nine years in prison. Kunchok Dhondup had been sentenced to 12 years in prison but walked free on Monday 2 October. It is not known at this point what prompted his early release.

Kunchok Dhondup is from Lower Nurma Village in Machu County in Kanlho, an area of eastern Tibet currently administered as part of China’s Gansu Province. He was arrested during protests in Machu County in 2008.

A severe sentence

He appeared before Kanlho Intermediate People’s Court on 15 June 2008 on the charge of setting local police vehicles on fire. Two other people were tried alongside him, Lhama Kyab (alias Kelbar), who was 20 at the time, and Kheychok, who was 30.

He was sentenced to 12 years in prison, while Kelbar and Kheychok were sentenced to 15 and 13 years in prison respectively.

Although Kunchok Dhondup was 16 years old at the time of his arrest, he was reportedly tried as a 20-year-old after coercion. This is significant because Chinese criminal law bars lengthy prison terms to people between the age of 14 (the age of criminal responsibility) and 18. People between these ages are supposed to receive “mitigated punishment".  

Kunchok Dhondup being welcomed home

Machu County has been the site of frequent protests and self-immolations, with many students participating in protests against Chinese 'patriotic re-education' campaigns throughout the county. Late last year, Tashi Rabten, a father of two, died of his injuries following a self-immolation protest against repressive policies in Machu County. His cousin, Tsering Kyi, a 20 year-old student, died after carrying out a self-immolation protest in the same county in 2012.

News of Kunchok Dhondup’s release from prison was briefly delayed in reaching outside contacts because of added security, including strict communications clampdowns, imposed by Chinese authorities ahead of the 19th Chinese Communist Party National Congress, due to be held on 18 October this year. He nevertheless received a grand welcome at his hometown from family and friends. 

Information supplied by Tibet Watch

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