Tibetan sentenced to “murder” after self-immolation protest is released from prison

26th July 2016

Gurgon was imprisoned following a self-immolation protest in 2013. Two other Tibetans arrested after the protest remain in prison.

A Tibetan political prisoner who was accused of murder following the death of a self-immolator has been released. On 21 July, Gurgon was released from Mianyang Prison near Chengdu in China’s Sichuan Province after completing his four-year prison sentence.

Gurgon, a resident of Kyungchu County in Ngaba, eastern Tibet, was one of three people arrested on 22 January 2013, four days after Drupchok (also spelled Dupchoek in some reports) set himself on fire at a basketball court in Kyungchu‘s Drachen Township.

Drupchok carried out his self-immolation in protest against China’s occupation of Tibet. When Chinese police attempted to put out the flames with a fire extinguisher, several Tibetans at the scene attempted to stop them. Drupchok died at the scene of his protest.

"Intentional homicide"

In the days following Drupchok’s protest and death, local authorities issued an order to arrest Gurgon and two other Tibetans, Norbu Dorjee and Sonam Yarphel. The three were held at the detention centre in Kyungchu County and interrogated. They were also told that they would face a less serious charge if they confessed to their involvement in Drupchok’s death.

In July 2013 the people's court of Kyungchu County summoned two family members of each of the three detainees to the court, where it announced that the three had all been found guilty of murder. Gurgon and Sonam Yarphel were sentenced to four years in prison while Norbu Dorjee received a five-year sentence.

Tibetans can be charged with “intentional homicide” for their involvement in self-immolations following a ruling by China’s Supreme Court in December 2012. This charge applies to those that have carried out or planned to carry out a self-immolation protest, or to those that have participated in “abetting or assisting” others in carrying out a self-immolation.

After his release from prison, Gurgon was returned home, where he was welcomed by locals and family members. Sonam Yarphel and Norbu Dorjee remain in prison.

Take action

Under Chinese rule Tibetans risk arrest for acts as small as flying a Tibetan flag or 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.