UN forces China to respond on Jailed Singers

10th July 2014

Intervention follows Free Tibet’s submission to human rights body

  Earlier this year, the United Nations sent China a “joint urgent appeal”, demanding that it account for the fates of Tibet’s jailed musicians. Their communication followed a letter sent by Free Tibet to the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights, one of the UN’s top human rights officials.   In response, China has had to confirm that the musicians have been jailed for “separatist” activities because China believed their songs challenged its rule.  

China’s human rights abuses

  The appeal was sent jointly by UN offices covering areas such as freedom of expression, cultural rights, arbitrary detention and minority rights. Originally sent in February, the UN has only just made the letter and response public.   The letter named eight musicians featured in our letter and campaign - Gongpo Tsezin, Trinley Tsekar, Kalsang Yarphel, Lolo, Pema Trinley, Chakdor, Shawo Tashi and Achok Phulshung - plus two other musicians - Khenrap and Nyagdompo - whose detention had been reported but not confirmed.   The UN was also contacted by other organisations, including the arts freedom organisation Freemuse, with whom we have worked closely, and the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy.  

Musicians disappeared

  While China did report on six cases, it claimed that there was “a lack of reliable information” about Kalsang Yarphel and “Achok” and its answer made no reference to Khenrap and Nyagdompo.   The UN did not name Choksal in its communication and Free Tibet is looking into that omission.  

Musicians released

  In the case of Gongpo Tsezin, whose whereabouts were previously unknown, China revealed that he had been released on bail because of “several illnesses he suffers”.  The UN’s taking up of his case may have contributed to his release. Recently, another singer, Gebe (or Gaybay), whose case we had highlighted after he was arrested in May, was released within a month.   China  is now aware of the international spotlight falling on these cases, which we know can have a positive effect on prisoners’ treatment and sentences.  

Take action

  Free Tibet will follow up these cases with the UN. Help us maintain pressure on China. Sign our petition to China’s justice minister, demanding the release of Tibet’s jailed musicians.