02/08/2006, 00.00
CHINA
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Tibetan monks jailed for advocating Tibet's independence

Three nuns and two monks are sent to jail for posting a letter that advocates Tibet's independence and the cancellation of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Prison terms vary from 18 months to 3 years.

Lanzhou (AsiaNews/Kyodo) – A Chinese court sentenced three Tibetan Buddhist nuns and two monks to prison for distributing and posting a letter that advocated Tibet's independence and the cancellation of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, this according to the Free Tibet Campaign, a London-based group that monitors the human rights situation in this region of China.

The intermediate court in Gansu Province in western China sentenced two of the nuns, Tadrin Tsomo and Choekyi Drolma, and one monk, Dargye Gyatso, to three years' imprisonment. The third nun, Yonten Drolma, and the second monk, Jamyang Samdrub, received 18-month terms.

Gansu police arrested them on May 22 last year for their alleged role in distributing and posting a one-page "protest letter" at Labrang Monastery, the market in Labrang County and possibly in neighbouring areas. The letter was posted days before their arrest.

The letter called for the independence of the Tibet Autonomous Region from China and said China should not host the 2008 Olympics until the Tibet question is "peacefully resolved," according to the statement.

A Free Tibet Campaign representative said Tibet activists seldom mention the Beijing Olympics, which will be the first for China.

The five people came from the same county in neighbouring Qinghai Province. The monks were living at Labrang Monastery in Gansu Province, and the nuns lived in the Gendun Tengye Ling Nunnery, which is about a half-hour's drive away.

"The new testimonies confirm our fears of a growing repression in Gansu Province," said Yael Weisz-Rind of the Free Tibet Campaign. "The picture portrayed is of a renewed effort by China to crack down on freedom of religion and freedom of expression across Tibet, target monks and nuns and intensify its 'patriotic education campaign' in monasteries."

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