Eight Tibetans jailed over protests in China

BEIJING: A group of Tibetan Buddhist monks and lay people have been sentenced to up to seven years in prison over a March attack on a police station in western China, a Tibetan human rights monitoring group said.

The eight were sentenced on Thursday by a court in Qinghai province’s Machen county, according to a report received today from the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, a group based in the Indian town of Dharamsala that is home to the self-declared Tibetan government in exile.

It said the group had been found guilty of inciting the attack, but didn’t say when the trial took place.

Scores of area residents reportedly took part in the violence, although the amount of damage and total number of arrests remain unclear. Local officials have refused to release information about the incident and a court clerk reached by telephone today said she had no knowledge about the case. She declined to give her name or other information.

Machen, in Golog prefecture, is a remote, traditionally Tibetan region about 1,200 km west of Beijing.

According to March reports, the violence was prompted by the suicide of a Buddhist monk who jumped into the nearby Yellow River to escape police interrogation. The monk, identified in the reports as Tashi Sangpo, had allegedly unfurled a Tibetan flag on the roof of his monastery on March 10, the anniversary of the start

of the failed 1959 Tibetan

revolt against Chinese

rule, and distributed pamphlets urging protests against Chinese rule.

The violence was an echo of rioting and mass protests that broke out across Tibetan-populated regions of China in March 2008 - the largest anti-government uprising among Tibetans in decades. Chinese authorities responded to the protests with a mass crackdown, closing off Tibetan areas for months and flooding them with security forces.

Those sentenced last week included six Tibetan Buddhist monks and two lay people. The harshest sentence of seven years was given to Palden Gyatso, a senior monk at the local Ragya Monastery.