A Tibetan monk, Adruk Lopoe, was released Monday August 21st, after spending 10 years in prison.
The nephew of former Tibetan political prisoner Runggye Adak, Adruk Lopoe was arrested in 2007 for protesting against the detention of his uncle. On November 20th 2007, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for separatist activities and leaking state secrets.
Several other Tibetans who took part in the protest along with Adruk Lopoe were also arrested and tried on these charges, including Jamyang Kunkhen, a teacher and musician, and a nomad named Lothok. They were sentenced respectively to nine and three years in prison. Jamyang Kunkhen was released in August 2016. Adruk Lopoe was the last prisoner to be released among those arrested for this protest.
On August 1st 2007, Runggye Adak was arrested and then sentenced to eight years in prison for inciting “separatism”. A few minutes before his arrest, he had called on the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet and the release of the Panchen Lama, Gendun Choekyi Nyima and the late Tenzin Delek Rinpoche. He carried out his protest at the Lithang Horse Racing Festival, in the presence of Chinese authorities and thousands of Tibetans.
Runggye Adak was released on July 2015.
Even though Adruk Lopoe has been released, many other Tibetan political prisoners are still held in Chinese jails. Some of them are held in secret locations, with the Chinese authorities refusing to reveal any information about their location or current health condition and preventing them from contacting their relatives.
A U.S. State Department report released recently shines light on China’s suppression of Tibetan Buddhism, in what it calls ‘’widespread interference’’.
Earlier this month the US State Department published its annual ‘’International Religious Freedom Report’’ which highlighted the problems many Tibetans continue to face while practicing their faith.
The report begins by asserting: “[Chinese] authorities engaged in widespread interference in religious practices, especially in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and nunneries”. Additionally it highlights reports of forced disappearance, physical abuse, prolonged detention without trial and arrests of individuals due to their religious practices.
Travel restrictions and tightened security, often in advance of the Dalai Lama’s birthday, as well as “institutionalized discrimination” are raised as problems which Tibetan’s continue to face.
The State Department also noted developments in Larung Gar, the largest and one of the most significant sites in Tibetan Buddhism, and Yachen Gar where authorities have demolished homes and evicted more than 2,000 monks and nuns.
Free Tibet reported on the situation in Larung Gar in July 2016 when demolitions started a month after authorities announced plans to sharply reduce the population around the monastery.
The State Department also cites reports that authorities forced many monks and nuns evicted from Larung Gar to attend “patriotic” re-education classes for up to six months.
The report also notes the decline of self-immolation protests over the year. According to the State Department such incidents were down to three in addition to three other suicide protests. Although the report goes to raise human rights organisation’s concerns that government intimidation and the enforcement of collective punish for protesters may be projecting a false image of stability.
In the report the US also puts on record its own efforts to pressure Beijing to allow Tibetans to preserve, practice, teach, and develop their religious traditions and language. It also highlighted President Obama’s private meeting with the Dalai Lama in June 2016.