Tibetan writers imprisoned in China

New York, October 31, 2011–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the imprisonment of two Tibetan writers, one of whom was sentenced after a year of detention without trial, according to reports.

A court in Aba prefecture, Sichuan province, has sentenced Tibetan writer and editor Jolep Dawa to three years in prison on undisclosed charges, according to U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia and the India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy. He was detained on October 1, 2010, and held for over a year before trial, the reports said. The exact date of the sentencing was not reported. Jolep Dawa, who is also a teacher, edited a monthly Tibetan-language magazine, Durab Kyi Nga, according to the broadcaster and the rights group.

In a separate case, security officials detained writer Choepa Lugyal, who wrote under the name Meycheh, at his home in Gansu province on October 19, according to Beijing-based Tibetan blogger Woeser and the Tibetan Centre. Woeser, who goes by one name, is a respected commentator on Tibetan affairs who has also been subject to harassment for reporting on the region. Choepa Lugyal worked for a publishing house in Gansu, and has written several articles in print and online, including for the now-banned Tibetan magazine Shar Dungri, according to the Center.

News from the Tibetan Autonomous Region is heavily controlled and information about detentions and trials can take months to emerge.

“The detention of Jolep Dawa and Choepa Lugyal is deeply disturbing, as is the lack of transparency in their cases,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia program coordinator. “Chinese authorities have imprisoned over a dozen ethnic minority journalists over the past three years, with many trials taking place behind closed doors.”

Shar Dungri was published in the aftermath of 2008 ethnic unrest between Tibetans and Han Chinese. Its editor, Tashi Rabten, was sentenced to four years in prison on unknown charges in July after being held for over a year. Three of the magazine’s freelancers, Buddha, Jangtse Donkho, and Kalsang Jinpa, were sentenced on separatism charges to four years, four years and three years’ imprisonment, respectively, on December 30, 2010, according to Radio Free Asia. CPJ has not been able to independently confirm those sentences.

A pattern of ethnic minority journalists imprisoned since 2008 emerged in CPJ’s imprisoned census in 2009 and 2010. Several journalists were also imprisoned from the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, the site of ethnic clashes in 2009. Uighur website manager Tursunjan Hezim was sentenced to seven years in prison on unknown charges in March, after discussing the unrest online.