Kunchok Tsephel Gopey Tsang

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Tibetan writer Kunchok Tsephel Gopey Tsang is serving a sentence of 15 years on charges of leaking state secrets. Police arrested Tsang, who ran a website on Tibetan cultural issues, in February 2009, amid a wave of arrests of Tibetan intellectuals and writers.

Public security officials arrested Tsang on February 29, 2009, in Gannan, a Tibetan autonomous prefecture in the south of Gansu province, according to Tibetan rights groups. Tsang ran the Tibetan cultural issues website Chomei, according to the India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy. Kate Saunders, U.K. communications director for the International Campaign for Tibet, told CPJ that she learned of his arrest from two sources.

The detention appeared to be part of a wave of arrests of writers and intellectuals in advance of the 50th anniversary of the March 1959 uprising preceding the Dalai Lama’s departure from Tibet. The 2008 anniversary had provoked ethnic rioting in Tibetan areas, and international reporters were barred from the region.

In November 2009, a Gannan court sentenced Tsang to 15 years in prison for disclosing state secrets, according to The Associated Press.

Tsang’s family is allowed to visit him in prison every two months, and is permitted to speak with him only in Chinese via an intercom and separated by glass screen. Not being allowed to converse in Tibetan is difficult for many of his family members, PEN International said.

As of September 2018, Tsang was being held at Dingxi Prison in Gansu province, according to the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy. The center told CPJ in September 2018 that Tsang’s health was failing, and said he suffered from pain in his legs and hips, but his family was not allowed to provide him traditional Tibetan medicine. The center did not respond to CPJ’s inquiries on Tsang’s case in late 2020.

CPJ called the Gannan Public Security Bureau for comment in late 2020 but the phone number was not in service.