Prison authorities in northwestern China’s Qinghai province this week released two Tibetan men jailed three years ago for land-rights activism, with the move following the release earlier this year of four others jailed on the same charge, Tibetan sources said.
Tashi Tsering and Drukbum Tsering, both residents of Horgyal village in Qinghai’s Rebgong (Chinese, Tongren) county, were freed on July 1, a month after completing their sentence, a Tibetan living in exile told RFA, citing sources in Rebgong.
“The Chinese authorities took them straight to their homes following their release, and local Tibetans were forbidden from making any displays welcoming them on their return,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
“No details are available yet regarding the condition of their health, and even though they have been released from prison, the authorities are continuing to monitor their movements, making their lives difficult by keeping them under surveillance,” the source added.
The two men had been confined in a large prison built a few years ago in Rebgong, and family and friends had been barred from visiting them while they were held in custody, he said.
In April 2019, Tashi Tsering, Drukbum Tsering and seven other activists were handed prison terms of from three to seven years each by the Tongren County People’s Court for running an “illegal organization” claiming land rights for Tibetans.
Authorities had additionally accused the men of usurping the duties of already established village committees, “extortion,” and “gathering people to disturb social order,” RFA said in an earlier report, citing information provided by the Dharamsala, India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy.
One of the four group members freed earlier in April this year, land-rights activist Sonam Gyal is in poor health following his release, RFA’s source said. “And we still don’t know the names of the others who were freed with him, owing to tight restrictions on information imposed by the Chinese government.”
Chinese development projects in Tibetan areas have led to frequent standoffs with Tibetans who accuse Chinese firms and local officials of improperly seizing land and disrupting the lives of local people. Many result in violent suppression, the detention of protest organizers, and intense pressure on the local population to comply with the government’s wishes.