Two Chinese lawyers have been prevented from representing a respected Tibetan scholar monk known as Labrang Jigme, who was imprisoned for the fourth time on August 20 last year. Friends of Jigme Guri (also known as Jigme Gyatso) are concerned about his health in custody as he is believed to be ill and not receiving medical treatment.

Jigme Guri, a monk at Labrang monastery in Amdo, is known for recording a video testimony about his brutal treatment in custody and his views about Chinese policy, which was circulated on Youtube with English subtitles. Tibetan writer Woeser writes: “Because of this , Tibetan people everywhere recognized him as a hero of their people, naming him ‘Labrang Jigme’.”

Jigme Guri, who is in his mid-forties, was detained when he was in Tso (Chinese: Hezuo) city, Kanlho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu province last August, and the reasons for this detention – his fourth – are not known. According to an article by Woeser for Radio Free Asia and other Tibetan sources, two Chinese lawyers appointed recently by Jigme Guri’s family travelled to Tsoe, the prefectural seat, to take up the case. But when they arrived, the court informed them that Jigme’s Guri’s crime was “‘Suspicion of instigating anti-nationalist separatism’” and that the hearings had already taken place six months previously, handled by two local attorneys.

Woeser said that the lawyers were told that Jigme had been sentenced immediately after the hearing, writing: “Aside from that, Lama Jigme’s health has deteriorated and a doctor in Lanzhou has begun his treatment. Since the two outside lawyers were prevented by authorities from intervening in Jigme’s case, they were forced to go back to Beijing.” (Article for Radio Free Asia, posted on August 3, translated from Chinese into English by ICT). Radio Free Asia named the Chinese rights lawyers as Wang Yajun from the Beijing Gehang law firm and Zhang Kai from the Yijia law firm (RFA report, Lawyers Rejected for Ailing Monk – August 2).

A family friend living outside China told RFA: “Lama Jigme said that authorities told him he could have a lawyer, but that they should come from local law firms, and that lawyers from outside the province would not be allowed. He has said that he is not guilty of any crime, that everything he has done has been for the well-being of the Tibetan people, and that this is not against Chinese law.”

There are serious fears for Labrang Jigme’s welfare because of the security crackdown in the area, his three previous detentions within the last six years, and his public profile. Labrang Jigme (also known with the honorific ‘Akhu’ Jigme and Lama Jigme, and in Chinese as Jiumei Jiangcuo, 久美江措 or Jigme Guri,久美果日) is a respected intellectual who is the only known Tibetan to record on video in Tibet an account of his own imprisonment and views on Chinese policies against the Dalai Lama in which he gave his full identity. He has gained tremendous popularity among Tibetans particularly for his writings and determination to bear witness. After his fourth detention, police raided his monk’s cell at Labrang and seized his computer, mobile phone, and CDs.

He has only been allowed one family visit since his detention a year ago, and Woeser reports that he told his brother: “All peoples protect their cultural traditions proudly and fiercely and the Chinese are no exception. If someone doesn’t feel a sense of pride for their people’s culture, then this implies this person has already lost a sense of self. I am a person who deeply reveres Tibetan traditions, thus I am wholeheartedly determined to maintain them.” (RFA).

In her blogpost, Woeser writes: “He has paid dearly to be a hero. Though, as a hero, he went into this with clear knowledge of the consequences.”

Jigme Guri was arrested for the first time upon his return to Tibet in April 2006 after he attended teachings by the Dalai Lama in India; he was detained for 40 days, released and returned to Labrang monastery.

His second period in detention began on March 22, 2008, following protests at Labrang monastery on March 14 and 15, 2008. Although Labrang Jigme did not take part in the protests, the authorities suspected him of being a ring-leader. He was detained and tortured for over a month, ending up in hospital.

In his video about this experience, Labrang Jigme talks to the camera for 22 minutes, giving a calm and clear account of his detention and interrogation and his views on broader Chinese policies and state hostility towards the Dalai Lama.

In his video he states: “I, as a witness to truth, am telling through the media the story of Tibetans killed, who have suffered torture in prisons, and about the countless people who have been forced to flee to the mountains and who are too afraid to return to their own homes, so that the media can truthfully report on these situations.”