gathered to push for the release of popular Tibetan lama

A huge crowd of Tibetans gathered to push for the release of popular Tibetan lama Khenpo Kartse at a prayer festival in Nangchen, Kham.

Tibetan sources have reported that popular religious teacher Khenpo Kartse, who has been held in detention since December 2013, has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison. Radio Free Asia cited a Tibetan source as saying that his trial was held two to three months ago at a court in Chamdo (Chinese: Changdu), in the Tibet Autonomous Region. An image of Khenpo Kartse (Khenpo means abbot and Kartse is the shortened form of his name, Karma Tsewang) in a blue prison shirt over a jacket and in handcuffs, thought to be taken just after his detention, has circulated on Chinese social media (Radio Free Asia, October 17, 2014).[1] Khenpo Kartse’s Chinese lawyer has not been allowed access to him for some time.

Khenpo Kartse’s detention caused widespread distress, with hundreds of Tibetans gathering peacefully to protest his arrest at a prayer ceremony, and a rare silent vigil on his behalf outside a prison earlier this year. In a further demonstration of the strength of local feeling about the lama’s arrest, officials from his home area of Nangchen travelled to Chamdo (Chinese: Changdu) where the Khenpo is being held, to express their concerns about the innocence of Khenpo Kartse, but to no avail, according to Tibetan sources in exile in contact with people in the region.[2]

Full details of his sentencing and charges against him are not known; the news that he will serve two and a half years in prison emerged from two Tibetan sources in contact with others in the region. One of the sources said that it was believed that Khenpo Kartse would be transferred from Chamdo to Powo Tramo prison east of Lhasa in remote Pome County, Nyingtri (Chinese: Linzhi) Prefecture,Tibet Autonomous Region.

Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet, said: “The unjust and unjustified conviction of a highly respected Tibetan abbot by the Chinese Government should be denounced by international institutions and national governments. Keeping silent on clear violation of human rights and the rule of law committed against a beloved leader of a Tibetan community, such as Khenpo Kartse, would only encourage Beijing hardliners. Democratic governments need to acknowledge and, most importantly, act to avoid the rise of China on the international stage continuing at the expenses of the basic rights of its citizens.”

Karma Tsewang is a highly-educated and respected abbot (Khenpo) at the Gongya Monastery in Nangchen, Yulshul (Yushu) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, in Qinghai Province. He is believed to be unwell with a liver condition and has not been allowed access to the doctor who has been treating him for some time with his medical condition. His relatives have also been denied access to him.

Khenpo Kartse’s Chinese lawyer Tang Tianhao traveled several times to Chamdo and was only allowed to meet with him twice, for a short time, according to the same Radio Free Asia report and other sources. Tang Tianhao was later compelled to withdraw from the case due to pressure from the authorities. Following his initial detention on December 6, 2013, the lawyer was told by Chamdo police that the case involves endangering state security, according to Beijing-based Tibetan writer Tsering Woeser.

According to the Radio Free Asia report, Khenpo Kartse “was later specifically accused of harboring a fugitive monk — linked to a bombing incident — from Chamdo’s Karma monastery at his own Japa monastery in Nangchen county.” (Radio Free Asia, October 17, 2014). It was on this amended charge that he was convicted and sentenced, the same source said. His lawyer had rejected the charge as “not compatible with reality.”

Khenpo Kartse, who is known for his environmental activism, disaster relief work, and commitment to the preservation of Tibetan language, wrote a letter from prison on December 27, 2013, appealing to his supporters that no one should suffer for his sake.[3]


[2] ICT report, February 10, 2014,

[3] ICT report, January 17, 2014