The International Campaign for Tibet welcomes the release of Tibetan nun and political prisoner, Ngawang Choezom, from Drapchi prison but stresses the need for systemic change in the way Chinese authorities deal with Tibetan prisoners.

Ngawang Choezom, who was one of 14 nuns whose sentences were extended for making a tape recording of songs in prison, was released on June 21, nine months before her sentence was due to end. Her release was confirmed by Chinese authorities but no official explanation was given.

Ngawang Choezom is one of several high-profile Tibetan political prisoners who have recently been released before the end of their sentences, including Ngawang Choephel and Takna Jigme Sangpo.

“While we welcome the release of individual prisoners such as Ngawang Choezom, we have consistently maintained that if China keeps arresting Tibetans to be used as diplomatic bargaining chips or to further its public relations strategy on Tibet, the cycle of human misery in Tibet will remain unchanged,” said Bhuchung Tsering, Director of the International Campaign For Tibet.

“Ngawang Choezom represents a whole category of political prisoners who never should have been imprisoned in the first place, whose sentences never should have been extended, and many of whom still remain in prison,” said Tsering.

The recent series of releases of high-profile political prisoners suggests that the Chinese government is being responsive to international appeals on behalf of these prisoners, especially corresponding to several high level diplomatic delegations that are visiting the Tibetan Autonomous Region in the near future.

“If the Chinese government is serious about trying to convince the world that the situation in Tibet is getting better, it needs to engage in positive, systematic change in the way that it treats Tibetans – not just reduce the sentences of a few political prisoners,” said Tsering.

Ngawang Choezom was one of the nuns singled out for particularly harsh punishment after 1998 protests in Drapchi prison, according to the Tibet Information Network (TIN).

Her release follows news earlier this year of the release of three of the other “singing nuns of Drapchi prison,” Gyaltsen Drolkar, Ngawang Choekyi and Tenzin Thubten.