A listing of the top news developments in and around Tibet during the previous week.

A Tibetan monk’s offering for Tibet’s future

Tsultrim Gyatso

Tsultrim Gyatso, a Buddhist monk, died after self-immolating on December 19, 2013.

Before the close of 2013, the 125th Tibetan to self-immolate in the PRC, a monk named Tsultrim Gyatso, set fire to himself and died in Amchok township in the northeastern Tibetan area of Amdo. Prior to his December 19 protest, Tsultrim Gyatso penned a handwritten note describing his self-immolation as an “offering” for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet, the release of the 11th Panchen Lama, and “for the welfare of the six million Tibetans.” Tsultrim Gyatso is the eighth Tibetan from the twin townships of Amchok and Bora to self-immolate since October 20, 2012.

Observing that the global community has yet to fully confront and address what is taking place in Tibet, Tsultrim Gyatso poignantly asks in the opening of his letter, “To whom should the sufferings of the six million Tibetans be conveyed?” This reflection was similarly echoed in a year-end commentary by the New Yorker magazine’s long-time China watcher, Evan Osnos, who noted that, “The growing unrest on China’s western frontier [i.e., Tibet and the neighboring Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region] is the biggest story that nobody really knows.”

Latest Tibetan targeted in collective punishment campaign

Gedun Gyatso

Buddhist monk Gedun Gyatso was sentenced to six years imprisonment on December 10, 2013.

Since the emergence of self-immolation as a form of Tibetan political protest, authorities announced that any Tibetan accused of a crime in relation to a self-immolation will be subject to charges of “intentional homicide.” In the latest such case, news has emerged that a on December 10, 2013, a monk named Gedun Gyatso, who had been detained without trial for a year, was sentenced to six years imprisonment on charges of “intentional homicide.” Authorities accused Gedun Gyatso of impeding rescue efforts in relation to the December 2, 2012, self-immolation of Sungdue Kyab.

Fatal consequences result from unchecked power

Ngawang Jampel and Choekyap

(Right) Choekyap, sentenced to 13 years imprisonment in connection with a May, 2013 environmental protest.
(Left) Ngawang Jampel, a respected Buddhist scholar and monk, died while in police custody on December 10, 2013.

A Tibetan monk named Ngawang Jampel (who has also been referred to as Ngawang Jamyang), a respected Buddhist scholar from Tarmoe monastery, died while in police detention on December 17, 2013. It is believed he was beaten to death during interrogation. Jampel and two other monks had been detained while travelling in Lhasa on November 23, the same day a security raid was carried out on their monastery, located northeast of the Tibetan capital in Driru county, Nagchu prefecture. Authorities have subsequently shutdown Tarmoe monstery, along with two other monasteries in Driru county.

Only days after Ngawang Jampel’s death, a court in Driru sentenced three young Tibetans, including a popular singer, to prison terms ranging from 3 to 13 years on charges related to “separatist activities.” The three were targeted for allegedly organizing a large-scale mining protest that took place in Driru towards the end of May 2013.

Tibetans respond with non-violence after authorities target senior religious leader

Khenpo Kartse was detained on December 21, 2013. (Photo: Tsering Woeser)

Khenpo Kartse was detained on December 21, 2013. (Photo: Tsering Woeser)

Tibetans in the Yushu area of Qinghai province rallied in late December for the release of a senior religious figure, Khenpo Kartse, who was detained earlier in the month by authorities while he was travelling in the city of Chengdu, in neighboring Sichuan province. Sixteen Tibetans were later detained on December 21 in connection with the protest. According to Radio Free Asia, Khenpo Kartse was accused of carrying out “anti-state” activities in Karma township, Chamdo prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region. Authorities in Karma township recently detained eight Tibetans who were organizing a grassroots literacy campaign that officials now say was illegal, however is not clear whether these cases are connected.

Dalai Lama honors Tibetan non-violence in New Year’s message

The Dalai Lama welcomed the year 2014 at a Tibetan monastery in south India, where he called on people the world over to “make a determination to be a more sincere, compassionate, warm-hearted and non-violent human being trying to make our world a more equal place. That way we can actually make it a happy year.” During his message, the Tibetan spiritual leader praised non-violence and encouraged prayers “for all those imprisoned in Tibet, for those who have passed away in prison and those suffering as a result of their imprisonment. There have also been many cases of self-immolation inside and outside Tibet, let’s pray for those who have had the courage to give up their lives in a way that was non-violent, inasmuch as they have avoided doing anyone else any harm by their action.” (A partial video of the Dalai Lama’s message can be seen here).