Two monks of Drepung Monastery who were sentenced to more than 15 years in 1989 for their political activities have now received a reduction in their sentences, according to the London-based Tibet Information Network (TIN).

In a report on August 4, 2003, TIN said Jamphel Jangchup, received a three-year reduction while Ngawang Woesel (alternatively spelt Ngawang Oezer) has received a two-year reduction. They were both sentenced in 1989 and imprisoned in Drapchi for being part of a pro-Tibet underground movement. Jangchup was sentenced to 19 years while Woesel was sentenced to 17 years.

TIN said Chinese officials gave this information on the reduction of sentence to the San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation.

According to TIN, “The two were part of the “Group of Ten”, an alliance of Drepung monks formed in 1988. They used carved wooden blocks to print copies of teachings by the Dalai Lama, a constitution proposed for a future, democratic Tibet, and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

In April 1989, Chinese police detained five monks they suspected of being the group’s organizers, including Jamphel Jangchup and Ngawang Woesel. The rest were detained in July 1989. A closed trial took place on November 30, 1989 and sentencing followed a few days later. The five leaders received sentences of 17-19 years; the other sentences ranged from five to nine years. A Xinhua article released the same month as the sentencing accused the men of establishing a “counterrevolutionary clique,” “spreading counterrevolutionary propaganda,” “inflammatory agitation,” and “seriously undermining national security.”

TIN’s report is not clear on the reasons for the reduced sentences on Jangchup and Woesel. Sentence reductions for good behavior are the norm for prisoners in China but political prisoners are treated more harshly and infrequently receive reductions. According to TIN’s political prisoner database, only eight Tibetan political prisoners held at Drapchi after 1987 are known to have received a sentence reduction. In contrast, sentence extensions for Drapchi’s political prisoners have been commonplace. TIN records show that nearly 60 Drapchi prisoners are confirmed or believed to have received a sentence extension for political activity carried out inside the prison. Nearly 20 of them remain imprisoned. None of the “Group of Ten” is known to have received a sentence extension.