Tibetan writer jailed for four years

Mar 18, 2023

A Tibetan writer arrested by Chinese police nearly three years ago has been confirmed to be serving four years in prison for “splittism and spreading rumours in internet chat groups,” reports Lobe Socktsang for Radio Free Asia.

Zangkar Jamyang, now 45, disappeared on the night of June 4, 2020, when authorities in Kyungchu county of Ngaba, a Tibetan region in the south-western Chinese province of Sichuan, hauled him away without a trace.

For a very long time, his family had no clue about his whereabouts, or even that he had been arrested, said a Tibetan from inside the region.

Eventually, they discovered he was arrested and charged with “inciting ‘separatist’ acts and participating in online discussions on various subjects.”

He is being held in Menyang Prison, and his family members and relatives are not allowed to see him, he added, referring to the detention centre near the city of Chengdu in Sichuan province.

Chinese authorities frequently detain Tibetan writers and artists who promote Tibetan national identity and culture, with many sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

At times, Tibetans have resisted Chinese efforts to suppress their language and culture by staging large-scale protests, which are usually put down by force.

Jamyang, who is fluent in both Tibetan and Chinese, wrote a book and contributed to Tibetan literary magazines, including Dang Char. 

Early in 2020, Jamyang became vocal about the importance of teaching the Tibetan language. He criticised the Chinese government when officials began implementing policies to drop the teaching of the region’s native language in schools.

Jamyang, who is married and has two children, encouraged Tibetans to denounce the Chinese government’s efforts to prevent Tibetans from using and teaching their own language. 

Authorities interrogated the writer many times and searched his laptops and mobile phones, said another Tibetan with knowledge of the situation. They also detained him on several occasions.

“Jamyang was actively sharing information about the greatness of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the preservation of the Tibetan language in online chat groups,” said the source, referring to the leader of Tibetan Buddhism.

In 1998, Jamyang left Tibet and learned English while living in Dharamsala in India, the residence of the Dalai Lama and the seat of the Tibetan government in exile.

But in 2002, he returned to Tibet and provided translation services to United Nations organisations and NGOs from the United States. He also worked as a tour guide and translator for visitors to the region.

In 2019, his application for a visa to go to the United States was approved, but he could not travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On June 4, 2020, he suddenly disappeared – and only after a very long time was his family informed of his arrest by the Chinese police, the second source said.

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