(TibetanReview.net, Feb09’22) – China’s recent jailing of a prominent scholar-monk in Tibet for 10-years tantamounted to a death sentence and he should be released forthwith unconditionally, given his innocence and worsening health condition, said New York-based Human Rights Watch Feb 9. The monk, Go Sherab Gyatso, 45, was on a routine medical checkup in hospital when he was seized in Oct 2020.
“Once again the Chinese government’s wrongful imprisonment of a Tibetan risks becoming a death sentence,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “Go Sherab Gyatso should be immediately released and given comprehensive medical care.”
The group cited close associates living outside Tibet as saying Go Sherab Gyatso’s health had recently worsened. It said he was suffering from a chronic lung condition, and was likely not receiving adequate medical care in prison.
Earlier, responding to an Aug 2021 inquiry from three United Nations human rights experts, China said its Ministry of State Security agents had detained Go Sherab Gyatso on Oct 26, 2020, in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province. He was later transferred to Tibet’s capital Lhasa, where on Feb 3, 2021 he was formally charged with “inciting secession.”
The government statement then said he was later tried but did not mention its date or outcome. But Tibetan sources outside the country said they had learnt that he had been jailed for 10 years and was lodged in Chushul Prison, located 20 kilometers southwest of Lhasa, with no visitors being allowed to see him.
The monk-scholar had previously been detained on at least three occasions. He contracted a chronic lung condition while serving a three-year sentence for undisclosed reasons from Nov 1998 to Nov 2001. He was on a routine visit to Chengdu for treatment of his medical condition in Oct 2020 when China’s State Security agents seized him in the run up to his current situation, the report said.
The group said that while the monk’s reported health condition could not be independently verified, it was seriously concerned that there had been a number of cases in which Chinese authorities had allowed people in Tibet and across China who were arbitrarily detained on politically motivated charges to die in custody by denying them appropriate medical care.
The group said Chinese authorities had not publicly produced evidence to substantiate the secession charge against Go Sherab Gyatso. However, it noted that this typically referred to support for Tibetan independence. But the group said it found no indication of such support in his writings and speeches, or in statements from those familiar with his life and work.
The group also said the monk was tried in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), where he was not known to have committed any crime, even though he lived in a Tibetan area of Sichuan and was detained in that province. He had studied at Sera monastery in Lhasa from 2002 to 2008, but had no other known connection to the TAR, it added.
The group cited Go Sherab Gyatso as a leading advocate of a modernized, liberal approach to religious education and belief in Tibet. He is the author of at least nine books, the most recent of which consists of transcripts of his lectures at religious studies events on theological and monastic issues, it noted.
The group noted that Go Sherab Gyatso’s political views had appeared in a book published in 2011, Basic Knowledge and the Path (rgyun shes dang lam), which included Tibetan translations of three essays by Liu Junning, a prominent political scientist in Beijing. The essays are said to support applying principles of democracy and human rights in the Chinese context. It said Liu had never been charged with any crime and continued to hold a position at an official institute, making it unlikely that these translations led to Go Sherab Gyatso’s 2020 arrest.