China jails Tibetans for songs exhorting ethnic identity

Tibetan singer Kalsang Yarphel in an undated photo.
Tibetan singer Kalsang Yarphel in an undated photo.

(, Dec01, 2014) – China has jailed four Tibetans, including a singer and his producer, on Nov 27 for songs urging fellow-Tibetans to speak their own language and maintain ethnic unity, reported Radio Free Asia (Washington) Nov 30. The singer, Kalsang Yarphel, 39, was jailed for four years by a court in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province. Other reports said his producer Pema Rinzin got two years while the sentence, if any, against two other Tibetan associates remain unknown.

Yarphel, a father of three grown up children, is a resident of Mukhag Tara in Machu (Chinese: Maqu) County in Gansu province. He was held in Tibet’s capital Lhasa on Jul 14, 2013 after he had helped to organize concerts over Oct-Nov 2012 under the theme of Khawai Metok (Snow Flowers) during which he sang a song called ‘Fellow Tibetans’. Other songs he sang included ‘We Should Learn Tibetan’ and ‘We Should Unite’. The authorities considered the songs subversive because they called on Tibetans to learn and speak their own language and to ‘build courage’ to think about Tibet’s ‘future path’.

Dharamshala-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy has said the authorities had banned the sale of DVD recordings of the Khawai Metok concerts. However, copies were already widely distributed in Tibetan-populated areas of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces.

It was not clear why he was tried and sentenced in Sichuan’s capital Chengdu after being held and detained in Lhasa.

Said to be popular since childhood for his beautiful singing voice, Yarphel had distributed many recordings and performed at concerts held by government as well as private bodies.


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