2 monks in Tibet imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of expression

Dharamsala, August 29: The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) on Monday condemned the sentencing of two monks — Tenzin Dhargay and Rigtse — to prison simply for exercising the right to freedom of expression, a right protected by the Chinese constitution as well as by major international human rights instruments to which the Beijing government is a party.

Dhargay and Rigtse are from Sershul County in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Both had been held incommunicado for almost two years and sentenced on an unknown date in June this year.

Sershul County People’s Court sentenced Dhargay to three years and six months, while Rigtse was sentenced to three years in prison.

Chinese authorities have so far treated the two cases with extreme secrecy and family members have not received details of the cases, TCHRD said.

Chinese authorities have issued stern warnings that anyone caught sharing information about the monks’ detention will have their social security and other state benefits revoked.

It remains unclear where the monks are imprisoned although it was confirmed that they were taken to another location after their sentencing in Sershul County.

Tibetan sources in exile reported Dhargay’s detention in September 2020 after he was found keeping a photo of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other information about the Tibetan political situation on his phone.

At the time, another monk was detained with him, but his identity could not be confirmed. It has now emerged that the other monk’s name is Rigtse.

Dhargay and Rigtse had been sentenced on the same date.

More information about Rigtse cannot be obtained immediately due to current restrictions.

Sources with contacts to local Tibetans told TCHRD that Dhargay was generally very concerned about the dire situation in Tibet and used to share information and photos about it on his personal WeChat account.

Using “Dalai’s Follower” as his account name, he also shared photos and teachings from His Holiness.

Last year, when China held the so-called 70th anniversary celebration of the peaceful liberation of Tibet, Dhargay challenged the Chinese government‘s narrative of the occupation of Tibet saying that no such liberation is possible. was produced in Tibet.