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China jails young Tibetan activist for 'separatist acts'

Jailing of Thupten Lodoe is seen as a part of China's crackdown on Tibetan intellectuals

Activist Thupten Lodoe was arrested and jailed in China for his advocacy for the Tibetan language and culture

Activist Thupten Lodoe was arrested and jailed in China for his advocacy for the Tibetan language and culture. (Photo: RFA) 

Published: June 23, 2022 06:10 AM GMT

Updated: June 23, 2022 06:37 AM GMT

Chinese authorities have jailed a young Tibetan writer and activist for four years and five months after he was convicted of "separatist acts and creating social disorder."

Thupten Lodoe, a man in his 30s and known by his pen name Sabuche, was arrested last October and convicted last week, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported, quoting a friend who declined to be named for safety reasons.

His family members and friends are still in the dark about where he has been detained. Following his arrest, Lodoe was reportedly taken to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province in southwest China.

Lodoe, a Tibetan-speaking Chinese citizen, hails from Seshul county, a part of the Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan province.

His arrest and jailing are seen as part of a wider crackdown on Tibetan intellectuals including writers, cultural leaders and activists who advocate for a distinct Tibetan identity and culture and voice concerns over China’s repression in Tibet, an autonomous region under the iron-fisted grip of the Beijing regime.

In recent years, Chinese authorities have imprisoned several Tibetan intellectuals at undisclosed locations and in most cases no information was provided about charges against them, media reports say.

His friend said Lodoe has translated various books from Chinese to English and Tibetan, so the authorities considered him a threat. They also blocked his social media accounts and erased his posts

Lodoe, for example, drew the ire of authorities for not bowing to their policies and instructions.

He studied at a school established by Tibet's spiritual leader, the Panchen Lama. He became a teacher at a school in his hometown after graduating.

Fluent in Chinese, English and Tibetan, Lodoe has become an advocate for the preservation of Tibetan language and culture. He had previously refused 10,000 yuan (US$1,500) for a job from the Chinese authorities in exchange for ending his advocacy, according to RFA.

Chinese police had earlier warned him to stop writing such articles, but he continued.

His friend said Lodoe has translated various books from Chinese to English and Tibetan, so the authorities considered him a threat. They also blocked his social media accounts and erased his posts.

Tibet, often called “the roof of the world,” is a region of rugged terrain in Central Asia with vast plateaus and mountains including Mount Everest. The region shares borders with the Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Qinghai and Yunnan along with the countries of Myanmar, India, Bhutan and Nepal.

As part of their denunciation of Chinese rule, at least 157 Tibetan monks, nuns and laypeople have self-immolated in Tibet and other parts of China since 2009

Before 1950s, Tibet was mostly isolated from the world. Its unique cultural and religious community has thrived with the strong influence of the Tibetan language and Tibetan Buddhism.

China annexed Tibet in the 1950s by claiming it had always been an integral part of China. Tibetans in the region and outside consider China’s action as an invasion by a foreign force and have long  struggled for independence despite brutal suppression.

As part of their denunciation of Chinese rule, at least 157 Tibetan monks, nuns and laypeople have self-immolated in Tibet and other parts of China since 2009.

Chinese authorities have blocked freedom of speech and religious and political association in Tibet, fearing that they may lead to separatism and a strong independence movement.

Within mainland China, authorities discourage and restrict Tibetan cultural and religious practices in provinces with significant concentration of ethnic Tibetans.

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