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China releases jailed Tibetan dissident writer

Lobsang Lhundup was jailed for four years after he penned a book critical of Chinese rule in Tibet
Lobsang Lhundup, also known as Dhi Lhaden

Lobsang Lhundup, also known as Dhi Lhaden. (Photo: www.freetibet.org)

Published: August 08, 2023 11:01 AM GMT
Updated: August 08, 2023 11:18 AM GMT

Chinese authorities have released a prominent Tibetan writer who was jailed allegedly for his criticism of China’s annexation of Tibet and subsequent oppression four years ago

Lobsang Lhundup, also known by his pen name Dhi Lhaden, was released at the beginning of August and has safely returned home, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on Aug. 7.

Lhundup was arrested in Chengdu in Sichuan province in 2019 and was accused of teaching Tibetan history at a private cultural education center defying orders of the communist regime.

He drew the ire of the Chinese Communist Party after he penned a book “The Art of Passive Resistance” following the 2008 uprising against China’s occupation, according to the US-based rights group, Free Tibetan Heroes.  

The book, published in 2015, contains his critical view of the Chinese rule in Tibet.

An unnamed source who gave information about Lhundup’s release pointed out that other details about his condition are unknown.

“There are no other details and information on his health condition. He is constantly under scrutiny though,” the unnamed source said.

After his arrest in June 2019, he was charged with “creating disorder among the public,” a very common accusation used by Chinese authorities to detain and punish dissidents.

According to a second unnamed source, Lhundup’s 2019 arrest was due to a complaint to the Chinese authorities linking his involvement in teaching Tibetan history at the education center in Chengdu.

“It appears that someone told the owner of the cultural center about the teaching materials he was using, and so he was arrested,” RFA reported in 2021.

In his book, Lhundup explores themes such as the rule of law, freedom, peace, equality, and non-violence, and looks to public figures known for their approach to peaceful resistance such as the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and George Washington.

Lhundup taught Buddhism at monasteries in Lhasa and traveled extensively in Tibet. He based his book on the 2008 anti-China protests in Tibet that saw hundreds of Tibetan monks gathered in Lhasa to mark the 49th anniversary of a Tibetan uprising against Beijing rule.

The protesters had also sought the release of monks, who were detained as they tried to celebrate the awarding of the US Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama months earlier, reports say.

China crushed the protests by November 2008. About 1,300 people were arrested for their involvement in the protests and 55 were handed down jail terms.

In December 2008, Chinese authorities arrested 59 people in Tibet accused of spreading rumors and inciting sentiment against the state and public safety, state-run media reported.

Rights groups reported the death toll during the protests as 140, whereas China maintains that there were only 22 deaths.

Born in 1980, Lhundup is a native of Sichuan’s Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

He became a monk at the age of 11 and studied at Sichuan’s Larung Gar Tibetan Buddhist Academy. Thousands of resident monks and nuns were later evicted from the monastery by Chinese authorities.

Sangay Kyap, a Spain-based Tibet-China researcher told RFA that the “Chinese authorities violated basic human rights and freedom of speech” when they imprisoned Lhundup.

In 2020, Chinese authorities summoned his wife and child “to discuss his case.” The family was not allowed to meet him.

China annexed Tibet in 1949 after the communist takeover, claiming the region has been always an integral part of China.

Chinese forces crushed the subsequent uprising, forcing hundreds of dissenters to flee Tibet. China denies any legitimacy of the Tibetan government-in-exile in India, and the Dalai Lama, the supreme spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism.

Beijing is accused of constant efforts to erode Tibetan culture, language, and religion with an aim to assert more control over Tibet.

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