Tibetan Environmentalist Karma Samdrup Gets 15 Years in Prison (Updated)

The New York Times reports on the trial of Tibetan businessman Karma Samdrup, as part of a broader crackdown on prominent members of the Tibetan community since the riots in Lhasa in 2008:

Exile groups and rights advocates say the prosecution of Mr. Samdrup and his brothers is part of a broader assault on prominent Tibetans around China, a campaign that has sent a chill through a community that once thought itself immune to the heavy hand of Beijing.

…Since rioting two years ago convulsed Tibetan areas of China, rights groups say scores of artists, intellectuals, students and businesspeople have been detained and sentenced to prison on charges of subverting state power or seeking to “split” Tibet from China.

They include Tashi Dhondup, a young folk singer who was sent to a labor camp for a song titled “Torture Without a Trace,” and Kunchok Tsephel, a government-employed environmentalist who was given a 15-year term for “disclosing state secrets” after he wrote about the riots on his Web site.

Kate Saunders of the International Campaign for Tibet said the recent arrests of about 50 poets, bloggers and songwriters represented the most concerted attack on the educated and artistic elite since the Cultural Revolution ended in 1976.

“It appears that almost any expression of Tibetan identity can be categorized as separatist or reactionary,” she said in an interview from London. “These are not angry monks raising their fists in protest but people working within the system who are engaged in work that’s essential for a healthy civil society.”

Update, 6/23/10:

According to the Associated Press, Karma Samdrup has been sentenced to 15 years in jail:

A Tibetan environmentalist once praised as a model philanthropist was sentenced to 15 years in prison Thursday on charges of grave robbing and dealing in looted antiquities, in a case supporters said was aimed at punishing his activism.

The trial of Karma Samdrup came after he spoke up for his two brothers, also environmental activists, who were detained after accusing local officials in eastern Tibet of poaching endangered species. Authorities in tightly controlled Tibet are extremely sensitive to social activism and criticism, either explicit or implied.

The cases come amid increased repression of Tibetan intellectuals, an echo of the massive security crackdown that followed rioting in the capital, Lhasa, in 2008 in which at least 22 people died.


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