Tsegon Gyal Sentenced After More Than a Year in Secret Detention
A former Tibetan political prisoner who suffered arbitrary detention for more than a year was sentenced last month for ‘inciting separatism’ by Intermediate People’s Court in Tsojang (Ch: Haibei) ‘Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture’ (TAP), Qinghai Province in the traditional Tibetan province of Amdo.
Mr. Tsegon Gyal, 55, was pronounced guilty of the charges levied against him and was handed the sentence to three years in prison on 10 January, more than a year after he was detained incommunicado by prefecture State Security Bureau officials in December 2016 and has since been transferred to Siling (Ch: Xining) city, where he will serve his prison term in Dongchuan prison.
He was not allowed to meet and communicate with anyone during his detention at the Kangtsa County detention center, leaving his family and close friends without any information whatsoever, about the crime that he was accused of and where he was detained. While in detention, it is known that Mr.Tsegon Gyal refused to respond to his interrogators and carried out silent protests. Only some time before his sentence was pronounced, his parents were allowed to briefly meet him, the first time since his arrest.
It took more than five months of secret detention before the trail of Tsegon Gyal began on 3 May 2017. During his trail, he was denied the right to hire a lawyer to represent him and no family members were invited to observe the trail either. The sham trail conducted behind closed door took more than 8 months before the verdict was finally pronounced without a single representative from his family present at the court.
According to Tibetan Centre for Human Rights Democracy (TCHRD) “Mr Gyal was most likely sentenced for publishing a blog post on WeChat in which he criticised the Chinese government for failing to genuinely promote its policy of ‘ethnic unity’. Successive policies and campaigns implemented by Chinese authorities have shown that the unity promoted among ‘ethnic groups’ is essentially aimed at diluting the distinct cultural and religious identity of Tibetans and other so-called ethnic minorities.”
The case of Tsegon Gyal came into international limelight in April 2017. During its 78th session, the United Nations working group on Arbitrary Detention ruled that the detention of Mr. Gyal as arbitrary and illegal, calling on the Chinese government to immediately release him.
Tsegon Gyal started off as a teacher by profession and also worked for the local county police force as an evidence analyst for some time. He later pursued journalism and worked at Qinghai Legal Daily and Qinghai Tibetan News. In May 1993, to organise pro-independence activities inside Tibet, Tsegon Gyal along with Lukar Jam and Namlo Yak formed an anti-China group for which they were arrested by provincial state security.
However, he was later released early in 1999 after international communities and human rights groups from across the world condemned and criticized his arrest and the 16 years prison sentenced handed to him.