Popular, courageous Tibetan blogger sentenced to three years in prison

The popular Tibetan blogger Druklo, known more widely by his pen name Shokjang, has been sentenced to three years in prison after being ‘disappeared’ nearly a year ago, according to Tibetan sources in exile.

Druklo (pen name: Shokjang) an intellectual, blogger and writer, is known for his reflective and thought-provoking articles on issues of contemporary concern such as ethnic policy and settlement of nomads. There was widespread dismay when he was detained by security police in Rebkong (Chinese: Tongren) on March 19 (2015), with numerous netizens expressing their sadness.

According to the exile Tibetan newspaper, Tibet Times, and other Tibetan sources, Shokjang was sentenced to three years in prison in a court in Xining, the provincial capital of Qinghai. Details of charges are not known, although one source in exile said that he believed it was connected to ‘separatism’.

Golog Jigme, a Tibetan monk, teacher and former political prisoner, who escaped into exile in 2014, said: “We believe that Druklo challenged the court ruling, saying that he had not done anything against the Chinese Constitution or against Chinese laws and regulations. Like so many Tibetan political prisoners, he has been sentenced on baseless charges due to the Chinese Communist Party authorities exerting their power.”[1]

Following Shokjang’s disappearance, one of his friends, Jagda, wrote in a blog entitled: ‘My friend is innocent. Return him!’: “Shokjang is a forward-thinking individual who doesn’t harbor any sense of acrimony and antagonism towards other nationalities, but he is someone who preserves a rare kind of admiration and love for his people and culture. Shokjang doesn’t seek or strive towards the ends of separatism, but he is someone whose devotion and commitment to truth and reality transcends all other concerns. Shokjang has never raised a flag of terror and violence. He does not belong to any group or organization, nor does he conceal any weapon of treachery and deception.”[2]

Bhuchung Tsering, Vice President of the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), said, “Shokjang’s sentencing is nothing more than blatant political persecution by the Chinese authorities and so ICT calls for his immediate and unconditional release.”

Tashi Rabten (Theurang), another well-known young generation writer, was detained with Druklo on an earlier occasion in 2010. In a blog called ‘Remembering a Friend on a Special Day’, also translated by High Peaks Pure Earth, he wrote: “Today is April 6, 2015, and exactly five years ago, we were arrested and thrown behind bars by Chinese police. This day remains an unforgettable day in my life, because I reflect on and revisit the experience time and again. Contrary to the circumstances, it is neither a sense of animosity and outrage nor a feeling of regret and loss that keeps this memory alive. Today is the day I was criminalised for being a Tibetan even though I have never accepted myself as a criminal and considered the date a dark day in my life. But it is an unforgettable day for reasons my words fail to demonstrate.

“I remember today from five years ago, I remember the very day, vividly. I remember my long hair sheared off my head. I remember my proud and spirited friend. Shokjang is always animated and enthusiastic. He is someone who never deters from expressing his views, and whose courage and aspiration for freedom is unwavering. He devotes his time and intellect in the fight against darkness and oppression. When a mind or voice like his is stifled and silenced for a time or forever, it is the unpropitious cloud of darkness and oppression that ushers a reign of terror in the land.”[3]

Shokjang was a rare voice among Chinese intellectuals on the issue of ethnic policy; he wrote a densely-argued response to a piece by Chinese liberal scholar Liu Junning, who had posted an article “Rethinking the Policy of Regional Ethnic Autonomy in Light of the Kunming Incident”. In his response, Shokjang wrote: “Tibetans do not wish or aspire to create conflict and violence among nationalities in China; they solely aspire for an autonomous Tibetan nationality within China. I would hazard that the same applies to Uyghurs too. So, the strategy of annihilating the rights of nationalities is a seriously harmful and a thoughtless scheme. On the contrary, with the current model of autonomous nationalities as a basis, if a federal system of autonomous administration of provinces based on the principles of liberty and equality is established, which I think is feasible, internal conflicts between ethnic groups would simply subside and disappear.”[4]

Shokjang also translated another article by Liu Junning into Tibetan. Many of Tibet’s young generation of intellectuals and writers are equally comfortable writing in Chinese and Tibetan, and often their concerns about injustice mirror those of their Chinese counterparts.

Tightening oppression in Tibet, including a new emphasis on ‘counter-terror’ measures, has created a more dangerous political environment for Tibetans in expressing their views. As a result a new generation of Tibetans is paying a high price with their lives for peaceful expression of views in a political climate in which almost any expression of Tibetan identity or culture not directly sanctioned by the state, no matter how mild, can be characterized by the authorities as “splittist” and therefore “criminal.” Definitions of what constitutes “criminal” activity are deliberately opaque, giving leeway for lower-level officials and security personnel to apply harsh penalties.[5]


Footnotes:
[1] Golog Jigme has been in Berlin this week meeting government representatives and Parliamentarians: ICT press release, February 18, 2016, http://www.savetibet.org/tibetan-human-rights-defender-german-government-parliament/

[2] Translation by Palden Gyal for High Peaks Pure Earth, http://highpeakspureearth.com/2015/my-friend-is-innocent-return-him-more-from-netizens-on-detained-writer-shokjang/

[3] http://highpeakspureearth.com/2015/tashi-rabten-remembers-detained-writer-shokjang/ Tashi Rabten, a well-known essayist, writer and editor of banned literary magazine Eastern Snow Mountain, served four years in prison before his release in March, 2014. In a conversation circulating on social media following his release, he wrote the following: http://www.tchrd.org/2015/03/i-was-criminalized-for-expressing-my-views-writer-tashi-rabten-in-a-recent-interview-a-year-after-release-from-prison/ – See more at: http://www.savetibet.org/the-teeth-of-the-storm-lack-of-freedom-of-expression-and-cultural-resilience-in-tibet/

[4] Translation by High Peaks Pure Earth, http://highpeakspureearth.com/2014/conflict-and-resolution-a-response-to-liu-junning-by-shokjang

[5] ICT report, http://www.savetibet.org/the-teeth-of-the-storm-lack-of-freedom-of-expression-and-cultural-resilience-in-tibet/

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