Tibetan writer Tashi Rabten sentenced to four years in Ngaba

In an environment of intense repression in Ngaba, Tibet, a young writer has been sentenced to four years in prison on charges linked to a collection of bold essays on the unrest and crackdown in Tibet since 2008. Tashi Rabten, the editor of banned literary magazine Eastern Snow Mountain (Shar Dungri), was sentenced on June 2 by the Ngaba Intermediate People’s Court. His sentencing follows that of three other Tibetan intellectuals who wrote powerful essays for Shar Dungri, now banned in Tibet. Copies of the journal were among books seized and burnt by security personnel at a school in the Ngaba area in April, 2011

Tashi Rabten’s sentencing follows more than a year in detention during which his whereabouts and wellbeing were unknown. Three other Tibetan writers who worked with Tashi Rabten on Shar Dungri were sentenced on December 30, 2010. Dhonkho (pen name: Nyen) and Buddha (pen name: Buddha the Destitute), were sentenced to four years, and Kelsang Jinpa (pen name: Garmi), was sentenced to three years, respectively. (ICT report, Three more Tibetan writers sentenced to prison – 21 January 2011). The three, all in their early thirties, were sentenced on charges of “incitement to split the nation.” Some articles in Shar Dungri have been translated into English in ICT’s report, A Great Mountain Burned by Fire.

Tashi Rabten (penname Te’urang) was set to graduate from the Northwest Nationalities University in Lanzhou before his detention in April, 2010. He is the editor of the banned literary magazine, Shar Dungri (Eastern Snow Mountain), in which a group of young Tibetan intellectuals associated with the Northwest Nationalities University, known for their progressive and secularist views, wrote about the situation in Tibet following the 2008 unrest and subsequent crackdown. Tashi Rabten and his fellow editors wrote in the introduction that it was “a sketch of history written in the blood of a generation.” Tashi Rabten also co-authored a collection of essays, titled “Written in Blood,” addressing the situation in Tibet since 2008. He was detained for a temporary period in July, 2009 before his subsequent arrest on April 6, 2010.

Shar Dungri was quickly banned, but not before copies had circulated in Tibetan areas of Qinghai and Gansu provinces and beyond. Copies of the journal were among a number of unauthorized books and publications confiscated from students and burned by authorities in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan, following a March 17, 2011 hunger strike protest by students in Barkham (Chinese: Ma’erkang) county in sympathy with the self-immolation of a 21 year old monk named Phuntsog at nearby Kirti monastery (ICT report, Ngaba students protest crackdown, authorities respond; new information on deaths of Tibetans who tried to protect monks – 9 May 2011).

After March 17, the students were confined to the school, had their mobile phones confiscated and internet access blocked. On or around April 22, the students’ textbooks and other reading materials were checked by government officials, and any books not endorsed by them were confiscated and burnt. According to the same Tibetan sources, publications that were burnt included copies of the magazine Shar Dungri (Eastern Snow Mountain), a collection of writings that was the first published Tibetan language commentary about the protests and crackdown from 2008 onwards, offering a critical perspective reflecting a prevailing sense of despair and loss, but also a way forward. The journal was quickly banned by Chinese government authorities, but not before copies had circulated in areas of Qinghai and Gansu provinces and beyond. The writers of Shar Dungri are from Ngaba, and it was funded by local businesspeople (ICT report on Shar Dungri writers and editors sentenced to prison: “Like Gold that Fears no Fire: New Writing from Tibet,” 18 October 2009).

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