Prison for Tibetan ecologist

Earlier this month, Tibetan environmentalist Rinchen Samdrup was sentenced to five years in prison by a Chinese court, found guilty of inciting separatism by posting a pro-Dalai Lama article on his website. Samdrup, the third brother in his family to be jailed, told the Changdu Intermediate People’s Court that he did not post the article himself. His lawyer, Xia Jun, was quoted as saying: “It was a mistake, but not a crime.” The website is devoted to protecting the environment in the Himalayan region.

The sentence came just over a week after one of Samdrup’s brothers was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Karma Samdrup, a nationally known environmentalist once praised by the Chinese government as a model philanthropist, was found guilty of grave-robbing and dealing in looted antiquities. His lawyer said police had used false evidence.

Karma’s supporters said the sentence was intended to punish his advocacy work—including his efforts to free Rinchen and another brother from detention. Rinchen and brother Chime Namgyal were held after accusing officials in eastern Tibet of poaching endangered species. (BBC News, July 3)

Buddhists blocked from Shanghai Expo
While announcing plans to boost tourism along the Nepal-Tibet border, China has blocked a Buddhist car rally from Nepal to the ongoing Shanghai Expo 2010 due to fears that it could trigger new unrest in Tibet. The Implementing Experts’ Group (IEG), a Nepali organization specializing in trade expositions, had planned a motorcade from Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha in southern Nepal, to Shanghai via Tibet.

The rally planned to carry a “Peace Lamp” lit in Lumbini for display in the Nepal Pavilion at the expo. The organizers sought permission from the Chinese government nearly two months ago. The rally was seemingly motivated more by Nepalese than Tibetan nationalism—organizers said it was intended to dispel public ignorance about the birthplace of the Buddha, which many people mistakenly believe is in India.

The ban on the Buddhist rally comes as China is aggressively opening up Tibet to tourism. This month it inaugurated the Gunsa Airport in Tibet’s Ngari prefecture to boost pilgrims headed towards Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar, Hindu sacred sites annually visited by many pilgrims from India.

It also plans to inaugurate a “Peace Airport” in Xigaze (Shigatse), Tibet’s second city, later this year. Direct bus service between Kathmandu and Lhasa was also recently established to great fanfare. But China’s reluctance to issue visas for the travel route outside of organized tour groups has meant little traffic on the route. (Indo-Asian News Service, July 19)

New Delhi restrains Dalai Lama
There are increasing signs that India is attempting to impose discipline on the Tibetan exile government there to appease Beijing. New Delhi has allowed the Dalai Lama to visit areas in Ladakh bordering the People’s Republic for religious functions later this week. But days earlier, the government warned the Dalai Lama against going too far in his criticisms of China.

Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao apparently called the Dalai Lama and Somdang Rinpoche, prime minister of the Tibetan exile government in Dharamsala, to apprise them of ongoing Sino-India talks and ask them exercise restraint in making “observations about China.”

New Delhi also denied permission to the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorjee and aides to travel to the US. The Dharamsala-based Karmapa, the young head of the Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, was scheduled to leave for the US on a two-week religious tour on the invitation of Karma Triyana Dharmachakra Center in Woodstock, NY.

The denial has sparked protests from Karmapa’s followers. Spokesman Gonpo Tsering said that “the tour was purely religious,” and that the government has a”not cited any reason for declining permission.”

Karmapa entered India to reach Dharamsala in January 2001 after crossing the highest Himalayan passes in the midst of winter when he was 15. He is the only Tibetan religious figure who is recognized both by the Dalai Lama and China in the surreal “reincarnation wars” between Dharamsala and Beijing. (DNA, July 20)

See our last post on Tibet.

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