Profile: Monk takes responsibility for Tibet booklet and is sentenced to 12 years

In 1995 a young monk named Sonam Dhondup was arrested after Chinese officials found a booklet on Tibet and a Tibetan national flag in his room. His plans to distribute the booklets were never able to be fulfilled and Sonam Dhondup, attempting to take the full responsibilty plan and thus save his fellow helpers, is now serving a 12 year sentence in Gutsa Detention Centre.

Sonam Dhondup is a 23 year-old monk from Nyalenda Monastery who comes from Phenpo Khatse, Dhondup Dzong under Lhasa City. His father is no longer alive and his mother’s name is Jangchup. Sonam Dhondup (layname) chose to join Nyalenda monastery when he was 12 years old. At that time there were about 250 to 260 Nyalenda monks.

In the 1st month of the 1995 Tibetan calendar year (around February or March of 1995), Sonam Dhondup, then 21, and Tseten, aged around 23 years, initiated some political activities. They printed a booklet on Tibet and stitched a Tibetan national flag which they kept wrapped in yellow silk cloth.

Later that same month, Sonam Dhondup together with three other monks went to a place nearby called Thang to distribute the booklets. When they arrived at Thang the four monks stopped to watch some Chinese officials playing a game of Daechu (snooker) while at the same time they whispered among themselves about how they would distribute the booklet. One of the Chinese officials overheard them and reported to his supervisor about their plans.

Later, after the game, the Chinese began to tease the four monks and a fight broke out. One of the monks was subsequently hit over the head with a beer bottle by one of the Chinese officials. The next day these officials came to search the house where the four monks were staying in Thang. Their rooms were ransacked and the Chinese officials discovered the booklets and the national flag in Sonam Dhondup’s room.

Soon afterwards, in the same month, some 40 monks from Nyalenda monastery were arrested in connection with the printing and distribution of the booklets and 30 monks were expelled from the monastery. The expelled monks have appealed to the Chinese authorities, without success, to be re-admitted. This leaves just 30 monks now in Nyalenda Monastery; all others have been expelled or have left voluntarily.

Sonam Dhondup and the other three monks were taken to Gutsa Detention Centre and during interrogation Sonam said that he had taken the lead in the booklet distribution plan. As a result he was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. Tseten was also sentenced to 12 years. The other two monks were sentenced to six years. Sonam’s mother is permitted to visit her son in prison only on the 15th day of each month and she is not allowed to take Sonam more than two Tibetan breads.

Sonam’s niece, now living in India, describes Sonam as a “quiet and simple” man. She believes that he is currently in good health and is still being detained in Gutsa Detention Centre in Lhasa. Sonam Dhondup is now 23 years old and is not due for release until around 2008. TCHRD considers Sonam Dhondup to be arbitrarily detained for political reasons and we call on the Chinese authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally.

Add your appeal to ours: address your letters to Mr Li Peng, Premier of China, and send them to TCHRD for forwarding.

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