China jails Buddhist nuns

By Bill Smith, Sapa-dpa, July 19, 2011

Beijing, China -- Three Tibetan Buddhist nuns were sentenced to three years in prison by a court in south-western China's Sichuan province after they called for freedom and the return of the exiled Dalai Lama, a human rights group said on Friday.

The court in Sichuan's restive Kardze county sentenced the three women after they shouted slogans, including “free Tibet” and “let the Dalai Lama return to Tibet,” the India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy reported on its website.

The group quoted sources in Kardze as saying that officials confirmed that Jampa Choedon, 31, Sheh Lhamo, 21, and Yangchen, 28, were sentenced on July 2.

The nuns from Kardze's Gyemadrak Nunnery were arrested on June 15 during a protest in the county town's main street, it said.

Dozens of Buddhist nuns, monks and other Tibetans were detained after several protests in recent weeks in Kardze, which is known as Ganzi in Chinese.

Police in Sichuan had increased surveillance and detained more protesters in Kardze and the nearby Tibetan-majority areas of Ngaba and Dege in the last three weeks, the US-based Radio Free Asia reported on Thursday, quoting local residents.

The protests in Kardze came despite a government ban on monks and nuns visiting the county without permission, the Tibetan government-in-exile, which is based in India, reported earlier.

Most of the recent protests in Ngaba were around the Kirti Buddhist monastery.

Human rights groups said the Chinese authorities had taken at least 300 monks from Kirti for “legal education” programmes since the unrest there flared up in March, following a series of protests since 2008.

Scores of other monks have voluntary left Kirti, which paramilitary police have controlled since April, the London-based International Campaign for Tibet said last month.

The Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism's highest spiritual leader, has lived in exile since he fled to India in 1959 following a failed uprising against Chinese rule of Tibet.