International PEN is seriously concerned for the welfare of Tibetan writer and editor Tashi Rabten who was reportedly given a four-year prison sentence in July 2011.
According to PEN’s information, writer Tashi Rabten was arrested in April 2010 and was sentenced to four years in prison in July 2011 for his articles on the suppression of the March 2008 protests in Lhasa and surrounding regions. He was the editor of banned literary magazine Shar Dungri (Eastern Snow Mountain) and author of a new collection of political articles entitled Written in Blood. Tashi Rabten is a student at the Northwest Minorities University in Lanzhou and was due to graduate in April 2010.
The following background information is from the International Campaign for Tibet:
Tashi Rabten… is from Dzoege (Chinese: Ruo’ergai) county in Ngaba, Sichuan province in the Tibetan region of Kham and was due to graduate in April 2010 before he was arrested. One of his friends said: “He has won great respect and popularity among students, intellectuals and ordinary readers in Tibet as an outstanding and brave young thinker.” Referring to his recent book, Written in Blood, the friend said: “It consists of many valuable writings on democracy, freedom and equality. In fact, I didn’t see anything illegal in there. It’s all accurate and true.” The same source said that Tashi Rabten had been under surveillance for some time, with his activities strictly monitored, and copies of his book confiscated from the university.
In the introduction to Written in Blood, Rabten writes: “Given my (young) age and (lack of) qualifications, the appearance of this little book may be premature. After an especially intense year of the usual soul-destroying events, something had to be said, and after pondering on whether to speak out, I finally produced this humble little book between 2008-09, shed like a drop of blood.”
In March 2008 the Chinese authorities launched a crackdown in the Tibet Autonomous Region, after anti-government protests took place in Lhasa and other areas, with reports of arbitrary arrests and use of excessive force against dissidents. Tight restrictions remain in force on reporting from the Tibetan region, and arrests continue.
Following the hunger strikes of 17 March, 2011 in Barkham County, the students of the Northwest Minorities University were forced to undergo a search for possession of dissident material. Any textbooks or journals they had which weren’t endorsed by the government were confiscated then burnt, including copies of Shar Dungri. The magazine, which consisted of political and social commentary in the Tibetan language, had circulated widely by that point, reaching cities in mainland China like Gansu and Qinghai.
Sydney PEN has previously publicised Tashi Rabten’s case by featuring him at The Empty Chair installed in the City Campus Library of the University of Technology, Sydney.
INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR TIBET – “Tibetan writer Tashi Rabten sentenced to four years in Ngaba,” 1 Jul 2011.
INTERNATIONAL PEN – “International Day of the Imprisoned Writer 2011 – Tashi Rabten,”[pdf], Oct 2011.