One of the thousands of casualties from the protests against Chinese rule of March, 2008, is a man who was released from prison today.
His name is Trinley Tsering, and he was a young monk at Kirti monastery, situated on the outskirts of Ngaba, a town in today’s Sichuan province which incorporates large areas of the historical Tibetan provinces of Amdo and Kham. He was arrested on March 28, 2008, 18 days after the start of the protests in the region and right in the middle of the crushing security crackdown that followed in which police shootings of peaceful protesters were reported to have killed as many as 20 Tibetans and wounded hundreds more. Tsering was charged with ‘leaking state secrets to forein countries’ by a Chinese court in Barkham county and given a nine year prison sentence for his alleged act of sharing news about the crackdown on his monastery with the outside world.
And this morning, almost nine years to the day from his arrest, Tsering was released from Mianyang prison, located outside Chengdu, the same infamous prison where many other Tibetan political prisoners have languished over the years, including Rongye Adrak, the man who in 2007 strode on stage during a large public gathering to call for the return of the Dalai Lama, and dissident writer Theurang, among many others.
But a strange thing happened to the released prisoner and the family members who had come to take him home – they were stopped from leaving Chengdu for several hours by the authorities and told that the authorities would escort them to his hometown, a journey of eight to nine hours by car.
VOA has learnt from sources in the region that the reason for the authorities to delay Tsering’s departure from Chengdu was to ensure that he would arrive in Ngaba at night, thus preventing him from receiving a hero’s homecoming in broad daylight. Public welcomes for political prisoners were inconceivable even in the 1990s, after the harsh martial law like period of the early years of Chinese rule in Tibet starting in 1959 , but they’ve been taking place with the release of almost every political prisoner over the last five or six years. The Chinese authorities appear to be viewing the large public displays of affection and support for the released prisoners as a show of defiance and disapproval for their imprisonment, which almost always include harsh treatment, including beatings and torture, as recounted by many former political prisoners.
So around 10PM tonight, Trinley Tsering and his family were dropped off near his home by the authorities, long after the expected welcoming crowd had departed. However, as seen in photographs received by VOA Tibetan, Tsering was received by his fellow monks. One photograph shows him with a sumptuous brocade shawl covering his prison issue lay clothes, an unmistakable sign of respect and honor. In the photograph, Tsering is seen sitting on the ground on a handwoven rug with flower vine design, appearing to be listening to purification prayers being recited to cleanse him of his time in Chinese prison, and for his entrance back into the clergy. Another photograph shows Tsering wearing his monk’s robe once again and holding ceremonial brocade offerings in his arms, considered auspicious in Tibetan tradition.
While the Chinese authorities had sought to micromanage even the trip home of a political prisoner to deprive him of a daylight homecoming, it’s clear from the images coming out of Tibet, that the Tibetans view Trinley Tsering as a hero in brocade, even in the dead of night.