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Two-year jail sentences for two student magazine editors

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders condemns the two-year jail sentences that have been imposed on Sonam Rinchen and Sonam Dhondup, two students who helped to edit the Tibetan student magazine "Namchak". Two other editors of the magazine, who were arrested at the same time as them in March, are still awaiting trial.

Their conviction has coincided with other cases of repression. For example, the Tibetan writer Kalsang Tsultrim, also known by the pen-name of Gyitsang Takmig, was arrested on 7 July in Dzoge, Sichuan province. According to relatives cited by Tibetan sources in the northern Indian city of Dharamsala, his arrest was prompted by his book "Miyul La Phul Ve Sempa" (Share My Heart's Inner Thoughts) and recordings of his speeches voicing his concerns for the Tibetans that have been distributed on CDs.

The lack of independent observers in Tibet allows the Chinese authorities to arrest and convict Tibetan journalists, writers, bloggers and environmentalists without any form of due process. The government prevents the foreign media from working in Tibet so that there are no witnesses.

When the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China recently polled its members, 98 per cent said it was impossible to cover the situation in Tibet properly because of obstruction by the authorities.

Arrested on 17 March, the four Tibetan students who edited "Namchak" were charged with separatism and inciting separatism in their writing. Sonam Rinchen, 19, and Sonam Dhondup, 18, were registered as students at the University of Barkham (in Sichuan province), as were the other two, who have been identified as Yargay and Dakden.

Kanyak Tsering, an exiled Tibetan monk, told Reporters Without Borders that they had published comments about China's policies towards minorities, including Tibetans.

Tibetan writer Tragyal, also known by the pen-name of Shogdung, has meanwhile been held in harsh conditions since April in Xining detention centre, in Qinghai province, where his family has not yet been allowed to see him. His lawyer says the police are dragging their feet and have not passed the case to prosecutors. In a book entitled "The Line between Heaven and Earth," Tragyal called for peaceful resistance by the Tibetan people. As a result, he has been accused of inciting separatism.

Before his arrest, Tragyal said: "I am, of course, terrified by the idea that, once this essay is published, I will have to endure every kind of hell this planet has to offer. I could lose my head because of my mouth, but this is the road I have chosen."

At least 50 Tibetans have been arrested since March 2008 for sending information abroad.

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