The brother of an imprisoned Tibetan businessman has posted videos of himself pleading with authorities to allow relatives to visit his jailed sibling, including a protest he staged in front of the prison in the western Chinese autonomous region where the younger brother, who is in poor health, is detained.
On a video posted on social media on Jan. 13, Dorjee Tseten says Chinese authorities have denied all his requests to visit Dorjee Tashi, 48, who was arrested in July 2008 following mass Tibetan protests that spring. Since 2010, has been serving a life sentence in Drapchi Prison in Tibet’s capital of Lhasa on what rights groups and supporters say are politically motivated charges of loan fraud.
“When I went to appeal again on Jan. 6 for a visit, the local authorities accused me of ruining the reputation of Drapchi Prison and demanded an apology from me,” he said, adding that a security guard wanted him to post an apology video online.
A member of the Chinese Communist Party, Tashi was a successful businessman who owned a luxury hotel chain and real estate companies in Tibet before his arrest, according to International Campaign for Tibet, a rights group. He was praised for his philanthropic activities that contributed to poverty alleviation and economic development in the region.
But following mass protests against China’s rule in Tibet in March 2008, he was branded a “secessionist” for alleged covert support to the Tibetan protesters and for political connections with the Tibetan community in exile, which he later denied, according to the rights group. Though the political allegations against him were dropped during pretrial interrogation, Tashi was indicted for loan fraud and sentenced to life in prison.
In recent years, authorities cited the COVID-19 pandemic for not letting Tseten visit his brother, but they also refused to grant him a virtual meeting, said Tseten, who was previously sentenced to six years in prison in a separate hearing as were two other relatives who received jail terms of five and two years, respectively.
In another video circulating on social media, Tseten is seen speaking in Chinese outside the prison on Jan. 6 about an appeal letter he wrote to Chinese authorities to allow him to visit Tashi.
“My younger brother is suffering from a severe illness in the prison, and we have requested the associated authorities to examine his health and provide him proper medical treatment, but there has been no response from the authorities, and therefore, we request those leaders to treat everyone equally,” he says.
Tseten also asked authorities to allow family members to visit Tashi.
“We believe that denying his family members to visit him and not informing us of his health condition goes against the country’s law and is a violation of basic human rights,” he says.
“Drapchi Prison will have to take full responsibility if his health continues to deteriorate in the coming days under these circumstances,” Tseten adds.
On Dec. 19, Gonpo Kyi, also known as Gontey, who is the elder sister of Dorjee Tashi, staged a peaceful protest calling for her brother’s release outside a courthouse in Lhasa until security guards took her into custody. She also staged sit-ins outside another courthouse in the capital in June 2022.
Drapchi Prison, or Lhasa Prison No. 1, is the largest detention facility in Tibet, housing some Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns detained for their political beliefs. It has gained a reputation for its poor conditions, brutality and use of torture on inmates, according to the human rights group Free Tibet.
Tibet was formerly an independent nation until it was invaded and incorporated into China more than seven decades ago. Chinese authorities keep a tight grip on the region, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of cultural and religious identity.
Translated by Tenzin Dickyi for RFA Tibetan. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin. Edited by Malcolm Foster.