China Jails Tibetan Singer Kalsang Yarphel over ‘Political’ Lyrics
Chinese authorities sentenced a popular Tibetan singer to four years in prison for what Beijing has deemed to be the overly political tone of his lyrics.
Kalsang Yarphel, 39, was convicted by a court in the southwestern province of Sichuan, the Guardian reports.
Yarphel called on Tibetans to unify and speak their language, which is repressed by Beijing authorities. He was convicted after taking part in concerts where Tibetans were encouraged to learn and speak their language.
“Tibetans! We must learn Tibetan, speak Tibetan, It is our responsibility to learn and speak Tibetan, Tibetans! We must unite,” a portion of his lyrics says.
According to US-based broadcaster Radio Free Asia, Yarphel’s calls for Tibetans to “build courage” and think about the occupied nation’s “future path” were deemed subversive by Beijing.
“Authorities accuse him of singing songs that have political overtones,” the Indian news site Phayul.com reported, adding that Yarphel’s music arranger was also sentenced to two years behind bars.
China has jailed, tortured and sometimes killed Tibetan writers, artists, singers, educators, intellectuals and others who dare criticize China’s 64-year occupation of Tibet. Those who assert Tibetan national or cultural identity and language rights are also subject to arrest and torture.
According to FreeTibet.org, China has jailed 11 Tibetan singers after they wrote and performed songs celebrating Tibet, opposing China’s occupation and calling for freedom. One singer, Trinley Tsekar, was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment in late 2013.
China’s grip on Tibet has only tightened since a wave of deadly protests swept Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, in 2008. While Beijing argues its presence in Tibet, which it claims has been part of China for more than seven centuries, has brought economic development, critics accuse the dominant Han Chinese of perpetrating cultural, and even literal, genocide against the indigenous population.
The Dalia Lama, the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader, blamed Chinese “cultural genocide” for the wave of Tibetan self-immolations in recent years. At least 133 Tibetans have set themselves ablaze, resulting in no fewer than 108 deaths, in desperate acts of protest since early 2009.
Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of encouraging self-immolations, and has warned foreign governments against meeting with the exiled spiritual leader.