Chinese parole Tibetan nun ahead of summit

Woman held 10 years sought independence

October 18, 2002|By Anthony Kuhn | Anthony Kuhn,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

BEIJING - Days before a U.S.-China presidential summit, Chinese authorities have paroled a Tibetan nun thought to be one of the youngest and longest-serving female political prisoners in China, a U.S. human rights campaigner said.

Ngawang Sangdrol was granted parole by a Tibetan court that said she was released nine years early because of good behavior, according to John Kamm, director of the San Francisco-based Dui Hua foundation. She left Drapchi prison in the capital, Lhasa, and has rejoined her family, Kamm said.

Ngawang Sangdrol was one of 14 Tibetan women prisoners dubbed the "singing nuns" by human rights and Tibetan independence groups that campaigned for her release and publicized her story on the Internet.

According to human rights groups, Sangdrol was first arrested in 1992 at the age of 15 after participating in pro-independence protests along with others from the Garu Nunnery, north of the capital. She was sentenced to three years for "counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement." The crimes were dropped from China's criminal code in 1997.

A year later, Sangdrol and 13 other women in Drapchi prison recorded songs protesting their treatment, calling for Tibetan independence and praising Tibet's exiled religious leader, the Dalai Lama.

Authorities considered Sangdrol the ringleader and singled her out for beatings, rights groups say, citing testimony from former prisoners. Her sentence was extended six years.

In 1996, Sangdrol was involved in prison protests against Beijing's selection of the 11th Panchen Lama, Tibetan Buddhism's second highest cleric. Authorities put her in solitary confinement and extended her sentence by eight years. Protests in 1998 earned Sangdrol another six-year extension.

Anthony Kuhn writes for the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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