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China Frees Tibetan Held Since 1983

April 04, 2002|From Associated Press

ZHENGZHOU, China — The Chinese government has freed one of its longest-serving political prisoners, a Tibetan teacher, in a release a leading activist said was an attempt to please the United States.

Tanak Jigme Sangpo, 76, was set free Sunday from Drapchi Prison in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, after nearly 19 years, said John Kamm, president of the San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation. Chinese officials said Jigme Sangpo was released on medical parole, Kamm said.

Jigme Sangpo was arrested in September 1983 and sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of "counterrevolutionary incitement and propaganda" for campaigning against Chinese rule in Tibet, according to Kamm.

His sentence was extended twice and had been due to expire Sept. 3, 2011. Prison authorities exempted him from physical labor several years ago because of his age, Kamm said.

Beijing has made a practice in the last year of releasing prisoners when it wants to curry favor with Washington over human rights, the most persistent sticking point in China-U.S. relations.

"It is clear to me . . . that this is being done by China in order to improve relations with the United States," Kamm said.

U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos, a Democrat from San Mateo, Calif., and a prominent critic of the Chinese government, visited Beijing in January and asked Chinese officials to reconsider Jigme Sangpo's case.

"I deeply appreciate this humanitarian gesture by the Chinese," Lantos said in a statement.

Jigme Sangpo was one of five prisoners cited by U.S. Ambassador Clark T. Randt Jr. during a Jan. 21 speech in Hong Kong.

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