China/Tibet: Singer imprisoned for publishing ‘subversive songs’



Tibet / China:
Singer imprisoned for publishing “subversive songs”

A Chinese court has sentenced the Tibetan singer Tashi Dhondup (also sometimes spelled Tashi Dondrup) to one year and seven months’ imprisonment for producing a music album with “subversive songs”.

CD-cover of ‘Torture
without Trace’

The album titled ‘Torture Without Trace’ contains 13 songs expressing nostalgia for the exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama and remembering the Chinese government’s crackdown on Tibetans in March 2008, with lyrics such as:

    “The pain that there is no freedom in the land of Tibet.
    The pain that the heritage of our ancestors has been taken away.”

A member of the Henan Mongolian Autonomous Region Arts Troupe, Tashi Dondrup is a popular music star in the Amdo region of eastern Tibet. ‘Torture Without Trace’ was banned by Chinese authorities in central Henan province in November 2009 after 3,000–5,000 copies of the album had already been sold within the first month after its October-2009-release.

Tashi Dondrup went in hiding in Xining, where, on 3 December 2009, according to the International Campaign for Tibet, he was arrested at a restaurant, held at gun-point while his wife wept and grabbed one of the police officer’s legs in an attempt to hold him back.

The 30-year-old singer was held two months in a detention centre in Sog County, until on 30 January 2010, according to the International Campaign for Tibet, a Chinese court in Sogpo Mongol Autonomous County, Malho Tibet Autonomous Prefecture, sentenced him to one year and seven months’ imprisonment for “producing a music album with subversive songs”.

15 months of re-education
According to a report by Radio Free Asia on 5 March 2010, Tashi Dhondup was already on 5 January 2010 sentenced to 15 months of re-education through labour for ‘separatist activities’ related to his music. Court documents obtained by Radio Free Asia said that Tashi Dhondup and “some other associates copied about 3,000 CDs and distributed them in 11 counties in Qinghai, Sichuan, and Gansu”.

According to several sources, China has launched a massive crackdown on Tibetan artists, writers and intellectuals, following the nationwide protests that started on 10 March 2008 in Lhasa and spread across the Tibetan plateau.

‘Counter-revolutionary content’
Tashi Dhondup had also previously been detained, in September 2008, according to sources of the International Campaign for Tibet, accused by authorities of including‘counter-revolutionary content’ in a song entitled ‘The Year of 1959’, the year of the Lhasa Uprising and the Dalai Lama’s flight into exile. He was detained and allegedly beaten for over seven days by police in Xining.

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    Tashi Dhondup

      “Our root-lama, His Holiness the Dalai Lama
      Please stop the life of exile in the land of others
      and come home as soon as possible
      All the devoted men and women are around your golden throne waiting for you”

    ‘Torture Without Trace’ track listing

      01: Waiting With Hope
      02: Western Land of Scolars
      03: Torture Without Trace
      04: Unable to Meet
      05: For That I Shed My Tears
      06: Pain of Missing
      07: Go
      08: Unbearable Fate
      09: Unable to See
      10: Tibet Has Good Karma
      11: No Regrets
      12: Think
      13: A Sad Life

    The video of ‘Torture Without Trace’ title song can also be seen on

    All thirteen music videos from the album ‘Torture Without Trace’ have been uploaded on sonam0tenzin’ youtube channel on

    Tashi Dhondup on

      Lyrics of the song ‘Torture Without Trace’
      “First, a sad tune for my brother hasn’t returned from afar
      Second, the pain because there is no harmony for people
      Third, the occupation and denial of freedom for Tibetans
      This is all torture without trace

      First, the regret as our ancestral wealth is lost to outsiders
      Second, the pain that we aren’t the owners of our resources
      Third, the practice of sterilisation to wipe out our race
      This is all torture without trace
      This is all torture without trace

      First, the hurt from being denied my parents’ love
      Second, the failure to hear the inner voices of my people
      Third, the grief that our mountains are belittled
      This is all torture without trace”

      Translated by Bhuchung D. Sonam of Tibet Writes

    Click to see video

      I will sing for the rest of my life
      For which even if I am killed
      I have no regrets

      From the song ‘No Regrets’ by Tashi Dhondup
      Source: High Peaks Pure Earth


    TibetCustom – 31 March 2010:

    ‘Torture Without Trace: Five Songs by Detained Tibetan Singer Tashi Dhondup’ – 30 January 2010:

    ‘Tibetan singer sentenced to over a year’s imprisonment for “subversive songs” ‘

    International Campaign for Tibet – 8 December 2009:

    ‘Tibetan singer Tashi Dhondup detained’

    Dig deeper

    High Peaks Pure Earth – 29 January 2009:

    ‘What kinds of songs are “reactionary songs”?’

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