Gonpo Tenzin

30 November 2016

gonpo-tenzin-500x500NAME: Gonpo Tenzin
AGE: 27
SENTENCE DATE: 15 April 2015
SENTENCE LENGTH: 3.5 years imprisonment
CHARGE: Seditiously splitting the state

As part of our ‘#ArtIsNotACrime not in Tibet, not anywhere’ campaign, today we focus on the case of Tibetan musician Gonpo Tenzin, and again call on the Chinese government to abolish the arbitrary charge of “seditiously splitting the state”.

Gonpo Tenzin was first arrested and detained without charge for one-and-a-half years prior to his official conviction on 15 April 2015 that sentenced him to three-and-a-half years in prison. Save Tibet report that during this period of unofficial detention, Tenzin was interrogated and tortured in secret; showing the lack of intent by the Chinese government in upholding judicial transparency, basic human rights and the rule of law.

Alongside being arrested as part of a wider Chinese paramilitary crackdown on Tibetan resistance and flying of the Tibetan flag, the Chinese government’s official response to the 2014 United Nations Human Rights Council urgent appeal stated that Tenzin was charged with “seditiously splitting the state”. This is based on his songs that seek to preserve Tibetan identity, notably those featured on his 2013 album ‘No Losar for Tibet’ (“losar” is the Tibetan word for “new year”).

Gonpo Tenzin has currently spent 603 days in prison, yet his whereabouts are unclear. The United Nations urgent report claims that he is being held in Chushur Prison near Lhasa, in the Tibetan Autonomous Region.

Freemuse call on the Chinese government to abolish the arbitrary charge of “seditiously splitting the state” and release Gonpo Tenzin.

Art is not a crime.

Please help us in securing the release of Gonpo Tenzin from prison by sharing this story with your colleagues and friends, and on your social media profiles using hashtags #ArtIsNotACrime and #FreeGonpoTenzin.

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Tomorrow, we will spotlight the case of Trinley Tsekar, so be sure to return and read his story.


The government of China is currently holding at least five Tibetan musicians in prison for nothing more than singing and writing songs. In the run up to World Human Rights Day on 10 December 2016, we must remind China that art is not a crime and that musicians Lo Lo, Shawo Tashi, Kelsang Yarphel, Gonpo Tenzin and Trinley Tsekar, and all artists, have the human right and freedom to artistically express themselves, including the right to sing about their culture and identity, without fear of punishment. Sadly, some of these artists are also reported to suffer from severe health problems stemming from mistreatment in Chinese custody.

To raise awareness of these artists and show that art is not a crime, Freemuse is running a “#ArtIsNotACrime not in Tibet, not anywhere” campaign leading up to World Human Rights Day on Saturday 10 December 2016.

The campaign began on Monday 5 December 2016 and is each day spotlighting the case of a different Tibetan musician imprisoned for their art. Freemuse is also calling on the Chinese government to abolish the arbitrary charge of “seditiously splitting the state”, respect the rule of law and international human rights, and provide transparency in its reporting to international bodies on imprisoned artists.

“Imprisoning Tibetan artists is a grave violation of their human right to artistic freedom. We call on the Chinese government to release these musicians immediately, as well as any other artists it continues to hold arbitrarily on vague charges.” – Ole Reitov, Freemuse Executive Director

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