Kelsang Yarphel

30 November 2016

kalsang-yarphel-500x500NAME: Kelsang Yarphel
AGE: 40
SENTENCE DATE: 27 November 2014
SENTENCE: 4 years imprisonment and $32,000 USD fine
RELEASED: 10 July 2017
CHARGE:  Inciting Separatism

As part of our “#ArtIsNotACrime not in Tibet, not anywhere” campaign, today we are spotlighting the case of Tibetan musician Kelsang Yarphel and call on the Chinese government to respect the rule of law and international human rights in cases concerning artists.

Kelsang Yarphel was first detained in July 2013 after his song ‘Bhodpa Tso’ (‘Fellow Tibetans’) was banned but continued to gain popularity in Tibet through online videos, according to the Tibet Justice Center. The song calls on Tibetan people to join together in solidarity and be a unified nation of people. Yarphel spent 18 months being detained without charge, which undermines the basic principles on the rule of law and human rights, and was sentenced in 2014 with inciting separatism.

Kelsang Yarphel received a four-year prison sentence and was fined $32,000 USD. He has currently spent 741 days at the Mianyang prison in the southwestern Sichuan province in China. This long prison sentence, accompanied with the heavy fine, will not only impact Yarphel in prison, but upon his release it is possible that he will be impacted by this large fine, making it difficult for him to make ends meet or continue to produce music.

Freemuse calls on the Chinese government to respect the human rights of artists across Tibet and release Yarphel.

Art is not a crime.

Please help us in securing the release of Kelsang Yarphel from prison and holding China to account on their undermining of human rights and the rule of law by sharing this story with your colleagues and friends, and on your social media profiles using hashtags #ArtIsNotACrime and #FreeKelsangYarphel.

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Tomorrow, we will spotlight the case of Gonpo Tenzin, 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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