China: Tibetan singer sentenced to four years in prison

2 December 2014


The popular Tibetan singer Kalsang Yarphel has been given a four year imprisonment verdict for belting out songs calling on Tibetans to speak their own language and to forge unity among themselves.

Kalsang Yarphel, 39, was sentenced by a court in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, where he had been held since being detained in June 2013 in Tibet’s capital Lhasa, various sources said.

“He was indicted for organising Tibetan concerts and singing songs entitled ‘Tibetans’, ‘Lama la’ and other songs carrying political themes,” a Tibetan source with contacts in the region told Radio Free Asia’s Tibetan Service. “Other songs he sang were ‘We Should Learn Tibetan’ and ‘We Should Unite’.”

Yarphel’s music arranger and producer, Pema Rinzin, was sentenced to two years in prison. Two other Tibetan associates were also sentenced by the same court, but their names and prison terms were not immediately known, the Tibet Times reported.

Kalsang Yarphel, a father of three, is from Machu (in Chinese: Maqu) county in Gansu province. He was taken into custody in Lhasa on 14 July 2013 after he had helped organise Lhasa-area concerts called Khawai Metok, or Snow Flower, in which he sang a song titled ‘Fellow Tibetans’.

Freemuse protests
Freemuse protests the four years prison sentence for Kalsang Yarphel. Freemuse believes that many Tibetan singers produce songs about issues of concern to a majority of the population. This is obviously not a crime. The right to freedom of expression is guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the right to participate in cultural life is enshrined in Article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Article 27 of the UDHR.

Despite constitutional guarantees to protect the rights and cultures of “minority” nationalities in China, the Chinese state has undermined, dismantled and systematically attacked Tibetan culture for decades.

» Taipei Times – 2 December 2014:
Tibetan singer jailed over lyrics
SICHUAN TRIAL:Kalsang Yarphel was detained last year over songs he sang at concerts in 2012, but the exact charges he was convicted of on Thursday last week are unknown

» The Guardian / Agence France-Presse – 1 December 2014:
China jails Tibetan singer over political lyrics
Kalsang Yarphel convicted in Sichuan after taking part in concerts encouraging people to learn Tibetan

» Al Jazeera – 1 December 2014:
China jails Tibetan singer for political tone
Rights groups criticise four-year prison term given to popular musician for writing songs calling on Tibetans to unite

» Radio Free Asia – 29 November 2014:
Tibetan Singer Jailed Four Years For Belting Out Patriotic Songs

‘Tibetan Song Bodpa Tso by Kelsang Yarpel @ Khawai Metok Concert’
Published on on 1 February 2013. The photo on top of this page is a screendump from this video.

» Read more about Tibet’s lack of artistic freedom of expression

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