China jails Tibetan singer over political lyrics

Media reports claim that Kalsang Yarphel was convicted for singing songs that had political overtones.

BEIJING // China has sentenced a popular Tibetan singer to four years in prison for calling on Tibetans to unify and speak their language, highlighting tight cultural controls in the region.

Kalsang Yarphel, 39, was convicted by a court in the southwestern province of Sichuan after taking part in concerts encouraging people to speak and learn Tibetan, India-based news website Phayul.com reported on Sunday.

“Authorities accuse him of singing songs that have political overtones,” Phayul.com reported, adding that Yarphel’s music arranger was also sentenced to two years in jail.

It was not clear what the singer was convicted of last Thursday but US-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia (RFA) said: “He was indicted for organising Tibetan concerts and singing songs... carrying political themes.”

Yarphel’s songs included We Should Learn Tibetan and We Should Unite, RFA reported.

To view one of Yarphel’s music videos

The singer, who blends traditional Tibetan instrumentation with pop influences, was detained last year, reported RFA adding that the concerts were in 2012.

The singer’s call for Tibetans to “build courage” to think about Tibet’s “future path” was deemed subversive by Chinese authorities, RFA said.

Wary of any challenge to its rule, Beijing tightly controls cultural and religious practices in Tibet, and many Tibetans complain of economic discrimination.

Controls have tightened since a wave of deadly riots in Tibet’s capital Lhasa in 2008.

Beijing says it has brought economic development to poverty-stricken Tibetan areas, and that it grants broad religious freedoms.

At least 130 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009 in protest against Beijing’s rule.

China says that the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has encouraged the immolations, and has warned foreign governments against meeting with him.

Beijing heavily restricts journalists in Tibetan areas, making reports hard to confirm. * Agence France-Presse

Published: December 1, 2014 04:00 AM

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