China: Tibetan musician released from prison

30 October 2015


Chinese authorities had sentenced Pema Rigzin to two and a half years in prison, but released him after 11 months. After his release, a crowd welcomed him home.

Freemuse welcomes the release of Pema Rigzin (also spelled: Rigdzin). “Many Tibetan singers produce songs about issues of concern to a majority of the population,” said Ole Reitov, Executive Director of Freemuse. “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.”

Freemuse has campaigned for the release of Tibetan singers and musicians in collaboration with FreeTibet. January 2014 Freemuse requested the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of Cultural Rights, Ms Farida Shaheed, to discuss the imprisonment of nine Tibetan singers with Chinese government.

Photo above: Pema Rigzin is greeted by supporters following his release from prison in Chengdu on 23 Octobe 2015. Photo courtesy of a Radio Free Asia listener

» Radio Free Asia – 23 October 2015:
Authorities Free Tibetan Musician Who Produced Songs for Popular Singer

Asia News reported:

“It was not immediately clear why producer Pema Rigdzin, 46, was released ahead of schedule from a detention centre in the Sichuan capital Chengdu, but he returned to his home to Ngaba (Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture to great fanfare, said Sonam, a Tibetan living in Europe, citing local sources.

Rigdzin was taken into custody on 6 May 2013 and subjected to interrogation for more than a year. The Chengdu People’s Intermediate Court sentenced him on 26 November 2014 to two years and six months in jail and fined him 50,000 yuan (US$ 8,130) for producing “politically sensitive” DVDs.

Rigdzin had once enrolled in the Namtso monastery in Ngaba but left the religious life in 2008 for a career in film and music production. Some of his songs, like “Remember Tibet” and “Tears”, have been banned.

He was convicted on the same day that the court in Chengdu sentenced a popular singer, Kalsang Yarphel, to four years in prison for organising, among other things, a music festival in Lhasa, called Khawai Metok or Snow Flower, presenting song with “political themes”.

Based in Dharamsala, India, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) said that Chinese authorities have also banned Yarphel’s DVD recordings. However, copies have already been widely distributed in Tibetan-populated areas in China’s Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces.”

» Asia News – 27 October 2015:
Tibetan musician jailed for producing patriotic songs is released in Sichuan

» Freemuse – 14 January 2015:
UN Special Rapporteur requested to discuss Tibet with Chinese government

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