(NEW YORK)—In response to reports that detained writer Gangkye Drubpa Kyab and five other Tibetans, including writers Sey Nam and Pema Rinchen, were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 4 to 14 years on charges relating to national security, PEN America released the following statement:

“We are disturbed by the revelations of these writers’ lengthy prison sentences. Authorities have revealed little to no information about the reasons behind their arrest, which happened more than a year ago, and similarly have offered no public information about the charges against them or their court process. Given the complete lack of information provided by authorities, we must conclude that these lengthy prison sentences represent yet another shameful episode of Chinese governmental repression of Tibetan culture and free expression, conflating peaceful dissent and expression with threats to ‘national security,’’” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, PEN America’s Director of Free Expression at Risk Programs. “We urge the police and the Kardze People’s Court to release Gangkye Drubpa Kyab and all writers jailed for their expression.”

A report by Radio Free Asia on Tuesday revealed that the detained writers were sentenced last month on charges of “inciting separatism” and “endangering state security.” Poet and essayist Gangkye Drubpa Kyab received the most severe sentence of the group, and he is now serving 14 years in prison. In 2021, the advocacy group Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy reported his arrest in Sertha county alongside other dissident writers. Gangkye Drubpa Kyab was first arrested in 2012 and most recently released from prison in 2016. 

Authorities in the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China have commonly jailed writers and dissidents on charges related to spurious national security crimes. Reasons behind their arrests have included critically responding to state encroachments on Tibetan language and education, to alleged displays of support for the Dalai Lama, to broader expressions of support for free expression or denunciations of censorship. In some cases, the legal charges remain undisclosed, contributing to a broader pattern of secrecy and arbitrariness in the judicial process. According to PEN America’s Freedom to Write Index 2021, China jailed at least 85 writers and public intellectuals last year; 8 of these 85 were detained or imprisoned in the Tibetan Autonomous Region. 

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057