BEIJING (AFP) – China has sentenced a popular Tibetan singer to four years in prison for calling on Tibetans to unify and speak their language, reports said, 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 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 crime the long-haired singer – who blends traditional Tibetan instrumentation with pop influences – was convicted of last Thursday.
US-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia (RFA) cited a local source as saying, “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, adding that he was detained last year. The concerts were in 2012, the reports said.
The singer’s call for Tibetans to “build courage” to think about Tibet’s “future path” was deemed subversive by Chinese authorities, RFA added.