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Tibetan Set to Become World’s Longest-serving Political Prisoner

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Yeshi Dorge | Voice of America

Members of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile are calling international attention to the case of long-imprisoned 57-year-old dissident Lodoe Gyamtso, who with a new sentence announced by Tibetan exiles stands to become the longest-serving political prisoner since the Chinese takeover of Tibet in 1951.

Lodoe Gyamtso, also known as Sogkhar Lodoe Gyamtso, had already served a total of 23 years in prison for two previous convictions before receiving the latest 18-year sentence following his arrest while protesting in front of the Potala Palace in Lhasa last year. His wife, Gakyi, was sentenced to two years, according to Tibetan exile groups. 

If Gyamtso’s latest sentence is officially confirmed and he serves the full length, he will have served a total of 41 years in prison, making him not only the longest-serving known Tibetan political prisoner, but the longest-serving political prisoner anywhere, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. 

News of the sentence was published Wednesday on the website of the Tibetan government-in-exile, know as the Central Tibetan Administration. Some members of the Tibetan parliament called during a session in Dharamsala on Tuesday for exile Tibetan communities to prioritize Gyamtso’s case and bring it to the international stage.

Revered figure

“He is someone local people praise as a hero and all Tibetans have a great reverence for him,” said MP Atrug Tseten, speaking in Tibetan at the parliament session. “He is someone who has staged many protests, and the Chinese have arrested him twice before. He went all the way to the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, and declared that he was going to carry out his world peace campaign for the rest of his life.” 

Gyamtso completed his first 21-year sentence in 2013 and was released from Drapchi Prison in Lhasa. Two years later, he was arrested again —after protesting a Chinese government order requiring Tibetans to wear tiger and leopard skins during an official military ceremony in Nagchu prefecture.

The dissident, a native of Sog County, Nagchu prefecture, served two years in prison on that conviction, according to Ngawang Tharpa, a fellow Sog County native and member of the Tibetan exile parliament. 

Shortly before his Potala Palace protest last year, Gyamtso posted a video message on social media in which he declared he was launching a “World Peace Movement.”

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