China Sentences Two nuns Over Tibet Protests བོད་སྐད།

A court in western China has sentenced two Tibetan nuns to lengthy prison terms for taking part in anti-government demonstrations last year, amid reports of more clashes between Tibetans and security forces, advocacy groups reported Friday.

The news came ahead of the March 14 anniversary of protests staged across a huge swath of Tibetan-populated areas in western China following deadly rioting in Tibet's capital Lhasa last year.

The upcoming anniversaries have prompted authorities who are wary of unrest during this sensitive period to declare Tibetan areas off-limits to foreigners and to reportedly crack down violently on demonstrators.

The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy said the two nuns were among a group of 55 detained after a peaceful protest on May 14 outside government offices in Garze, a prefecture in Sichuan province.

The center identified them as Soe Lhatso, 35, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and 36-year-old Bhumo, who was sentenced to nine years. Both were nuns at the local Pangri Na Buddhist convent, it said.

The center did not say what they had been charged with or give an exact date for when the sentences were handed down.

Separately, the center said two 18-year-olds, Ngawang Tashi and Dorjee Tashi, were sentenced to three years each for joining in a protest in Garze on March 18 last year. No details were given.

A clerk at the Garze court said all cases related to last year's demonstrations had been resolved but refused to answer questions about the two most recently reported, and hung up.

State media says 76 people have been sentenced and more than 950 detained following last year's protests. Beijing says 22 people died, but Tibetan supporters say many times that number were killed in the protests and subsequent military crackdown.

Information for this report was provided by AP.