Two Tibetan musicians have been sentenced to two years in jail for demanding independence for their homeland through song.
Pema Trinlay, 22, and Chakdor, 32, released an album entitled The pain of an Unhealed Wound, consisting of 12 songs which eulogise the Dalai Lama and lament the perceived Chinese repression of Tibet.
The pair, both members of the nomadic Meuruma community in the Chinese province of Sichuan, also praise the Tibetans who have stood as martyrs and set themselves on fire in protest against China. One of those who set themselves alight, and later died, was reportedly a close relative of Chakdor.
Trinlay and Chakdor were taken into custody last July in the province of Gansu, and were sentenced in February. Tibetan sources claim the court hearing took place in secret, and news of the pair's imprisonment has only now reached the Western media.
Family members have yet to see either of the singers since they were taken into custody last year, and have been denied all visitation rights.
Trinlay and Chakdor were convicted in the same month that another popular singer, Lolo, received a six-month prison sentence for an unspecified crime by a court in Eastern Tibet. The 30-year-old had released an album online comprising songs, which included lyrics imploring the return of Dalai Lama to Tibet, the unity of all Tibetans and ultimate independence for the region.
Lolo had no links to political activism or protests. However experts believe his conviction could be representative of an increased clampdown on poltically sensitive literature and art, and Tibetans promoting national identity.
Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren, director of Free Tibet, said that "in the Western world, protest songs can get you a place in the charts: in Tibet, they land you in jail. Music is one of the few ways that Tibetans can preserve the culture that China has sought to destroy, and political songs represent a courageous form of resistance to repressive rule.
"China has targeted artists and intellectuals throughout its occupation and especially since the protests of 2008. Despite China's recent efforts to portray itself as a modern nation, the harsh sentences for Pema Trinley, Chakdor and Lolo show just how vicious, relentless and intolerant the occupying regime in Tibet remains. "