Image Source: Flickr. By: Ahsup.

I have heard and seen some pretty crazy environmental news lately, but I think this piece is absolutely ridiculous beyond belief. What am I talking about?

A Tibetan environmentalist was sentenced to a 5 year jail term because he organized villagers to pick up litter and plant trees.

…Yes, you read that correctly. The Chinese court sent an environmentalist to jail for getting people to help the environment in a positive way. Does that make any sense to you? It certainly doesn’t to me.

According to the lawyer, the sentencing has more to do with “inciting to split the nation” than anything else. Now, I’m trying to figure out how helping the environment in one of the most polluted and health hazardous nations on Earth would split that very nation. If anything, you would think it would do the nation more good than harm; that it would unite the people rather than separate them, but let’s dig a bit deeper.

The Tibetan environmentalist in question is Rinchen Samdrup. Samdrup was the head of an NGO in Gonjo County— in the Tibet Autonomous Region near Sichuan Province. Through his efforts, nearly 1,700 local villagers put forth a great effort to reforest the area, report poaching, and publish a small magazine. On top of that, the NGO also worked with international conservation groups and was even praised by the Chinese media!

So, where is the nation-splitting evidence? Apparently, one of the people accused of poaching was a local police officer. Needless to say, that didn’t sit well with the officials or other powerful locals. Add to that the posting of a pro-Dalai Lama article on the website (after the Dalai Lama and exile Tibetan followers were accused of starting a riot in 2008) and of course he would seem like the bad guy. However, many Tibetan artists, intellectuals, and others have been jailed or disappeared quite often in recent months, and some believe it’s one of the broadest suppressions of Tibetan culture and expression in a long time.

There is one other thing to note about Mr. Samdrup and his NGO: He wasn’t the only family member involved. Last year, his youngest brother, Chime Namgyal, was sentenced to 21 months of “re-education through labor” for helping run the NGO. Why? They believed he was endangering state security by compiling AV (audio-visual) disks on the ecology of the region, possessing materials regarding the Dalai Lama, and attempting to register the NGO with the government. Oh no! They seem so terrible, don’t they?

Right…

Well, the good news is, Samdrup has about a week to appeal his 5 year jail sentence. The bad news is if the Chinese court is crazy enough to give him a 5 year jail sentence for such ridiculous charges, I doubt the appeal will work.

By Heidi Marshall