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A Tibetan monk sentenced to 15 years in prison for protesting Chinese rule in Tibet has been released two years before finishing his sentence, but is reported to be in failing health resulting from harsh treatment behind bars, Tibetan sources say.

Thabgey Gyatso, 46, was released in September after serving 12 years in prison, a Tibetan source living in the region told RFA on Sept. 27.

“But due to harsh treatment in the prison, his vision and overall health have become very weak, so his sudden release from custody is something to be very suspicious of,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“He is someone who is very critical of the Chinese government and he also protested inside the prison, for which he was beaten and physically abused.”

“He has now arrived at his home, but everyone is very worried about his health,” he said.

Gyatso, a resident of Sangchu county in Gansu’s Kanlho (in Chinese, Gannan( Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, was arrested during protests in the Tibetan capital Lhasa in 2008 and was sentenced on May 21, 2009 to a 15 year prison term for leading protesters and contacting India-based groups working to support Tibetan independence.

His whereabouts remained unknown for almost a year after his arrest, but he was later transferred with his cellmate Kelsang Gyatso to a prison in Peyan in Gansu, where they were forced to work at hard labor, sources in the region and in exile said.

Because of poor health, he was hospitalized in the Tenshi Prison hospital in Gansu in 2018, sources said.

Tibetan prisoners suffering ill health are sometimes freed in critical condition before the end of their term, with at least seven reported during the last year to have died, either in prison or after their release, from injuries inflicted under torture, sources say.

A Tibetan writer jailed for three years for criticizing Chinese government policies in Tibet died this month in Sichuan’s capital Chengdu after suffering ill health for eight years following his release, Tibetan sources told RFA in an earlier report.

Ra Tsering Dhondup, who wrote under the pen name Shinglo Marpo, was a monk at the Rongtha monastery in Khyungchu county in Sichuan’s Ngaba (Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and was 34 at the time of his death.

Formerly an independent nation, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force 70 years ago.

Chinese authorities maintain a tight grip on the region, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of cultural and religious identity, and subjecting Tibetans to persecution, torture, imprisonment, and extrajudicial killings.

Reported by Sangyal Kunchok for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Tenzin Dickyi. Written in English by Richard Finney.

This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by Radio Free Asia.