BEIJING, CHINA - Two Tibetan web users have been sentenced to three-year jail terms after posting pictures of the exiled Dalai Lama on the Internet, a Paris-based media watchdog said Monday.
Gyaltsen and Nyima Wangdu were given three-year sentences after being convicted recently of "communicating information to contacts outside China," Reporters Without Borders said.
"These convictions are absurd. These young people should not be made to pay for the tension between the Chinese authorities and the Dalai Lama," the group said in a statement.
"All these young Tibetan Internet users did was exchange photos of Tibet's spiritual leader. We call for their immediate release and the withdrawal of all the charges."
China views the Dalai Lama as a separatist bent on establishing an independent Tibet, charges that the spiritual leader and 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner has repeatedly denied.
Photos of the exiled leader have been banned in Tibet for years, with the ban apparently taking on renewed enforcement efforts after anti-China riots erupted in Lhasa in March 2008 and quickly spread to other Tibetan inhabited areas in the nation.
It was not possible to independently confirm the convictions late Monday. Reporters Without Borders said the two were detained in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa on October 1.
Three other Internet users, identified as Yeshi Namkha, Anne (a pseudonym) and Thupten, were also arrested for similar reasons on December 1 but have not yet been tried, the group said.
China has ruled Tibet since 1951, after sending in troops to "liberate" the Himalayan region the previous year, and Beijing has long maintained that its rule ended a Buddhist theocracy that enslaved all but the religious elite.
Following an aborted uprising in 1959, the Dalai Lama fled Tibet and has been living in exile in India since. --AFP