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Tibetan monks secretly jailed for up to 20 years: rights watchdog

Human Rights Watch slams China over 'shocking miscarriage of justice'

Monks at the Tengdro monastery in southern Tibet were severely punished by Chinese authorities, Human Rights Watch said on July 6 -- the 86th birthday of the exiled Dalai Lama, right. (Source photos by Human Rights Watch and Reuters)

HONG KONG -- Four Tibetan Buddhist monks were handed prison sentences as long as 20 years last fall after a secret trial in southern Tibet, according to a Human Rights Watch investigation revealed on Tuesday.

The punishment is heavy even by Chinese penal standards considering the nonviolent nature of the allegations and the monks' lack of prior offenses. The U.S.-based human rights organization believes the case reflects China's heightened scrutiny of online activity and increasing pressure on local officials to take harsh "preemptive" action over even minor infractions, especially in minority regions like Tibet.

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