China frees key political prisoner ahead of US visit

A 25-year old Tibetan nun was released this week just days before Chinese President, Jiang Zemin, is due to visit the US.

Ngawang Sangdrol was serving a 21-year sentence in the feared 'Drapchi' prison on the outskirts of the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, for taking part in 'pro-independence activities.'

She was expected to serve her sentence until 3 November 2011, but was released "on good behaviour parole," according to Chinese authorities.

Sangdrol was originally sentenced to three years in prison after being arrested in 1992 for 'counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement.'

Her sentence was extended by six years for singing Tibetan nationalist songs in prison and again, by a further eight years, for shouting "Free Tibet" during a prison patriotic re-education programme.

The London-based Tibet Information Network (TIN) reported Sangdrol was 'beaten severely' by Drapchi prison officers in 1998, for her part in a prison uprising.