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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Statement in support of three environmentalist brothers in Tibet by global conservation activists

October 25, 2010

October 18, 2010

Environmentalists from Asia, Europe and the US
have called for the release of three brothers
imprisoned in Tibet who were known for their vital conservation efforts.

The statement, signed by organizations including
the Environmental Investigation Agency based in
the UK and activists including Gordon Roddick,
reports that the sentencing of the three Tibetan
brothers on trumped-up charges not only has
terrible consequences for individuals involved,
but also significant implications for emerging civil society in China.

Rinchen Samdrup, 44, the recipient of a major
Ford Motor Company award for nature conservation,
was sentenced to five years on July 3. His
younger brother, 42-year old Karma Samdrup, a
well-known philanthropist and founder of the
Three Rivers Environmental Protection Group, was
sentenced to 15 years on June 24 and told the
court that he had been severely tortured in
detention. There are also fears for their
handicapped brother Chime Namgyal, serving 21
months in a labor camp, who can no longer walk or
eat without assistance after being tortured.

Charges against the three brothers, whose
conservation work was acclaimed both within China
and internationally, are widely regarded to have
been rigged after their efforts to stop the
poaching of endangered species in their home area
in the Tibet Autonomous Region clashed with the local authorities.

The statement by environmentalists and Tibet supporters is as follows:

In a case that has significant implications for
emerging civil society in China, three Tibetan
brothers known for their community conservation
projects, including tree-planting and wildlife
protection, have been imprisoned.

Charges against the three brothers, whose
conservation work was acclaimed both within China
and internationally, are widely regarded to have
been rigged after their efforts to stop the
poaching of endangered species in their home area
of Chamdo (Chinese: Changdu) Prefecture in the
Tibet Autonomous Region clashed with the local
authorities. Environmental work in the area has
been severely affected as a result.

The charges against Karma Samdrup, sentenced to
15 years imprisonment, Rinchen Samdrup, serving
five years, and their disabled brother Chime
Namgyal, now in a labor camp for 21 months,
demonstrate serious violations of China’s own
Criminal Procedure Law and should be dropped.
There are reports that all three brothers have
been tortured. Their mother, who is in her
mid-seventies, was beaten unconscious when police
accompanied by a senior local official came to
detain two of the brothers. Two cousins of the
brothers, a Tibetan monk, and a young Tibetan
teacher have also been detained or ‘disappeared’.

In addition to the terrible cost to the three
brothers’ lives, their family and community, we
believe that their imprisonment is profoundly
damaging to an emerging civil society in Tibet
and China, and in particular to those undertaking
essential environmental protection work. There is
increasing awareness about the global
significance of Tibet’s environment as the
earth’s ‘third pole’, which is warming twice as
fast as the rest of the world, and is the source
of most of Asia's major rivers. At a time of
environmental crisis in China, the
ground-breaking community conservation work of
individuals like Karma and Rinchen Samdrup is
essential for the future of China and Asia, as well as Tibet.

It is increasingly acknowledged by governments
worldwide that NGOs, civil society and local
stakeholders must be part of a solution to coping
with climate change. UN Secretary General Ban
Ki-Moon has emphasised this point. The
imprisonment of these local environmental
leaders, who were seeking to uphold laws on
nature conservation, seriously calls into
question China’s reliability as a partner in seeking global solutions.

The environment is one of the common areas of
interest between Chinese and Tibetans, and this
case was an opportunity for China to demonstrate
progress in the implementation of environmental
protection measures. We are concerned that the
Chinese authorities appear to have chosen the
opposite route, and used the law and courts to
serve political purposes rather than upholding justice.

Among the charges against Chime Namgyal, whose
life is now endangered following torture, was
helping his brother Rinchen to “illegally compile
three discs of audio-visual materials on the
ecology, environment, natural resources and
religion of Chamdo Prefecture". Rinchen Samdrup
was a humble but inspiring figure in his
community who organized litter collection,
monitoring of illegal hunting, and the planting
of thousands of trees. His village is in the
Yangtze River watershed, so Chinese
conservationists regard planting trees there as
not only essential for the local environment, but
also for the protection of water and soil on the
upper reaches of the Yangtze. In an article in
the official Chinese press published even after
his detention, a Chinese journalist praised him
for his environmental work, saying that it was
helpful to the government's aims of ecological protection.

In a blog written a day after her husband’s
sentencing to 15 years, Karma Samdrup’s wife
Drolkar Tso said that she wished to express her
deep gratitude to the two Chinese lawyers who
defended him. She wrote: “We are striving for
truth and justice together, no matter if we are
Chinese or Tibetan.[…] I thank these two lawyers,
I thank all friends of all nationalities, and
from the beginning to the end, I have not felt alone.”

We wish Drolkar Tso, her husband Karma Samdrup
and his two brothers Rinchen Samdrup and Chime
Namgyal to know that we, too, representatives of
environmental organizations across the globe,
stand by their side against this injustice, and
call for their immediate release.


Environmental Investigation Agency, UK
Gordon Roddick, activist, UK
Foundation Green Planet, France
Vandana Shiva, environmentalist, India
The Wildlife Trust of India
Belinda Wright, Wildlife Protection Society of India
Tashi Tsering, Three Rivers Network, USA
The Ecological Society of the Philippines
Tesi Environmental Awareness Movement, India
Barbara Maas, Care for the Wild, UK
Caroline Lucas, Green MEP, UK
International Tibet Support Network Tibet Third Pole group

Press contact:
Kate Saunders
Director of Communications, International Campaign for Tibet
Tel: +44 (0) 7947 138612

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