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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Asylum case keeps monk in custody

October 8, 2008

A Tibetan monk who arrived in Hawaii this summer and was granted political asylum last month remains in custody at the federal detention center in Honolulu as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security appeals his case.
By Nelson Daranciang
Star Bulletin (Hawaii, USA)
October 7, 2008

Pema Wangyal, 38, was living in exile in India when his uncle invited him to Hawaii to give a monthlong series of lectures on a classical Buddhist text. The uncle, Lama Wangchuk, is a U.S. citizen and former monk who runs the Kamtsang Sherab Choling Buddhist Meditation Center in Honolulu. The center promotes Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhist teachings and Tibetan traditions.

The lecture series was to occur in August.

When Wangyal arrived in Honolulu on June 26, U.S. Customs officials took him into custody because the information on his Indian-issued identity certificate did not match him. It said he was born in India in 1978, which would make him about 30, and is 6 feet 6 inches tall. Wangyal is 5 feet 8 and was born in Tibet.

When officials questioned him about the discrepancies, Wangyal said the identity certificate was purchased in New Delhi, and agreed that it contained incorrect information. He also admitted that he failed to mention on his visa application that he was denied a visa in Taiwan in 2004 using a different identity certificate.

According to a 2003 report of the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, India stopped automatically offering Tibetan exiles residency permits in 1979 that would qualify them for Indian-issued travel documents.

Wangyal said he left Tibet in 1990 by walking across the border into Nepal and onto India because Chinese officials discourage Tibetans from becoming monks. He became a monk at a monastery in northern India. And he said he was never offered citizenship, asylum or refugee status in any country.

U.S. Immigration Judge Dayna Beamer granted Wangyal asylum on Sept. 2, but the Homeland Security attorney handling the case immediately appealed. The government claims Wangyal is eligible for permanent resettlement in India.

Wangyal said he wants to return to India but is afraid Indian officials will either imprison him for using false identification documents or send him back to Tibet, where he will face certain persecution from Chinese officials.

Through an interpreter he told an asylum officer, "If I returned to Tibet, I would be jailed ... and executed."

His attorney, Emmanuel Guerrero, said if the Indian government refuses to accept Wangyal, the only other place U.S. officials can send him is Tibet.

It could take the Board of Immigration Appeals in Virginia anywhere from six months to several years to hear the government's appeal, Guerrero said.

"There is no reason he should be sitting in jail. He's not a terrorist; he's not a security threat or threat to the community," Guerrero said.

Wangchuk said his nephew is handling his detention well, praying, chanting and meditating all day.

"He said this is not much different from the monastery," Wangchuk said.

A Tibetan monk who arrived in Hawaii this summer and was granted political asylum last month remains in custody at the federal detention center in Honolulu as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security appeals his case.

Pema Wangyal, 38, was living in exile in India when his uncle invited him to Hawaii to give a month long series of lectures on a classical Buddhist text. The uncle, Lama Wangchuk, is a U.S. citizen and former monk who runs the Kamtsang Sherab Choling Buddhist Meditation Center in Honolulu. The center promotes Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhist teachings and Tibetan traditions.

The lecture series was to occur in August.

When Wangyal arrived in Honolulu on June 26, U.S. Customs officials took him into custody because the information on his Indian-issued identity certificate did not match him. It said he was born in India in 1978, which would make him about 30, and is 6 feet 6 inches tall. Wangyal is 5 feet 8 and was born in Tibet.

When officials questioned him about the discrepancies, Wangyal said the identity certificate was purchased in New Delhi, and agreed that it contained incorrect information. He also admitted that he failed to mention on his visa application that he was denied a visa in Taiwan in 2004 using a different identity certificate.

According to a 2003 report of the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, India stopped automatically offering Tibetan exiles residency permits in 1979 that would qualify them for Indian-issued travel documents.

Wangyal said he left Tibet in 1990 by walking across the border into Nepal and onto India because Chinese officials discourage Tibetans from becoming monks. He became a monk at a monastery in northern India. And he said he was never offered citizenship, asylum or refugee status in any country.

U.S. Immigration Judge Dayna Beamer granted Wangyal asylum on Sept. 2, but the Homeland Security attorney handling the case immediately appealed. The government claims Wangyal is eligible for permanent resettlement in India.

Wangyal said he wants to return to India but is afraid Indian officials will either imprison him for using false identification documents or send him back to Tibet, where he will face certain persecution from Chinese officials.

Through an interpreter he told an asylum officer, "If I returned to Tibet, I would be jailed ... and executed."

His attorney, Emmanuel Guerrero, said if the Indian government refuses to accept Wangyal, the only other place U.S. officials can send him is Tibet.

It could take the Board of Immigration Appeals in Virginia anywhere from six months to several years to hear the government's appeal, Guerrero said.

"There is no reason he should be sitting in jail. He's not a terrorist; he's not a security threat or threat to the community," Guerrero said.

Wangchuk said his nephew is handling his detention well, praying, chanting and meditating all day.

"He said this is not much different from the monastery," Wangchuk said.
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