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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."

Four sentenced to death in long delayed, swift trials for Mar’08 Lhasa protests

April 13, 2009

Tibetan Review
April 11, 2009

China reported Apr 8 that it had sentenced five
Tibetans to terms ranging from a life sentence to
death without reprieve for arson leading to
deaths during the Mar 14-15, 2008 Tibetan
protests in Lhasa. The official Xinhua news
agency Apr 8 reported that four Tibetans were
sentenced to death, two of them with a two-year
reprieve, and a fifth Tibetan to life
imprisonment. It said more Tibetans were being
tried in a fourth deadly arson case.

The report claimed that the five Tibetans were
given open trials, but this could not be
confirmed from any independent source. "The court
also provided Tibetan interpreters for the
defendants," a spokesman for the Lhasa Municipal
Intermediate People's Court was quoted as saying,
suggesting the primacy of Chinese language in
judicial proceedings, as in all other official
business conducts, in a region where well over 90
percent of the population is claimed to be Tibetan.

It was also not clear how long the trials lasted,
although they appear to have had been short and
swift. Indeed, no one outside the government
appeared to know when the trials were going to be
held. The report only said the five were tried in
three separate arson cases and that “the
sentences were made at the first instance trial Wednesday (Apr 8) afternoon.”

The court spokesman was also quoted as saying:
"Their lawyers fully voiced their defenses. The
litigious rights of the defendants were fully
safeguarded and their customs and dignity were
respected." However, a group of 21 lawyers in
China who last year offered to provide free legal
service to Tibetans sought to be tried for the
Mar 14-15, 2008 protests were strongly
intimidated by the government, even punished with
the suspension of their licences to practice
their profession, with the result that none of
them could make good on their offer.

And the apparent swiftness of the trials and
sentences appear to show that confession had been obtained under torture.

The report said that Losang Gyaltse got the death
penalty in one of the cases for setting fire to
two garment shops in downtown Lhasa on Mar 14,
which led to the death of a shop owner named Zuo Rencun.

In the second case, Loyar, Gangtsu, and Dawa
Sangpo were sentenced to death for torching a
motorcycle dealership in Deqen Township of
Lhasa's Dagze County on Mar 15. It said five
people, including the shop owner Liang Zhiwei,
Liang's wife, son and two employees, died in the
fire. Loyar is destined for a bullet in the back
of his head while Gangtsu has got a two-year
reprieve from execution. And Dawa Sangpo has been jailed for life.

In the third case, Tenzin Phuntsog was sentenced
to death, but also with a two-year reprieve. He
was convicted for setting fire to a garment shop
which spread to a neighbouring garment shop in
downtown Lhasa on Mar 14. A shop owner named Liu
Guobing and his wife were injured but Liu's
daughter was reportedly burnt to death.

Regarding the two Tibetans sentenced to death
without reprieve, the court spokesman was quoted
as saying, "The two defendants -- had committed
extremely serious crimes and have to be executed
to assuage the people's anger."

More death sentences appeared likely to follow,
for the report said that another arson case, in
which five civilians were killed and a shop burnt down, was still under trial.

China had earlier claimed to have tried a total
of 76 Tibetans in separate trials for the
protests in and around Lhasa, none of them to
death. Independent reports show that several
times more Tibetans had been tried not only in
the Tibet Autonomous Region but across the Tibetan Plateau as well.

Apart from the total lack of fairness and
openness in the judicial procedure, the trials
have been severely criticized for being patently
political. Guardian.co.uk Apr 9 quoted
London-based Free Tibet spokesperson, Matt
Whitticase, as expressing huge concern over the
sentences "in the light of evidence that has
continued to emerge from Tibet since last year,
which clearly shows that politically-motivated
cases against Tibetans are being mounted in the
complete absence of even the most basic legal oversight and due process."

As regards the question why such swift trials and
sentences took so long to be held, Kelsang
Gyaltsen, the Dalai Lama’s envoy to Europe, has
told The Times (UK) Apr 9 that Beijing had been
stringing out the process until after the
Olympics last year in order to avoid international embarrassment.

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