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More Tibetans Shot, Tortured, Paraded

April 27, 2009

Given Show Trials and Death Sentences Chinese Tantrum to Continue
Agam's Gecko Blog
April 23, 2009

Another incident of Chinese troops shooting
protesters has been reported from the Kardze
Tibetan "Autonomous" Prefecture this month.
Residents of Thangkya and Thangkya Depa towns in
Nyagrong County held a peaceful demonstration on
April 15 related to a harsh court ruling against
three Tibetans who had protested in March this
year, as well as the violent crackdown against
the farming boycott campaign. Chinese security
forces with 13 armoured personnel carriers began
firing indiscriminately at the protesters.

At least nine Tibetans including one woman were
arrested in the incident which also injured an
unknown number. No deaths were reported,
according to a report by Voice of Tibet radio.
The arrested woman is identified as Aga, while
the men arrested are Gonpo Tsewang, Yiga, Alo,
Drakbe, Dawa Drakpa, Gyashe, Kyaka and Gonbe (who
sustained gunshot wounds to his leg).

Following the (earlier reported here) explosion
last month at an unoccupied police station in
Bathang County, Kardze T-"A"-P, Chinese armed
forces and Public Security Bureau personnel
carried out house-to-house raids in Gangru
village, Pogurshi township on April 14. Around 70
security forces conducted the operation, vowing
not to leave until at least 10 Tibetans had been
arrested. At the time of the explosion, when
banners such as "Chinese go out of Tibet" and
"Tibet belongs to Tibet" were displayed in the
area, PSB officials had tried to take in four
Tibetan suspects but they evaded arrest.

The farmlands of this village also remain
unploughed, though whether this can be attributed
to the farming boycott or to the fact that many
of the local youth have fled the area due to
being targets of the Chinese manhunt, is not
clear. Residents had also strongly resisted the
forced patriotism re-education campaign which
officials subjected them to in May last year.

A Buddhist monk named Shedup, aged around 40, had
been arrested last year for allegedly protesting
in Rebkong County, Amdo in March 2008. Shedup was
reportedly seriously beaten and tortured in
custody, and was later released. His name then
appeared on a wanted list just prior to this
year's March 10th uprising anniversary. His
treatment while in custody last year must have
been particularly horrible — around April 2 he
committed suicide at his monastery, believed to
be the Tarjang Monastery. Shedup had previously
pursued his studies in India at Lubum Khangtsen,
Gaden Jangtse Monastery, and returned to Tibet via Nepal in 2006.

In January this year a protest was held by the
monks of Denma Choekhor Monastery in Jomda
County, Chamdo Prefecture (Tibetan "Autonomous"
Region). The abbot and a number of monks left the
monastery fearing their arrest. On April 1 the
Chamdo PSB dispatched 15 officers to arrest the
abbot in Jyekundo (western Amdo, Ch: Qinghai). An
unknown number of monks, including the former
prefect Ven. Sonam Gelek and Tseten Sonam were also taken into custody.

On the same day Chinese paramilitaries raided the
Tsetsang Monastery in Kardze, arresting 40 year
old monk Sonam Nyima. Sonam was responsible for
purchasing daily needs of the monastery. His
nephew Tsering Gyurmey had left the same
monastery after his name appeared on a wanted
list due to involvement in protests last March,
and Tsering's younger brother Tenzin Ngodup is
now serving a three year sentence for protesting
on May 20, 2008. A separate report on the
incident said that the security forces ransacked
the monastery and took away five monks on arbitrary charges.

Following their arrest, Tibetans like these often
become part of a travelling Uncle Hu's Fabulous
Cultural Revolution Revival show. Farming boycott
supporters in Kardze, for example, were paraded
around on trucks through several villages on
April 5 — heads shaved, arms and legs shackled,
with Chinese soldiers pushing their heads down
while officials bellowed the accusations through
loudspeakers. Onlookers were warned of similar
treatment should they dare to engage in
"separatist activities." Only three of the
fifteen parade props have been identified; Jhampa
Dhondup, 27, from Tsitsang Monastery, Kardze,
arrested March 19 for supporting the boycott;
Taphel, around 56, arrested for an unknown crime
on March 19; Tsering Wangrab, 42, arrested in
Lhopa village over the farm boycott.

A Tibetan scholar of Buddhism at the Gomang
Monastery in Ngaba Prefecture was arrested around
April 2 for his writings. Dokru Tsultrim, 27 (see
photo at top), was apprehended in his room at the
monastery and his whereabouts remain unknown. The
monk hails from Mangra County, Tsolho T-"A"-P in
Amdo (Ch: Qinghai) and had studied at the Lutsang
and Ditsa Monasteries in Mangra County before joining Gomang in 2005.

Dokru Tsultrim had recently written two articles
critical of the Chinese government which appeared
in a journal called Khawe Tse Sog, which resulted
in accusations of "sedition" and supporting the
"motivations of Dalai supporters". The journal
has since ceased publication. A number of
Tibetans have been arrested recently for their
writings. Kunchok Tsephel, who ran a Tibetan
language and culture website Chomei ("Lamp"), was
arrested on February 26, and Kunga Tsayang, a
writer-photographer was arrested for his essays
on the website Zin-dris ("Jottings") on March 17.

In more positive news on the thought-crime front,
documentary filmmaker Golog Jigme Gyatso has once
again been released from Chinese custody on April
20, reports the Association of Tibetan
Journalists. The monk-documentarian had worked
with Dhondup Wangchen between October 2007 and
March 2008 to film Jigdrel (Leaving Fear Behind).

Both filmmakers were arrested in March 2008, but
Jigme was released in October and re-arrested
last month. Dhondup Wangchen remains in prison.
In their film, ordinary Tibetans were given the
opportunity to express their views about their
country. According to the ATJ, a heavy fine of
several thousand yuan was imposed on Jigme at the
time of his release. The journalists' association
also reports that Jigme had sensed the
international pressure on Chinese officials who
interrogated him, and he felt he was being
treated unusually better than other prisoners. A
small but important indication that international
pressure can have positive effects on face-conscious Chinese authorities.

Another Jigme Gyatso could use some of that sort
of attention at the moment. This 48 year old
political prisoner has served 12 years of his 17
year sentence, and is now reported to be
seriously ill following those years of torture
and ill-treatment. He is now held in the Chushul Prison outside of Lhasa.

Around the time of a major Tibetan uprising in
1988-89, Jigme was the leader of a youth
organisation called the "Association of Tibetan
Freedom Movement". In the following years he
engaged in pro-independence activism, including
the distribution and posting of freedom leaflets
around Ganden Monastery and in Lhasa city itself,
and organising a Lhasa demonstration in 1992. He
was under surveillance and was finally arrested
at the Jokhang Temple on March 30, 1996, and
sentenced to 15 years for "endangering national
security" and "incitement". He was held at the
Gutsa PSB detention centre and Lhasa's Drapchi
Prison before his transfer to Chushul in 2005.

In May 1998 a group of European Union ambassadors
were about to visit Drapchi Prison when the
prisoners launched a protest which Jigme joined.
The protest was brutally suppressed, resulting in
the deaths of eight prisoners and sentence
extensions for at least 27 inmates. In 2000 the
UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention stated
that Jigme was imprisoned for merely "exercising
the right to freedom of peaceful assembly."
During another protest in Drapchi in March 2004,
Jigme shouted "Long Live Dalai Lama!" He was
kicked, beaten, shocked with electric batons and
his sentence extended for two extra years.

In late 2005 the UN Special Rapporteur on
Torture, Dr. Manfred Nowak, met with Jigme in
Chushul Prison. After his visit, Dr. Nowak called
for the release of Jigme and seven other political prisoners.

"Since he has been convicted of a political
crime, possibly on the basis of information
extracted by torture, the Special Rapporteur
appeals to the government that he be released,"
Nowak writes in each of the eight cases.

The Chinese government accepted none of the recommendations.

A highly respected and well-loved Tibetan lama in
Kardze T-"A"-P is facing 15 years imprisonment on
weapons charges, his lawyer told Associated Press
on Tuesday. Pangrina Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche had
been seized by security forces in the dark early
morning hours of May 18, 2008. Phurbu Rinpoche is
from the Tehor Monastery in Kardze, and was the
spiritual preceptor for the Pangri-Na and Ya-tseg
Convents in Kardze County. He had also
established a home for the aged and two medical
supply stores for the welfare of the local
people. His arrest came just days after a large
number of Pangri-Na nuns had protested their
"patriotism re-education" which required them to
denounce the Dalai Lama and Phurbu Rinpoche.

Phurbu Rinpoche's Beijing lawyer, Li Fangping
told the AP that his client was forced into
making a confession after an interrogation
lasting four days, during which time physical
torture was reportedly inflicted and threats were
made against his wife and son if he did not comply.

Prosecutors allege a pistol and more than 100
bullets and cartridges were found under a bed in
Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche's living room during a
police raid, but the monk has denied the
allegation, saying he was framed, Li said.

"The charge is untenable," Li said. "Police
didn't ask him about the source of the weapons or check for fingerprints."

For once, it seems that a Tibetan has a competent
lawyer. Let's see if he's allowed to continue
with the case. Not asking him about the weapons
and not checking them for fingerprints is a
strange way to conduct a police investigation.
Phurbu Rinpoche is the first senior lama to be
charged in relation to the groundswell of protest
in Tibet over the past 14 months. Previously,
other very prominent religious figures have been
prosecuted under fabricated charges, including
Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok of the famous Serthar
Buddhist Insitute in Kardze, Geshe Sonam Phuntsok
of Dargay Monastery in Kardze, Tulku Tenzin Delek
Rinpoche the founder of Kham Nalanda Monastery in
Kardze, and Bangri Rinpoche the founder of Gyatso
Orphanage in Lhasa. More background on the case
from the International Campaign for Tibet and
Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy

And finally to the Tibet news which gained the
most international attention this week, although
they missed the most curious thing about it —
another death sentence and two more long prison
terms, to add to the four death sentences announced earlier this month.

The Lhasa Municipal Intermediate People's Court
issued a suspended death sentence to a Tibetan
man, identified as Penkyi of Sakya County, for
"starting fires in two downtown clothing shops on
March 14," Xinhua news agency reported, citing a
state-run Tibet Daily newspaper. However, the
exile Tibetan government, NGOs and monitoring
agencies say that Penkyi is a 21-year-old woman
from Norbu village, Dogra township in Sakya
County. A picture of Penkyi was also posted on
the official website of the Tibetan government in exile.

In fact all three of these latest sentences were
given to women. The charges were in connection
with several fires which were set on the one
night of riots in Lhasa last year, March 14. One
of the fires claimed the life of the store owner,
while the other killed five store staff.

Penkyi of Sakya County received the death penalty
with a two year reprieve (two of the four earlier
death sentences also came with a two year
reprieve, which is often commuted to life in
prison). The second Penkyi, age 23 from Nyemo
County, was sentenced to life in prison. Chime
Lhamo, age 20 from Shigatse Namling County, was
given a ten year sentence. The secretive nature
of these trials raise serious questions about
their fairness, as they failed to meet even
minimal international legal standards. There is a
documented history of denial of access to legal
counsel in these Chinese courts, which owe
allegiance not to law but to the Chinese Communist Party.

This might be a good place to remind that the
currently running fiasco of the "Durban Review
Conference" on racism (which is rampant in
Chinese - Tibetan relations) banished the primary
Tibetan human rights organisation from its
session by acquiescing to manipulation by the
People's Republic of China. The PRC objected to
TCHRD's accreditation and requested 14 days to
study the matter. This manoeuvre effectively
expelled the NGO, as the "Preparatory Committee"
took the decision of "no action."

If all this sounds like a childish way for a
country to behave, that's because it is. There
are so very many brilliant Chinese people in this
world, but the Communist Party makes China's
state actions seem more appropriate for a seven
year-old. From the whining over which country the
Dalai Lama should be allowed to visit to the
stomping of little feet over inclusion of his
wisdom in a UNESCO-sponsored book, and from the
tantrums thrown when some of its subjects utter
unflattering opinions to the paranoid
demonization of its perceived enemies who simply
want to talk to them with mutual respect, the
behaviour of this state has long appeared to this
writer as that of a spoiled child.

Apparently His Holiness has noticed the same phenomenon.

The Tibetan spiritual leader told reporters in
Japan that while China could boast military,
economic and population muscle, it feared even small signs of dissent.

Addressing a Tokyo news conference on a stopover
before a speaking tour of Europe and the United
States, he said he saw China, "such a big nation, acting like a child."

He said the government routinely arrested
individuals with different views, but stressed
that "such a big nation of over one billion
people (should have) no need for such sort of fear."

"One or two persons have different views, and
immediately they are in trouble with the
government. No. You're a big nation. You should have more self-confidence."

On the heavy punishments meted out this week, the
Tibetan leader pointed out something which the
pop media fails to recognise except on very rare
occasions. Chinese courts answer to the Communist
Party, and this fact must especially not be
ignored in politically motivated cases.

The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader said the
court decision reflected the Chinese Communist
Party's control of people "without the rule of law."

"Actually, everything is controlled by the party.
So, all these sentences were politically
reasoned," he said during a brief stop at Tokyo's
Narita airport on his way to Los Angeles. "We
have great reservation about these sentences."

The Tibetan leader accused Beijing of concealing
evidence in these trials, and asked for further
investigation and full disclosure of details.

I don't think he really expects such state maturity any more than I do.
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