Join our Mailing List

"For a happier, more stable and civilized future, each of us must develop a sincere, warm-hearted feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood."

TIBET: 1959-2009. 50 years of oppression -- 50 years of resistance

April 29, 2009

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet (UK)
April 28, 2009

ADVISORY FOR NEXT MEETING: Tuesday 5 May: 4pm, Room O, Portcullis House

Guest speaker: Tenzing Ngawang, a former Tibetan
political prisoner granted asylum in the UK. He
will talk about his arrest and experience in jail
and his fears for the two young Tibetans
sentenced to death. (His story is pasted in below)

If you would like to attend, please call Terry or
me on 020 7272 1414 or email: apgt@btinternet.com. Thanks!

Information briefing

1 Death Sentences Given to Two Tibetans (8th April 2009)

There is now an  International appeal to the
authorities of the People’s Republic of China to
rescind the recent decisions to execute two young
Tibetan men, Lobsan Gyaltsen and Loyak (both in
their 20s). An article titled “Death in Lhasa" by
Václav Havel, Desmond Tutu amongst others that
was published worldwide (it was in The Guardian
in the UK), has now been turned into an
international petition and politicians and high
profile people from all areas are being asked for
their support. (For text and signatories:
http://www.tibetnetwork.org/deathsentences)

News has also been received that in another case
where three women in their early 20s were on
trial for allegedly burning down a shop with five
people inside, one has received a death with a
two-year reprieve (Penkyi from Sakya County aged
20), another life imprisonment (Penkyi from Nyemo
County, aged 23) and the third (Chime, aged 20) has received 10 years.

All these sentences, the trial procedures and
treatment prior to the hearings are a matter of
grave concern and, if China sincerely wants to be
respected as a major world power, world
governments must surely insist that it adheres to
international standards of human and civil
rights, with the right to a fair and open trial being one of these.

In April 2008, following the demonstrations in
Tibet and news that hundreds of Tibetans had been
detained for their roles in the protests in
Lhasa, a group of 18 prominent civil rights
lawyers issued an open letter offering to provide
legal assistance to the detainees, saying: "As
professional lawyers, we hope that the relevant
authorities will handle Tibetan detainees
strictly in accordance with the constitution, the
laws and due process for criminal defendants. We
hope that they will prevent coerced confessions,
respect judicial independence and show respect for the law."

Instead of welcoming this gesture and seeing it
as an opportunity to show progress and openness
in its legal procedures, the Chinese Ministry of
Justice very quickly warned all members of the
group not to get involved or they would face
disciplinary sanctions and jeopardise the renewal
of their professional licenses. Human Rights
Watch reported that two of the lawyers have not
had their licences renewed. Again, this kind of
flagrant curtailment of any opinion that runs
counter to the Chinese government official line
is not the action of a responsible and open regime.

"Justice Denied for Tibetans," an article about
the recent trial of Buramna Rinpoche by Woeser,
the Tibetan poet and blogger based in Beijing,
published in the Wall Street Journal, Asia, again
reiterates the lack of due legal processes in China (see below).

There have been some PQs tabled asking that
representations be made to the Chinese
authorities to try to halt the death sentences,
for a review of the judicial procedures and
statement from the government. However, time is
short as the two young Tibetans sentenced could
be executed as early as today (28 April) (For
brief background on procedures see below).

The following four points are further asks that
Tibet support groups worldwide are calling for:

*  that all eight cases are impartially
investigated with any further trials to be
conducted openly and with due regard to international legal standards

*  that all cases related to events of March and
April 2008 are given a suspension until a full
and independent inquiry into events around these dates is held

*  that a full list of the names and whereabouts
of all Tibetans still detained in relation to last years events is provided

*  that no prisoner is subjected to torture or
other ill-treatment, they are granted the right
to regular visits by family members, have access
to lawyers of their choice and are given any
necessary medical treatment needed.

2 Current EDMs

There are four EDMs tabled concerning Tibet, for
full texts see below or click on the EDM names to
go to the parliament website (http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMList.aspx).

Please sign these to show the government the
urgency of the current situation in Tibet.

* EDM 978: The 50th Anniversary on 10 March 2009
of the Tibetan National Uprising

* EDM 998: Venerable Palden Gyatso and human rights in Tibet

* EDM 1034: Political situation in Tibet

* EDM 1172: South Africa and the Dalai Lama

3 Justice Denied for Tibetans (Wall Street Journal Asia 4/27/09) (op-ed)

The 'trial' of a monk highlights Beijing's repression.

Before dawn on the morning of May 18, 2008, the
authorities cut off all forms of communications
in the small rural town -- telephones, mobile
phones, the Internet and even roads in and around
the area. At around 6 a.m., more than 1,000
members of the People's Liberation Army, People's
Armed Police and local and special police units
prepared to make their assault on a small house.
Around the same time, more than 4,000 soldiers
and police divided up to surround and take control of two nearby nunneries.

Their target? Buramna Rinpoche, a 52-year-old
Living Buddha and head of Pangri and Yatseg
nunneries in Kardze, a Tibetan county of Sichuan
province. The story of this religious leader, who
operated a home for the elderly and took care of
orphans and handicapped children, is symptomatic
of Beijing's heavy-handed treatment of Tibetans.
It also explains why the so-called Tibet question
is not going to disappear any time soon.

The joint military-police unit easily forced its
way into the house, where authorities say they
discovered a rifle, a pistol and more than 100
rounds of ammunition hidden under a bed in the
living room. The monk was arrested under charges
of possessing illegal firearms and ammunition. He
was also later charged with the illegal occupation of state land.

The arrest more likely is connected to an
incident that had occurred four days earlier,
when 80 nuns from the Pangri and Yatseg nunneries
took to the streets to carry out a peaceful
protest against the Chinese government's
"patriotic education" campaign, which pressured
Tibetans to denounce the Dalai Lama, Tibet's
spiritual leader who now lives in exile in India.
These religious women peacefully handed out
leaflets and shouted slogans criticizing the
campaign, but according to an eyewitness with
whom I've spoken several thousand military and
police were mobilized to deal with the protest,
in which many of the women were severely beaten and arrested.

The authorities apparently believed that the nuns
had acted upon the instructions of Mr. Buramna,
as he is responsible for both nunneries. So from
that day on, his every movement was monitored.

Mr. Buramna was transferred after his arrest to
the Luhuo County Detention Center. There,
according to his lawyer, he was handcuffed to a
railing for four days and kept awake day and
night by two guards. During these four days, he
says he was tortured and police threatened to
arrest his wife and son if he did not sign a
confession to possessing illegal weapons. Under
such duress, Mr. Buramna signed and made a
thumbprint on a confession admitting to the
charges. He later recanted this "confession" in court.

Mr. Buramna's family hired two Chinese lawyers
from Beijing to defend him. The two, Li Fangping
and Jiang Tianyong, are well-known human rights
defenders. Mr. Jiang was one of 21 Chinese
lawyers who signed a public statement on April 1,
2008, offering to provide legal defense to
Tibetans who were arrested in connection with
protests that broke out in March 2008 in Tibetan
areas throughout China. The government has
threatened to close the law firms, or revoke
individual lawyers' licenses, if these lawyers
involve themselves in the Tibet issue, Human Rights Watch has reported.

On the morning of April 21, the trial opened in
Kangding County, a one- to two-day drive away,
rather than Kardze County, Mr. Buramna's hometown
and scene of the alleged crime, apparently to
prevent local Tibetan monks and lay people from
protesting outside the courtroom. Mr. Buramna
appeared in court wearing the bright yellow and
crimson red robes of a Tibetan monk. Seven
members of his family, including his wife and
son, were in the court, some crying throughout
the trial. Speaking in Chinese, Mr. Buramna
denied the alleged crimes, arguing in particular
that the weapons and ammunition found at his home
had been planted there to frame him.

Mr. Buramna's lawyers say they were allowed only
limited access to their client before trial and
they were not allowed to access all the court
documents related to the case, which limited
their ability to cross-examine witnesses. Even
so, they noted at trial that the court did not
investigate the source of the firearms and
ammunition, and even failed to check for
fingerprints. They argued that the monk's living
room was a public place that saw a large number
of people coming and going, and that anyone could
have hidden the weapons there. They stated
further that an examination of documents related
to the land used nor the elderly people's home,
which the government said was occupied illegally,
showed the site was not state-owned.

The lawyers repeated the monk's assertion that he
was tortured for four days and was forced to sign
the confession under duress, which would make it
invalid for use as a basis for conviction. No
verdict was handed down at the end of the
hearing, the court saying it would announce the
sentence at another date. If convicted, Mr.
Buramna will face a prison term of between five and 15 years.

Yet Beijing would be wrong to think that will be
the end of the matter. The incident has led to
widespread anger among Tibetans in the area. On
the morning of Mr. Buramna's arrest, a number of
monks and ordinary people in Kardze held a
demonstration demanding his release; they were
surrounded by the police and beaten, according to
the same witness who saw the nuns' original
protest. The elderly residents in his welfare
institution also tried to protest, but according
to the same source, their home was surrounded by
the police. In June, there were more protests
seeking his release, and several people were beaten and arrested.

Mr. Buramna's trial is the first of a major
religious leader to be held since last year's
disturbances in Tibetan areas. It's a sad
commentary on the situation that one can say that
at least this trial is being held in public. But
such trials will not bring stability to the area.
The nuns whose protest seems to have sparked this
case acted spontaneously, and their protest had
nothing to do with Mr. Buramna. They, and all
Tibetans, want justice in their region. Putting
Mr. Buramna in jail will only increase that thirst.

Ms. Woeser, a Tibetan poet, writer and blogger,
lives in Beijing. This article was translated from the Chinese by Paul Mooney.

4 Tenzing Ngawang’s Story

In 1998 I had been a monk for ten years in
Drebung monastery. Like the five facing the death
sentence and the thousands of people who
demonstrated last year in all parts of Tibet, I
was in my twenties. Like them I too felt
frustrated and desperate at the lack of freedom,
and real prospect of the end of our nation,
through Chinese oppression marginalisation and assimilation policies.

I put up posters in Lhasa calling for freedom of
religious practise, the return of the Dalai Lama
and freedom for our country. I knew as anyone
does who demonstrates the seriousness of this
crime. It made me a ‘splittist’ or separatist
undermining the unity of the ‘motherland’.

Like the former Soviet Union, the regime
maintains an extensive network throughout Tibetan
society of informers, using  fear, pressure and
payment. I know the person who must have informed
on me in the monastery resulting in my arrest by the Public Security Bureau.

For the first two months I was kept day and night
in solitary confinement without any daylight.
Food was rice, hot water and sometimes
vegetables. But worse I did not know when I would
be interrogated, with arms handcuffed behind my
back while severely beaten by groups of
interrogators. Occasionally an interrogator would
draw his pistol and tell me I was about to be
shot. I knew it could be true. The aim of the Han
(Chinese) and Tibetan interrogators was to find out my accomplices.

I was told it would be several months before my
case would come to court. Interrogators came from
the Public Security Bureau, state Security and
Procurancy department, at prefecture and county
level. The higher the level the less likely I was
to be beaten. After two months I was given a cell
mate but the interrogations continued as I refused to divulge any information.

Throughout my imprisonment I was not allowed any
legal representation. Nor contact with my family.
My family had great difficulty finding out my situation.

It was a year and a half before I was brought to
a court. I was not allowed to speak whilst
officials from the various levels of the security
departments discussed my case with the judges.
They said I had admitted putting up the posters
but had refused to give information on my
associates. Two weeks later I was sentenced to
two years imprisonment. After this I was moved to
a cell with other inmates and had to work
collecting human manure and help grow vegetables.

At the end of my sentence I was released into the
custody of my family and deprived of my political
rights and not allowed back to the monastery.
This meant I had to be supported by my family,
report regularly to the local Public Security
Bureau office and I had no freedom of movement,
access to medical treatment or employment. There
is no end to this limbo existence for political
prisoners. So after a few weeks I ‘disappeared’
and eventually managed to escape from Tibet.

My experience is no different to that of
thousands of Tibetans still in detention as well
as the five that have been sentenced to death,
only their experience will have will have been
harsher. I also know that outside international
political and public pressure does have an
effect. I only learnt after I escaped that people
outside Tibet had been campaigning on my behalf,
but then understood why periodically the interrogations grew less brutal.

It is essential that the UK Government, through
the UK/China Human Rights dialogue, press for the
reprieve of these individuals who are the victims
of a judicial system run by the Communist Party
without any basic elements of the Rule of Law. It
is also essential that they press for the Red
Cross to have access to the detainees and media access to Tibet.

5 Chinese Legal Procedures and Deadlines

Under Chinese law you have 10 days in which you
can appeal against the sentences, so the appeal
needs to be lodged by Saturday 18th. (It is
unclear from Amnesty and other sources if Lobsang
Gyaltsen or Loyak will appeal.) After this the
TAR High People’s Court will review the verdict
(supposedly within three following the appeal
period, so by 21st April). If the verdict is
upheld (which is the most likely option), because
it is a death sentence, the case will then go to
the Supreme People’s Court for final approval,
but they really just look at judicial procedure
and do not examine evidence. This procedure
should be completed within seven days (so
theoretically by 28th April), but according to
Amnesty there is a backlog of cases. However, as
it is sensitive and coming from the TAR High
People’s Court, ironically it could get priority.
Once the death sentence is approved, the
execution is carried out very quickly (within
seven days). The Supreme People’s Court does,
however, have the power to reject a death sentence, this results in a retrial

6 Text of EDMs

* EDM 978: The 50th Anniversary on 10 March 2009
of the Tibetan National Uprising

This House notes the 50th Anniversary on 10 March
2009 of the Tibetan National Uprising; draws
attention to the unique historical position of
Great Britain and Tibet whereby Great Britain had
direct diplomatic and trade links with Tibet and
maintained a permanent diplomatic mission in
Tibet between 1933-1947, further notes the
written Ministerial Statement of 29 October 2008
which changed the British government’s long held
position on the status of Tibet that was made
without receiving any assurance from the Chinese
government to make genuine progress on the issue
of Tibet, and in view of the government’s strong
concerns on human rights issues inside Tibet also
expressed in the ministerial statement, including
the situation of those remaining in detention,
the increased constraints on religious activity
and the limitations on free access to the Tibet
Autonomous Region by diplomats and journalists,
urgently calls on the government to act on these
concerns and give effect to its stated commitment
to seek a solution for Tibet, and further calls
on the government to draft a list of practical
actions that address these issues, with a clear
framework to monitor progress, that the Chinese
government can adopt in order to work to bring
about genuine justice to the Tibetan people.

* EDM 998: Venerable Palden Gyatso and human rights in Tibet

That this House welcomes the arrival to Britain,
at the invitation of the Tibet Society, of the
former political prisoner, the Venerable Palden
Gyatso, to speak of his experiences; notes with
deep regret the suffering and torture he endured
during 33 years of imprisonment following
detainment in 1959 for peaceful protest; commends
his commitment to peacefully calling for the
rights and freedom of his people; further notes
with sadness that 50 years on the human rights
situation in Palden's homeland of Tibet remains
critical, with continuing oppressive measures
being imposed upon the Tibetan people by Chinese
government policies, such as patriotic
re-education, arbitrary arrests and torture in
detention and the use of brutal force against
Tibetans who publicly demonstrate; and offers its
support for a just and fair solution for the Tibetan people.

* EDM 1034: Political situation in Tibet

That this House condemns the state of de facto
martial law that Tibet has been subjected to by
the Chinese government on the eve of the 50th
anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising and the
flight of the Dalai Lama; recognises the severe
impact on basic human rights and freedoms the
present Chinese approach is having on the Tibetan
people; notes that Tibetans continue to be
tortured and killed and that thousands are
subject to arbitrary and heavy-handed
restrictions of movement; and calls on the
Chinese government to end the de facto martial
law and to lift the official ban on access to
Tibet for journalists and aid organisations.

* EDM 1172: South Africa and the Dalai Lama

That this House deeply regrets the decision by
South Africa to refuse a visa to the Dalai Lama
to attend a peace conference in Johannesburg this
week; questions the priorities of the South
African government in taking such a course of
action so as not to upset relations with China;
and calls on the South African government to
reverse its decision in the interests of
promoting free speech and pursuing a peaceful
solution to settling the longstanding dispute
over the autonomy and human rights of the people of Tibet.

Philippa Carrick
Group Administrator
__________________________________________
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet
Secretariat: The Tibet Society
Unit 9, 139 Fonthill Road, London N4 3HF
Tel: +44 (0)20 7272 1414  Fax: +44 (0)20 7272 1410
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
Developed by plank