Join our Mailing List

"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Official confirmation of execution of Tibetans in Lhasa

October 27, 2009

ICT Report
October 26, 2009

Two Tibetans were executed in Lhasa for their
alleged roles in the protests and rioting in
Lhasa on March 14, 2008, according to reports by
Tibetan exile organizations confirmed by the
Chinese embassy in London on Friday (October 23).
Lobsang Gyaltsen and Loyak were sentenced to
death in April 2009 on charges relating to
"starting fatal fires," according to a report in
the Chinese state media. They are the first known
executions of Tibetans in connection with the
Lhasa riot on March 14, 2008 although others have
been killed following torture in custody.

The Dharamsala, India-based NGO Gu Chu Sum, which
helps former political prisoners, reported on the
executions on October 21, however, the executions
of two other Tibetans in Lhasa, a woman called
Penkyi and an unnamed Tibetan reported by the
Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy
(TCHRD) based in Dharamsala, were not officially
confirmed. A Tibetan woman, Penkyi, from
Shigatse, had received a suspended death sentence
­ although it is rare that people given suspended
death sentences in China are actually executed.

TCHRD reported that the body of Lobsang Gyaltsen
(Chinese transliteration: Losang Gyaltse) was
handed over to his family after the death
sentence had been carried out by shooting, and
was later immersed in the Kyichu (Lhasa) river.
It is not known why a river burial, rare in Lhasa
compared to sky burials, was carried out. The
ashes of Loyak were returned to his family, TCHRD reported.

The first strong public statement from a foreign
government came from the British Foreign Office
Minister Ivan Lewis, who raised concern about
both death penalty cases during the first UK
Ministerial visit to Lhasa last month. In a
statement on the Foreign Office website, Mr.
Lewis said: "I condemn the recent executions in
Lhasa of two Tibetans, Mr Lobsang Gyaltsen and Mr
Loyak. We respect China's right to bring those
responsible for the violence in Tibet last year
to justice. But the UK opposes the death penalty
in all circumstances, and we have consistently
raised our concerns about lack of due process in
these cases in particular." Mr. Lewis said that
during his visit to the Tibet Autonomous Region
in September he had urged the authorities not to
carry out the death sentence, and he called on
China to review urgently the cases of those who
remain under sentence of death for their alleged
involvement in last year's unrest.
(http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/news/latest-news/?view=News&id=21078277.)

An official report on April 8, 2009, stated that
Losang Gyaltse [Gyaltsen] had been sentenced to
death "for setting fire to two garment shops in
downtown Lhasa on March 14 that killed a shop
owner Zuo Rencun", according to a spokesman for
the Lhasa Municipal Intermediate People's Court
(Xinhua). In another case, Loyak received the
death penalty for allegedly setting fire to a
motorcycle dealership in Dechen township in
Lhasa's Taktse (Chinese: Dagze) county on March
15 last year, according to the same article,
leading to the deaths of five people.

Lobsang Gyaltsen was in his early twenties and
from Lubuk township, according to the Tibetan
language service of Radio Free Asia (October 24).
The same source said: "His mother's name is
Yudon-la and he has a stepfather. Their living
conditions are extremely poor, and they are
dependent on food assistance from Lhasa city
committee." Before his execution, the source
said, Lobsang Gyaltsen was permitted a visit with
his mother. "I have nothing to say, except please
take good care of my child and send him to
school," he was quoted as telling her.

The court spokesperson said: "The two defendants
[Lobsang Gyaltsen and Loyak] given death
penalties had committed extremely serious crimes
and have to be executed to assuage the people's
anger. For those defendants who deserve lesser
punishments under statutory or discretionary
circumstances, they were given lighter
punishments according to the law," he said. (Xinhua, April 8, 2009.)

Often in the People's Republic of China, death
sentences are passed months or even weeks after a
suspect has been detained on suspicion of
committing a capital crime. In the cases in
Lhasa, sentencing took more than a year and may
be due to the political sensitivities of the case.

The reports of two other executions have not been
officially confirmed. There were earlier official
reports of three further death sentences, all
imposed with two-year reprieves, according to
state media reports published on April 8 and
April 21, 2009. Penkyi, who was reportedly also
executed according to TCHRD, was one of those
Tibetans. Penkyi, of Sakya (Chinese: Sajia)
county in Shigatse (Chinese: Rikaze) prefecture,
and two other Tibetan women were found guilty of
starting a fatal fire in a Lhasa clothing shop
that resulted in the deaths of five shop
employees. There is no evidence that these young
women were granted a fair trial and proper legal
access in accordance with China's own laws.
Tibetans have been denied the right to be
represented by the lawyer of their choice due to
the highly political nature of the cases, with
several lawyers being threatened with disbarment
if they attempted to represent detained Tibetans.
It was also reported that a Tibetan named
Gangstu, who was allegedly involved in the same
incident as Loyak, was given a death sentence
with a two-year reprieve. A fifth Tibetan,Tenzin
Phuntsog, was sentenced to death reprieved for
two years for setting fire to a garment shop in
which the husband and wife owners of the shop
were injured and their daughter killed. It is
unlikely Tenzin Phuntsog has been executed,
following an official spokesperson's statement in
the state media when the sentences were announced
that the court had been lenient on Tenzin
Phuntsog because "he had been put up to the
violence," and had "showed a positive attitude in
admitting his crime after he was arrested," a
reference to the Chinese authorities' assertion
that the 'Dalai clique' orchestrated the
protests. (See:
http://www.savetibet.org/media-center/ict-news-reports/two-tibetans-sentenced-death-lhasa
and
http://www.savetibet.org/media-center/ict-news-reports/fifth-tibetan-sentenced-death)


A suspended death sentence is one where a death
sentence is imposed, but it is postponed for two
years while the prisoner's behavior continues to
be assessed. It is rare, however, that people
given suspended death sentences are actually
executed. Those who have been executed committed
significant transgressions in prison, such as
violence against other prisoners or prison staff.

Radio Free Asia referred to the executions of a
third unnamed man from Amdo in eastern Tibet and
a woman identified as 'Nyimo'. This could be a
reference to an area of Lhasa called Nyemo where
she might be from. TCHRD and the Tibetan
political prisoners organization Gu Chu Sum
reported the name of the woman who was executed
as Penkyi.
(http://www.rfa.org/english/news/tibet/execute-10242009185910.html.)
The April 21, 2009 China Daily article reported
that a 23-year old female from Nyemo named Penkyi
was sentenced to life imprisonment as part of the
arson case which resulted in a suspended death
sentence for the woman named Penkyi of Sakya
county. The same China Daily article also
reported that "the court showed leniency on the
two Penkyis," who were accused of leading the
arsons, because they "had turned themselves in to
police."
(http://www.savetibet.org/media-center/ict-news-reports/fifth-tibetan-sentenced-death)

Until the UK government's statement on Friday
there had been no official confirmation of the
executions, which may be indicative of the
sensitive political climate following the
crackdown imposed after the protests began in
March, 2008. According to Radio Free Asia, an
official at the Lhasa People's Intermediate Court
referred questions about the executions to a
colleague and asked reporters to phone back
later, at which time the phone rang unanswered.

The last known case of the execution of a Tibetan
was in 2003, when Lobsang Dhondrub was executed
for alleged involvement in a bomb blast in
Chengdu in April 2002. This was linked to the
case of Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche, a respected
religious teacher whose death sentence was
commuted to life. On January 26, 2003, the
Sichuan High People's Court rejected Tenzin Delek
Rinpoche's appeal against his sentence and the
appeal that had apparently been entered for
Lobsang Dhondrub. Within hours Lobsang Dhondrub
was executed. Some reports suggest he was
executed very early in the morning of that day,
even before the appeal was formally rejected.

During a 'Strike Hard' campaign in 1996 in Tibet,
there were official press reports of 29
executions, of which 18 were Tibetans, and all
for non-political crimes. During this same
campaign, more than 2,200 people were executed across China.

The executions of Lobsang Gyaltsen and Loyak in
Lhasa were carried out in the context of a severe
crackdown that began last year following the wave
of protests that swept across the Tibetan plateau
from March 10, 2008. State repression and the
hardening of the Chinese government's position on
the Dalai Lama have created deepening tension in
Tibet, and over the past year the Chinese
government has sought to cover up the torture,
disappearances and killings that have taken place
across Tibet following the protests and dissent.

Press contact:
Kate Saunders
Communications Director, International Campaign for Tibet
email: press@savetibet.org
Tel: + 44 (0) 7947 138612
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