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Tibetan environmentalist says Chinese jailers tortured him

June 24, 2010

Award-winning conservationist and philanthropist
Karma Samdrup tells court of beatings during interrogation
Jonathan Watts, Asia environment correspondent
Guardian
June 22, 2010

Tibetan environmentalist Karma Samdrup at Mount
Kawakarpo Dechen, in China's Yunnan province,
2008. Tibetan environmentalist Karma Samdrup at
Mount Kawakarpo Dechen, in China's Yunnan province, in 2008. Photograph: AP

A jailed Tibetan environmentalist used the
opening of his trial today to accuse Chinese
captors of beatings, sleep deprivation and other
maltreatment, his wife told reporters.

Karma Samdrup -- a prominent businessman and
award-winning conservationist -- issued a
statement in court detailing the brutal
interrogation methods, including drugs that made
his ears bleed, used on him since his detention on 3 January.

"If not for his voice, I would not have
recognised him," his wife Zhenga Cuomao told the Associated Press.

She said Samdrup appeared gaunt when he appeared
at the Yangqi county courthouse in Xinjiang, the
mountainous province neighbouring Tibet.

Prosecutor Kuang Ying denied violence had been
used against Samdrup, who founded the Three
Rivers Environmental Protection group and pushed
for conservation of the source region for the
Yangtze, Yellow and Lancang (Mekong) rivers.

The wealthy Tibetan art collector is an unlikely
political prisoner. His group has won several
awards for its work, including the Earth Prize,
which is jointly administered by Friends of the
Earth Hong Kong and the Ford motor company.

In 2006, he was named philanthropist of the year
by state broadcaster China Central Television
(CCTV) for "creating harmony between men and nature".

He was arrested earlier this year and accused of
robbing graves and stealing cultural artefacts.
Supporters say these were old, trumped-up charges
that were dismissed by police 12 years ago. If
convicted, the maximum penalty is death or life
in prison, though his lawyer says a more lenient sentence is likely.

His trial has been delayed for several weeks amid
claims that he is being unfairly punished for
lobbying the authorities for the release of his two brothers.

His siblings, Rinchen Samdrup and Jigme Namgyal,
were arrested last August after their separate
environmental protection group -- Voluntary
Environmental Protection Association of Kham
Anchung Senggenamzong -- sought to expose
officials who hunted endangered animals. Namgyal
is serving a 21-month re-education-through-labour
sentence for "harming national security."

He is accused of illegally collecting information
about the environment, natural resources and
religion, organising petitions, and providing
propaganda material for supporters of the Dalai
Lama. Rinchen Samdrup is in custody but has not been tried.

According to the International Campaign for
Tibet, this may be part of a new campaign against intellectuals.

The Washington-based group said last month that
31 Tibetans are now in prison "after reporting or
expressing views, writing poetry or prose, or
simply sharing information about Chinese
government policies and their impact in Tibet today".

Accusations of police and prison guard brutality
are commonplace in China. This month, Wu Lihong
-- an award-winning anti-pollution campaigner in
Jiangsu province -- told the Guardian he was
beaten by guards during the three year jail sentence he has just completed.

"A state security official name Xie Lixin lashed
me with a willow branch and burned me with a
cigarette end. A guy name Wang Kewei bump my head
against a wall, and another man surnamed Shen
beat me to make me confess," he said. Wu -- who
is from the ethnic Han majority in China – was
declared an Environmental Warrior by the National
People's Congress in 2005 for tackling
contamination in Lake Tai. He was later jailed on charges of blackmail.
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