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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Group: Tibetan businessman gets life in prison

August 13, 2010

By CARA ANNA
Associated Press (AP)
August 12, 2010

BEIJING -- One of Tibet's richest businessmeen
has been sentenced to life in prison for helping
exile groups, a human rights organization said
Thursday, the latest case in a surprising
crackdown on well-known Tibetans once praised by Chinese authorities.

Dorje Tashi was sentenced on June 26 in Lhasa,
the Tibetan capital, said Urgen Tenzin, director
of the India-based Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy.

Dorje Tashi, believed to be in his mid-30s, is
the operator of the Yak Hotel, the most famous
hotel in Lhasa. He met Chinese President Hu
Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao in 2005, two years
after joining the ruling Communist Party.

"Tibetans like him, they are the super elite,"
said Robbie Barnett, a Tibet scholar at Columbia
University. "The severity of the sentence and the
exceptional importance of the prisoner are unprecedented."

China has not reported the prison sentence, which
comes amid increased repression of Tibetan
intellectuals after ethnic rioting in Lhasa in
2008 in which at least 22 people died.

A duty officer at the Lhasa Intermediate People's
Court, reached by phone Thursday, said staff were out on holiday.

The general manager of the Yak Hotel, Wang Jiu,
confirmed that Dorje Tashi was sentenced but would not comment further.

The crackdown is surprising because it includes
high-profile Tibetans who were known for working
within the system instead of opposing it. Dorje
Tashi joined the ruling Communist Party in 2003,
the state-run China Ethnic Press reported in March 2009.

The report praised Dorje Tashi's company, the
Shenhu Group, for offering water and other
support to security forces after the Lhasa
rioting, and for having its more than 800
employees sign agreements "upholding the unity of
the motherland and opposing the ethnic separatists."

"He is like an eagle above a snowy high plateau,
leading the Shenhu Group to hover on the sky of
history," the state media report said.

According to a Lhasa-based website, Tibet
Commercial Web, Dorje Tashi has been a delegate
to the national Chinese People's Political
Consultative Conference, an advisory body to the
government, and was named one of "10 outstanding youth of Tibet."

He was detained, however, in a security crackdown soon after the rioting.

With no word from the Chinese government, the
exact charge against Dorje Tashi was not known.
"He was charged with funding some outside Tibetan groups," Urgen Tenzin said.

Columbia University's Barnett, however, said the
Tibetan exile community raises money from its own
members or in the West, not from inside China.

"People who work within the system in China and
Tibet, it would make no sense for them to risk
everything to get involved in politics," he said.

It was not clear if Dorje Tashi has a lawyer, and
his family could not be reached Thursday.

In another high-profile case in June, Karma
Samdrup, a Tibetan environmentalist once praised
by the government as a model philanthropist, was
sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of
grave robbing and dealing in looted antiquities.
His supporters said he was actually being punished for his activism.

In May, the Washington-based International
Campaign for Tibet published a report saying 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."

It said it was the first time since the end of
China's chaotic Cultural Revolution in 1976 that
there has been such a targeted campaign against
Tibetan singers, artists and writers who peacefully express their views.

"Many officials are taking advantage of the
'strike hard' period to take personal revenge and
settle disputes," said Woeser, a Beijing-based
poet and activist who like many Tibetans goes by
only one name. "Some of them are linked to politics, some not."
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