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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Outspoken Tibetan detained by China on separatism charges stuck in legal limbo, lawyer says

August 24, 2010

By Alexa Olesen
Canadian Press (CP)
August 23, 2010

BEIJING, China -- A Tibetan author detained for
his recent book that calls for nonviolent
resistance to Chinese rule in Tibet is stuck in
legal limbo, his lawyer said Friday, with police
reinvestigating his case and the court having rejected his chosen legal team.

Four months after being taken into custody, the
writer Tragyal remains in jail in the far western
city of Xining, charged with inciting separatism.
He was expected to face trial this month, but
police recently told his family they were
reviewing the evidence against him before sending
the case to prosecutors, his lawyer said.

Tragyal's wife, a friend and lawyer all say
Tragyal was being unfairly punished and the book,
while critical, never advocates violence or Tibetan independence from China.

"It seems that soon Tragyal will undergo a legal
trial. But what they called 'law' is actually an
object designed for their own private use,"
Tragyal's wife, Lhatso, said in an open letter
seen by The Associated Press. "It can bang the
head of anyone they wish to hurt."

Tragyal, who like many Tibetans uses one name,
knew when he published "The Line Between Heaven
and Earth" earlier this year he was courting
trouble and expected to be arrested. The
emotional 250-page book advocates civil
disobedience by Tibetans to gain greater rights
and freedoms, and condemns the oppressive tactics
used by the authoritarian Chinese government in
its more than half-century rule over Tibet.

The sentiments were a turnabout for Tragyal. The
47-year-old writer was for many years considered
an "official intellectual." The Xining-based
writer often supported the ruling Communist
Party's views and was at times critical of some Tibetan Buddhist beliefs.

Wang Lingjun, the vice governor of Qinghai
province, where Xining is located, told a press
briefing Friday the case would be "handled
according to law." Officials reached by phone at
the Xining Public Security Bureau and Intermediate Court refused to comment.

Tragyal's arrest comes amid the prosecution of
several other prominent Tibetans once known for
having close ties to the government and for
carefully eschewing politics. Their detention has
been seen as a hardening of the government's
attitude in handling Tibetan affairs.

For Tragyal and for the government, deadly riots
that engulfed Lhasa and an anti-government
uprising that swept many Tibetan communities in
2008 proved a turning point. To quell the unrest,
Beijing poured security forces into Tibetan areas
and has kept them there since, giving the western
China region the feel of a military garrison and
further alienating many Tibetans.

The riots astounded Tragyal, making him realize
how out of touch he had been with other Tibetans
and their hopes for freedom and democracy.
"Tibetans cursed me as a heretic and a heathen
and cast me out of their ranks so it was rare for
me to meet people who would share their true
sentiments," he wrote in the book, which
describes his soul-searching and frustration over the plight of Tibetans.

In her letter, Tragyal's wife said she and other
family members have not been allowed to visit or
communicate with her husband since he was
detained in April. She is concerned about his
health and how he is being treated.

His attorney said police in Xining rejected his
and his law partner's application to represent
Tragyal, returning the paperwork to Tragyal's
daughter without explanation on Aug. 2, the same
day it was submitted. The prominent defence
lawyer asked not to be identified by name because
he hopes authorities will change their mind as
the application would be resubmitted soon.

Tragyal's friend, Phagmo Tashi, said he is
hopeful the apparent delay in the trial means
Tragyal could end up facing lesser charges.

"Of course I am afraid he could face a heavy
sentence, but then again I also think that there
is no way that they could find him guilty,
because he's broken no laws," Phagmo said.

Tragyal wrote he was reconciled to being
punished. "I am naturally terrified at the
thought that once this essay has been made public
... I may 'lose my head because of my mouth,'" he
said. "But this is the path I have chosen, so the responsibility is mine."
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