Tibetan language rights activist goes on trial

The trial of Tibetan educational rights activist Tashi Wangchuk ended without a verdict at Yushu Intermediate People's Court in Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai province, the activist's lawyer Liang Xiaojun said Jan. 4. “The trail conducted in Chinese went for four hours…without reaching a verdict. The judgment will be made at an unspecified date,” Xiaojun tweeted. The lawyer also added that the Chinese prosecutor produced the nine-minute New York Times video report, "A Tibetan's Journey for Justice" as the main evidence of Tashi "inciting separatism." Tashi was charged under Article 103 of China's criminal code, which states that "whoever organizes, plots, or acts to split the country or undermine national unification, the ringleader, or the one whose crime is grave, is to be sentenced to life imprisonment or not less than ten years of fixed-term imprisonment."

Court documents further alleged that through the video report, Tashi was "creating unrest in the society and inciting disharmony among communities, undermining the ethnic minority policies, attacking the Chinese constitution and fabricating the essence of self-immolations happening for the past few years."

The exiled Central Tibetan Administration and rights groups maintain that Tashi was tried for pursuing the right to bi-lingual education for Tibetans and other ethnic minorities, as guaranteed by the Chinese constitution. "His trial and sentencing will determine largely whether the Chinese Government is committed to upholding the internationally recognized laws and domestically accepted rule of law in China," said Lobsang Sangay, leader of the exile administration.

Amnesty International said that Tashi's trial has "exposed how ludicrously unjust the case against him is." PEN America said that charges against him constitute an "outrageous attempt" to treat "peaceful advocacy for linguistic and cultural rights as a dangerous crime."

In the Times video, Tashi said the lack of general instruction in the Tibetan language is "destroying our ethnicity's culture," and also discussed the self-immolations of Tibetans, suggesting that he may choose this if other options for protest are closed to him. 

Tashi, 32, was arrested on Jan. 27, 2016, and charged with "inciting separatism" on March 24, 2016. He has been held in Yushu Detention Center in Kyegudo since his arrest. He had earlier been detained twice for his attempt to go to India on a pilgrimage in 2012 and for posting comments condemning the authorities in a land-grab case. (Phayul, HKFP)

Photo: NYT via Phayul

  1. UN rights experts concerned over Tashi Wangchuk conviction

    A group of UN human rights experts on Feb. 21 expressed concern that the Yushu Intermediate Court in China has upheld charges of "incitement to separatism" against Tibetan activist Tashi Wangchuk.  "We condemn the continued detention of Mr. Wangchuk and the criminalization of his freedom of expression as well as his right to stand and speak up for what he perceives as human rights violations in his region and country," the statement said. The experts called for Wangchuk's release and urged the Chinese government to compensate him in all ways legally applicable. (Jurist, Feb. 23)

  2. Tibetan writer Shokjang released after three years in prison

    Tibet campaigners received news March 19 of the release of political prisoner Shokjang Druklo. In February 2016, Shokjang was sentenced to three years in prison on charges of "inciting separatism" and "disturbing social stability" following his arrest on March 19, 2015. Shokjang has a history of activism. As a student of Tibetan literature at the Northwest Nationalities University in Lanzhou, Shokjang organised student protests calling for greater freedom for Tibetans during the mass Lhasa uprisings in March 2008. He was later detained and held arbitrarily for a month for his involvement in the protests, and for publishing a critical literary magazine. (STF)

  3. Tibetan language campaigner gets five years

    A Tibetan who has campaigned to preserve his region’s ancestral language was jailed for five years in China for "inciting separatism" in a case Amnesty International denounced as "beyond absurd." A court in Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai, sentenced Tashi Wangchuk on May 22, according to his lawyer. "Tashi plans to appeal. I believe he committed no crime and we do not accept the verdict," lawyer Liang Xiaojun told AFP.

  4. Tibetan language activist Tashi Wangchuk attacked

    Tashi Wangchuk, a prominent Tibetan language advocate and former political prisoner, was attacked by a group of unidentified men in Darlak County, Eastern Tibet on the evening of Aug. 19, according to the London-based rights group Free Tibet. Masked assailants broke into his hotel room, subjecting him to a brutal assault lasting around 10 minutes. Wangchuk afterwards summoned hotel management to contact the police. He was taken to a police station for questioning. During the interrogation, police coerced him into deleting photos and videos he had taken earlier that day from his phone.

    Upon his release from prison in January 2021, Tashi Wangchuk continued advocating for authorities in Tibet to uphold the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, which mandates the teaching of “minority” languages, including Tibetan. (Phayul)