Tuesday, May 06, 2008

China's Legal Wrangle of Tibetan Popular Uprising

From: Tashi Phuntsok
Date: May 5, 2008 1:09 PM
Subject: China's legal wrangle of Tibetan popular uprising: A Critique
To: "Caitriona Rice"

3 May 2008 [For Immediate Release]

China's legal wrangle of Tibetan popular uprising: A Critique

Beginning from 10 March 2008, Tibet saw mass popular uprisings in the
"Tibet Autonomous Region" ("TAR") and the Tibetan areas outside the
"TAR". The pan-Tibet political uprising is an eruption of popular
resentment against the Chinese authorities' five decades of misrule in
Tibet which saw systematic gross violations of human rights in every
sphere of life, and incompetent development policies being forced upon
the Tibetan people. The on-going pan-Tibet protest is an _expression_
of discontent and revolt by the Tibetan people against the central
government of People's Republic of China.

Since the eruption of protests last month, Beijing has
repeatedly attempted to project the Tibetan protests through the prism
of criminal activities such as looting, arson, theft and rioting.
Beijing refuses to see the reality of the political nature of the
pan-Tibet popular protests.

The court in sessionRecently the Lhasa Intermediate People's Court handed down harsh
sentences to a group of 30 Tibetans on 29 April 2008. The state media,
Xinhua, in its latest report "Judges and lawyers: Rioters in Lhasa
unrest receive fair trial" released on 1 May claims "They [the
Tibetans] were convicted of arson, robbery, creating disturbance,
assembling to assault state organs, preventing state personnel from
carrying out their functions and theft."

The nature of the court proceedings and the official
interpretation of the Tibetans' activities obviously brings forward the
questions of competency of the court and the official downplaying of
the nature of the Tibetan activities. The Lhasa fast-track court, in a
record one and half month's time, handed down life imprisonment terms
to three Tibetans (Pasang, Sonam Tsering and Tsering), between 15-20
years prison term to seven others, and the rest received terms ranging
from three to 15 years. The sentencing is a clear mockery of law and
due process. In light of the fact that due process involves filing of
documents, engaging independent lawyers, case verification,
consultations from both the parties, non-extraction of confession
through torture, etc., in a state with rule of law, the purpose and
nature of the court in Lhasa obviously is only to provide a legal
rubber stamp on preconcluded convictions without the concept of
innocent until proven guilty.

The fact that one of the Tibetans is seen sitting on a chair
during the court session indicates torture and inhumane treatment in
detention, which is blindly denied by the Chinese authorities. Tibetans
arrested for political crimes are subjected to the worst torture and
ill treatment by the police in detention centres in order to extract
confessions and break down their nationalist sentiments. In light of
the usual inhumane practices by the police in Chinese-administered
detention centres and prisons, and the fact that in the
officially-released picture one Tibetan is sitting on a chair in the
court, brings forward the high probability of use of torture and
inhumane treatment met out to the defendants. In further details
provided in the Chinese language report of the same court hearing,
Migmar Dolma the lawyer for Lobsang Samten is quoted as saying "On 17
April, I went to see my client. Upon entering the detention centre, two
doctors were attending the prisoners. At that time around 10 prisoners
were being treated and two of the prisoners were on IV drip." This
statement by the lawyer corroborates the high probability of severe
beatings on the Tibetans in the detention centre.

While it is widely known that the Tibetans were sentenced for
showing their political dissent, the state media has downplayed the
whole nature of their activities as petty criminal offenses by
projecting the cases as that of looting, arson, theft, rioting etc.,
rather than acts of _expression_ of political dissidence. However,
Article 293 of China's Criminal Law stipulates a "fixed- term
imprisonment of not more than five years, criminal detention or public
surveillance" for acts "creating disturbances, thus disrupting public
disorder". But the state media states that three Tibetans were
sentenced to life imprisonment, seven were given 15-20 years prison
sentences, while the remaining Tibetans were sentenced to prison terms
of 3-14 years. Clearly the harshness of sentences handed down indicate
that it is not a case of petty criminal activity only, but involves the
larger issue of political dissidence -- which the state media
deliberately fails to mention.

The pan-Tibet protests since 10 March 2008 are spontaneous reactions by
the Tibetans inside Tibet who have for long time suffered brutality and
oppression at the hands of the authorities. Tibetans from all walks of
life and age groups have participated in this revolt. For instance,
Passang, one of the Tibetans who was sentenced to life imprisonment in
the recent court hearing, is an ordinary monk at the Dingkha Monastery
in Dechen Township, Toelung Dechen County, Lhasa City, "Tibet
Autonomous Region". On 17 March 2008 around 3 pm (Beijing Standard
Time), he along with 12 monks from the monastery went to the Township
market and raised pro-independence slogans. As a mark of their
political statement they brought out goods from the shops of Chinese
settlers and set them on fire. They were later arrested by the People's
Armed Police, and eye-witnesses saw 30 Tibetans including the monks
being severely beaten by the PAP officers and thrown into the police
vehicle like sand bags.

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) views the
Lhasa Intermediate People's Court's sentencing of the 30 Tibetans to be
arbitrary and summary execution of judicial process. Judicial process
is misused as an official reprisal by the Chinese authorities instead
of protection of fundamental human rights of the Tibetans. TCHRD
expresses its concern at the sub-standard legal proceedings in
Chinese-occupied Tibet, and fears the worst scenarios for the Tibetan
protesters who actively exercised their fundamental human rights of
freedom of opinion and _expression_ in the past two months.

Tashi Phuntsok (Mr.)
Information Officer
Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy
Gangchen Kysihong
Dharamsala H.P

India Phone: 01892-223363/229225
Cell no: 9418055622

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