www.TibetanReview.net, May 13’08
Thirty Tibetans were sentenced on Apr 29 by the Intermediate People’s Court of Lhasa to jail terms ranging from three years to life terms for involvement in the Mar 2008 disturbances in Lhasa. They included six monks. Three received life sentences and the others from three to 15 years. China’s official Xinhua news agency said May 1 that “they were convicted of arson, robbery, creating disturbance, assembling to assault state organs, preventing state personnel from carrying out their functions and theft”.
The report claimed that the trials in the case of 29 defendants, held from Apr 21 to 25, were heard in public, while one involved a minor. It said that the chief justice and the court clerks were all native Tibetans, while only six of the 28 judges were Han Chinese.
Of the 17 Tibetans sentenced in the morning, Soi’nam Norbu, a driver with a Lhasa real estate company, and Basang, a monk from Doilungdeqen County in Lhasa, were given life sentences, reported China’s official Xinhua news agency Apr 29. The 1988-born Soi’nam was reported to be part of mobs which burnt vehicles in a square near the Jokhang Monastery, smashed police stations and fire engines with stones, and assaulted firemen. Basang was alleged to have led 10 people, including five monks, to destroy the local government office, smash or burn down 11 shops and rob their valuables, and attack policemen on duty. The five monks led by Basang received 15 to 20 year jail terms, the report said.
And of the 13 Tibetans sentenced in the afternoon, one was given life-term. He was mentioned only by his last name Cering and was described as a 30-year-old businessman. He allegedly incited others to commit arson and loot shops and vehicles during riots in his home county of Lingzhou (Tibetan: Lhundrup), about 40 miles east of Lhasa, on Mar15 and 16.
AP Apr 30 cited China’s state TV channel CCTV as saying seven people were sentenced to about 15 years in prison, with the other 20 receiving sentences of three to 14 years.
But Human Rights Watch, New York, said Apr 30 that the trails were not open and public, as claimed by China, and did not meet minimum international standards of due process. While sentencing rallies were held to announce the jail terms, the actual trial proceedings, in which evidence from the prosecution was introduced, had been conducted covertly on undisclosed dates earlier in April, the group said. It recalled that the TAR’s party secretary Zhang Qingli had on Mar 17 virtually issued a political directive to circumvent guarantees for a fair and impartial legal process when he urged that there be “quick arrests, quick hearings, and quick sentencings” of the people involved in the protests.
Other shortcomings the group pointed out included presumption of guilt rather than innocence of the accused persons during trial, failure to distinguish between peaceful and violent protests, and denial to the accused of the right of counsel of their own. It noted that all the lawyers who had publicly offered to defend Tibetan protesters were forced to withdraw their assistance after judicial authorities in Beijing threatened to discipline them and suspend their professional licenses.
The United States expressed concern over the reported sentences, with its White House spokeswoman Dana Perino saying, “We don’t think that anyone should break the law, but we also believe in freedom of expression and assembly,” reported the AFP Apr 30.
The exile Tibetan government May 1 condemned the sentences, calling it arbitrary. “These sentences are disproportionate to what the Chinese authorities say are the ‘crimes’ they committed,” Tibet.net May 1 quoted the exile government’s Kashag (cabinet) as saying. The Kashag urged China to “do away with this pretence of a fair trial and release immediately all those Tibetans presently under detention.”