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China’s online court records blank on Tibetan political cases

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(TibetanReview.net, Jul24’23) – China has blanked out on its online database of court verdicts all records of Tibetans convicted for alleged crimes of “endangering state security” or “inciting separatism”, said Dharamshala-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy Jul 23.

This means that an unknown number of Tibetans are tried and sentenced in secret with no official acknowledgment or information about their imprisonment, the centre said.

For example, the court verdict of the Tibetan language rights activist Tashi Wangchuk, who was released in Jan 2021 after serving a five-year imprisonment for allegedly “inciting separatism”, cannot be found on China’s national database of court verdicts. In fact, the activist was not even given a copy of the verdict upon his release from prison as is the norm in China.

And as in the case of all Tibetans released after serving their jail sentences for alleged crimes of “endangering state security”, Tashi Wangchuk was found to be under continued police surveillance even after being out of jail for two and half years.

This fact emerged after a Chinese person named Lin Qilei tried to meet Tashi Wangchuk while visiting Kyedgudo (Chinese: Yushu) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province, earlier this month.

On 20 July 2023, Lin was stated to have posted on his Twitter account: “On 4 July 2023, while passing through Yushu, I made a stop and initiated contact with Tashi Wangchuk, who had previously undergone a five-year prison sentence and has been released for two years. Throughout his incarceration, he was subjected to restrictions, preventing him from consulting with any legal representatives, and prior to his release, he received a warning against engaging with any lawyers. Additionally (after release), he was informed of the requirement to seek permission before travelling anywhere outside his hometown. My original purpose was to visit Yushu and enjoy its scenery in his company. However, after being contacted by the local police station, I reached out to him, and despite his willingness to communicate, he displayed hesitancy and refrained from speaking. Consequently, I learned that he was forbidden from meeting me.”

Tibetans are convicted for “endangering state security” or “inciting separatism” for nothing more than what the Chinese leadership sees as criticism of or opposition to its policies that grossly violate the Tibetan people’s civil and political as well as their social, cultural, economic and other rights which China vehemently claims to fully respect.

The Centre has also noted that in Jul 2021, New York-based Human Rights Watch had reported that the verdicts against four Tibetan monks on suspected state security charges could not be found on the national database. The four monks – Choegyal Wangpo, Lobsang Jinpa, Norbu Dondrub and Ngawang Yeshe – from Tengdro Monastery in Shigatse (Xigaze) City in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) had received 20, 19, 17 and five year jails terms respectively in Sep 2020.

Human Rights Watch has further noted that no publicly accessible court records and court videos included the cases of Tibetans tried or convicted on alleged state security charges. It is also stated to be common for Chinese state media not to report on such cases occurring in the TAR.

Rights groups and others monitor official records and reports as a part of their research efforts, which explains China’s anxiety to keep the above categories of Tibetan cases beyond their reach as much as it can.

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