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Tibetan education advocate likely to be tried for separatism

Tashi Wangchuk, a Tibetan entrepreneur and education advocate, could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted of inciting separatism. (Photo courtesy: NYT)
Tashi Wangchuk, a Tibetan entrepreneur and education advocate, could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted of inciting separatism. (Photo courtesy: NYT)

(TibetanReview.net, Sep01, 2016) – For advocating the preservation and promotion of the Tibetan people’s linguistic heritage, China has accused a 31-year-old entrepreneur named Tashi Wangchuk for inciting separatism and has now completed an investigation to try him for the alleged offence. He was taken into custody from the town of Yushu in Qinghai Province in Jan 2016 and, if convicted, the man who has no record of advocating Tibetan independence or separatism could be jailed for up to 15 years, reported nytimes.com Aug 30.

The report said Mr Tashi’s case entered a new phase on Aug 25, when the police concluded an additional investigation at the prosecutors’ request and handed over those results. It cited his lawyer Liang Xiaojun as saying prosecutors now had about 90 days to decide whether the case should go to court.

Mr Tashi’s lawyer considers it possible, however, that prosecutors asked the police for further investigation in order to delay the decision on whether to bring the case to court.

International human rights groups have taken up his case in the recent past. In Apr 2016, Amnesty International urged people to call on the Chinese government to “immediately and unconditionally” release Mr. Tashi. Also, Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet has asked the United States government to raise the cases of Mr. Tashi and Shokjang, an imprisoned Tibetan writer.

And officials from the United States, Britain and other Western nations have received information on Mr Tashi’s detention as they head to China this weekend for the Group of 20 summit meeting.

Mr Tashi, a shopkeeper, was detained on Jan 27. He had written blog posts about the disintegration of the Tibetan language among younger Tibetans and urged governments in the region to adopt true bilingual education, using Tibetan and Chinese equally as teaching languages in schools.

In Sep 2015, he had travelled to Beijing to try to file a lawsuit against Yushu officials for not properly supporting the Tibetan language, but failed. He was quoted later that year in two Times articles on Tibetan language and culture written from Yushu, and he was the centerpiece of a nine-minute Times documentary video. He had come into contact with Times journalists in May while on an exploratory visit to Beijing and insisted on doing on-the-record interviews, the report said. His lawyer has said the police had focused their investigation on Mr Tashi’s interviews with The Times, which were conducted by Edward Wong and Jonah M Kessel, a video journalist.

Mr Tashi’s family had said in early Mar 2016 that the police were illegally holding him since officers had not notified family members of his detention. Chinese law requires the police to notify family members of a detainee within 24 hours of a detention, with only a few exceptions.

The report said Mr Tashi sold goods from the Tibetan plateau in a shop in Yushu and online via the popular Taobao platform, started by Alibaba, the online Chinese commerce giant. In 2014, Alibaba featured him in a video produced for its international roadshow before a prominent initial public offering.

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