Tibetan language right activist out after completing jail term, but likely not free

Tashi Wangchuk, a Tibetan entrepreneur and education advocate. (Photo courtesy: NYT)

(TibetanReview.net, Jan29’21) – A Tibetan jailed for five years for allegedly “inciting separatism” because he protested against the marginalization of Tibetan language in school education in his Chinese ruled homeland in Qinghai Province has been released on Jan 28 after completing his five-year sentence. His appearance in a New York Times documentary was majorly cited in supposed evidence at his trial. However, his lawyer is not sure whether Tashi Wangchuk, 35, is free just because he is out of jail, noted the AFP Jan 29 while reporting on his release.

The documentary followed Tashi Wangchuk as he travelled to Beijing where he attempted to get Chinese state media and courts to address the diminishing use of the Tibetan language in violation of China’s own constitution and laws.

His case was taken up in numerous UN rights reports and by others, including human rights groups and Western governments, which called for his immediate release, but without any effect on the Chinese leadership.

Liang Xiaojun, one of Tashi Wangchuk’s lawyers, has announced in a tweet that staffers from the Justice Bureau had taken the activist to his sister’s home in Trindu (Chinese: Chenduo) County, in Qinghai province’s Yulshul (Yushu) Prefecture.

“His brother-in-law said that he’s in good health, but I haven’t been sent any pictures of him yet,” the report quoted Liang a saying. “That may be because he’s still not too free.”

Tashi Wangchuk is indeed not free because he is now under a five-year deprivation of rights to free expression, association, assembly, publication, vote, and to stand in elections, which in any case have no meaning even for others.

In China, former prisoners can be essentially confined to their homes or other places even after their formal release, especially in politically charged cases, noted the nytimes.com Jan 29 while reporting on the release report.

Formerly a herder, Tashi Wangchuk learned Chinese at school and later taught himself to write Tibetan with the help of a brother. After studying at a Buddhist monastery, he opened a store in Yushu Township of Jyekundo, also called Gyegu, that sold Tibetan products and handicrafts online. In 2014, Alibaba, the giant Chinese e-commerce site, featured him in a promotional video. He was arrested in Jan 2016.

His lawyers had said Tashi Wangchuk was repeatedly tortured during police interrogations; that he also endured official threats to the safety of his family; and was denied the right to see legal representatives on multiple occasions both before to and after his trial.

China is presently carrying out a major “Sinicization” campaign in large chunks of territories that are under its occupation rule, including Xinjiang (East Turkestan), Tibet, and Inner Mongolia. Language is a primary target under the campaign.

The campaign is seen to be a thinly veiled disguise for committing genocide especially in Xinjiang these days, as declared by the US government just recently.


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