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UN experts urge China to release Tibetan language activist, not to prosecute people for rights advocacy

Tashi Wangchuk, Tibetan language rights activist. (Photo courtesy: NYT)
Tashi Wangchuk, Tibetan language rights activist. (Photo courtesy: NYT)

(TibetanReview.net, Feb25, 2018) – A group of five UN human rights experts have on Feb 21 issued a public statement, calling on China for immediate release of the Tibetan language rights activist Tashi Wangchuk. He was tried by the Intermediate People’s Court of Yulshul (Tibetan: Yulshul) Prefecture, Qinghai Province, on Feb 4 for alleged incitement of separatism, with no verdict having been announced so far.

The group was made up of Ms Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Ms Karima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; Mr Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues; Mr Jose Antonio Guevara Bermudez, Chair- Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mr Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Mr David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of opinion and expression.

These experts have expressed serious concern that he had been accused of “inciting separatism” after being featured in a Nov 2015 New York Times documentary film in which he called for “linguistic and cultural rights in Tibet”. The experts have called on China to “drop” all the allegations against his comments featured in that documentary and an article accompanying it.

The experts have condemned China for detaining Tashi Wangchuk on Jan 27, 2016 and the “criminalization of his freedom of expression as well as his right to stand and speak up for what he perceives as human rights violations in his region and country”.

And they have called on the relevant Chinese authorities to respect and uphold the “right of persons belonging to minorities to use and promote their own culture and languages without restrictions, and without fear of reprisals or criminalization”.

“Free exchange of views about State policies, including criticism against policies and actions that appear to have a negative impact on the lives of people need to be protected and further encouraged,” the experts have said, adding that people should not be prosecuted for human rights advocacy and the promotion of culture and language in the name of ‘national security’ and ‘public order’.

Earlier, in Nov 2017, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention adopted an opinion concerning Tashi Wangchuk during its 80th session in Geneva. In it, the group urged China “to take the steps necessary to remedy the situation of Mr Wangchuk without delay and bring it into conformity with the relevant international norms, including those set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.

Now, a group of five UN Special Rapporteurs have expressed concern over the “arrest, initial incommunicado detention and continued detention” of Tashi Wangchuk. They have further expressed concern over the “separatist charges” to “criminalize” him for exercising his freedom of expression and “defense of cultural rights”.

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