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Verdict pending in Tibetan language activist’s alleged separatism trial

Tashi Wangchuk, a Tibetan entrepreneur, at a horse festival in Yushu, a Tibetan area of Qinghai Province, China, last year. He is illegally detained by the police for over a month. (Photo courtesy: Gilles Sabrie/The New York Times)
Tashi Wangchuk, a Tibetan entrepreneur, at a horse festival in Yushu, a Tibetan area of Qinghai Province, China, last year. He is illegally detained by the police for over a month. (Photo courtesy: Gilles Sabrie/The New York Times)

(TibetanReview.net, Jan06, 2018) – A prefectural court in Qinghai Province of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has on Jan 4 tried a Tibetan language rights activist for allegedly inciting separatism. However, the court has not pronounced an immediate verdict at the end of the trial which was reported to have lasted four hours. The verdict is expected to be announced at a later date by the Yushu Intermediate People’s Court which held an oral hearing of the case.

The case of Tashi Wangchuk, 32, had come up for trial after a leave of withdrawal for the purpose of further investigation.

Liang Xiaojun, Tashi Wangchuk’s lawyer, has said on Twitter that a New York Times video titled ‘A Tibetan’s Journey to Justice’, which had led to his arrest on Jun 27, 2016, was presented as the main evidence to seek a guilty verdict against him. However, in that video, and the accompanying article, the activist only speaks about the Tibetan people’s right to inherit, learn, and use their own language as guaranteed by the constitution of the PRC.

With other presumable evidences, the procuracy was reported to have sought to prove that Tashi Wangchuk had smeared the Chinese government’s policy on language rights of ethnic minorities and fabricated information regarding self-immolation, etc. to incite separatist sentiments. The activist’s blog writing calling for genuine autonomy for Tibetan areas within the PRC for the purpose of ensuring greater protection of the Tibetan language were also apparently produced in evidence against him.

The gist of the procuracy’s case was that in the New York Times video documentary, Tashi Wangchuk had “intentionally attacked” the Chinese government, and “incited ethnic hatred”, that the video had conveyed a “negative image” of the Chinese authorities to the world.

But a New York Times staff involved in the video has on Jan 2 posted online comments by Tashi Wangchuk before his arrest in Jan 2016, saying not only that he wanted to thank Chinese people who “truly protect minorities” but also: “I want to thank President Xi, who has promoted a democratic and law abiding country these few years.” (@jonah_kessel, January 2, 2018).

The video shows Tashi Wangchuk travelling to Beijing to press his case for the wider use of the Tibetan language in Tibetan schools. “He wanted to promote his ideas in many different ways, such as by bringing the issue to a Beijing court, or through media interviews or on the internet,” his lawyer was quoted as saying.

Tashi Wangchuk’s family and relatives as well as a number of foreign diplomats based in Beijing were said to have travelled to Yushu to witness the hearing. But only three were reported to have been allowed to attend the hearing while the diplomats were all barred from entering the court.

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