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April 29, 2009

Leading Chinese dissident claims freedom of speech worse than before Olympics

By Peter Foster in Shihezi | From The Telegraph

He Weifang, a celebrated law professor and lead signatory to last year's Charter 08 petition calling for democratic reforms in China, said the ruling Communist Party was currently engaged in a fresh wave of repressive internet and media censorship.

Even allowing for the Communist party's highly conservative approach to any kind of reform - embodied in Deng Xiaoping's famous phrase "Crossing the river by feeling for stones" – he said China was moving backwards on basic freedoms.

"The situation at the moment is that the river has deepened and the Party has got scared, so it has pulled back, fearing that the waters will rise up and drown them. In the last two years this pulling back from the water has got worse," he said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.

Professor He, once a leading light at the Beijing University Law School, was speaking from the one-bedroom flat in the tiny provincial city of Shihezi in China's arid northwest where he was 'exiled' last month in punishment, he believes, for signing Charter 08.

He cited last year's anti-government riots in Tibet, protests over the Olympic torch relay, fears of a rising tide of nationalism and the forthcoming 20th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square killings on June 4 as the main reasons behind the crackdown.

"The signs of repression are very clear. Liu Xiaobo [the lead architect of Charter 08] is still under house arrest and my own internet discussion forum has also been shut down," he added.

As a well-known proponent of legal reform, Prof He has published articles for almost 20 years calling for an independent judiciary in China, but his writings, tolerated until recently, are now seen as "problematic".

"I think I was tolerated as an individual, but Charter 08 was a co-ordinated, collective action and it was that element of organisation that provoked such a hostile reaction from the Party. Newspapers that used to publish strong articles arguing for reform no longer dare," he said.

Prof He, 49, is among a group of 303 Chinese academics and influential commentators who signed Charter 08 in a self-conscious effort to revive the democratic, reformist ideals espoused by students in demonstrations across China 20 years ago.

The Charter, which contains a blistering indictment of the failings of Communist rule in China, has left intellectuals divided, with many arguing that its criticisms were too direct and ultimately counter-productive.

However Prof He disagrees. "I favour direct criticism. Charter 08 is a list of the mistakes the Party has made and the crimes it has committed. It is important for people to learn about the truth, because the truth is the only basis for creating change."

Prof He paid a personal price for refusing to withdraw his signature from the petition when his appointment to a post in Zhejiang University in southern China was blocked last year by what he describes as "an invisible hand".

Instead he was "offered" a position at the little-known Shihezi University in Xinjiang where he teaches just six hours a week, living far away from his wife in Beijing and passing long hours listening to Strauss waltzes and reading books on Silk Road archaeology.

He is sanguine about his two years in exile in Xinjiang which he treats with grim humour, knowing that he follows in the footsteps of several renowned Chinese intellectuals such as the writer Wang Meng and poet Ai Qing, who were exiled to Xinjiang during the Mao era.

"When the head of Beijing University suggested Xinjiang, I said 'ah yes, what a good idea. I don't suppose I shall miss any dramatic legal or political reforms in the next two years," he recalls with a roar of laughter.

The modern breed of Chinese students Prof He now teaches have a far more conservative outlook than in the days when he was a young faculty member out demonstrating on the streets of Beijing in 1989.

"We students of 20 years ago were more idealistic, we talked about politics and we worried about the future of the country. That's how '6/4' [the Tiananmen Square protests] could happen," he said. "Students these days are under all kinds of different pressures. They worry about finding a job and purchasing an apartment. They do not like to speak out about politics now."

However despite their far-from-revolutionary attitude to life, Prof He sees little sign that China's rulers are prepared to trust ordinary people with a real say into how their country is run.

There has been progress in some areas, he admits, citing a growing responsiveness from the government to individual concerns – such as last year's contaminated milk scandal and a recent scandal over prison brutality – but believes it is skin-deep.

"There has been change to some extent, but the response to last year's Tibetan protests shows that the changes are cosmetic, not fundamental. The Party moves only when it is pushed," he said.

"What happened 20 years ago [in Tiananmen Square] caused unimaginable trauma in the Communist Party. It is a moment from which they have never recovered."

Prof He believes that that "trauma" and the fact that the bloody repression of the demonstrators was endorsed by Deng Xiaoping, the hugely popular father-figure of China's "opening up", has made it impossible for the Party to embrace meaningful reform.

"The Party needs to admit its crimes, but it cannot. It fears that to admit it was wrong would undermine its entire claim to legitimacy. But if they do not adapt, then that process of transformation will not occur peacefully, and if the extreme violence comes, then there will be no Communist Party. It is a case of adapt or die."

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April 27, 2009

Justice Denied for Tibetans

By WOESER | From today's Wall Street Journal Asia

Before dawn on the morning of May 18, 2008, the authorities cut off all forms of communications in the small rural town -- telephones, mobile phones, the Internet and even roads in and around the area. At around 6 a.m., more than 1,000 members of the People's Liberation Army, People's Armed Police and local and special police units prepared to make their assault on a small house. Around the same time, more than 4,000 soldiers and police divided up to surround and take control of two nearby nunneries.


An undated photo of Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche aka Buramna Rinpoche found on the website of Burongna/Buramna) Temple. The 52-year-old respected Tibetan lama and, head of Buramna Temple and Yatseg Nunnery, both in Kardze (Ch: Ganzi), a Tibetan county in Sichuan Province, went on trial in a Chinese court on April 21, 2009, on charges related to last year's protests in Tibetan areas. No verdict was handed down at the end of the hearing, the court saying it would announce the sentence at another date. If convicted, Rinpoche will face a lengthy prison term, his lawyer said at the time of trial. (Phayul/Photo/file/burongna.net)
Their target? Buramna Rinpoche, a 52-year-old Living Buddha and head of Pangri and Yatseg nunneries in Kardze, a Tibetan county of Sichuan province. The story of this religious leader, who operated a home for the elderly and took care of orphans and handicapped children, is symptomatic of Beijing's heavy-handed treatment of Tibetans. It also explains why the so-called Tibet question is not going to disappear any time soon.

The joint military-police unit easily forced its way into the house, where authorities say they discovered a rifle, a pistol and more than 100 rounds of ammunition hidden under a bed in the living room. The monk was arrested under charges of possessing illegal firearms and ammunition. He was also later charged with the illegal occupation of state land.

The arrest more likely is connected to an incident that had occurred four days earlier, when 80 nuns from the Pangri and Yatseg nunneries took to the streets to carry out a peaceful protest against the Chinese government's "patriotic education" campaign, which pressured Tibetans to denounce the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader who now lives in exile in India. These religious women peacefully handed out leaflets and shouted slogans criticizing the campaign, but according to an eyewitness with whom I've spoken several thousand military and police were mobilized to deal with the protest, in which many of the women were severely beaten and arrested.

The authorities apparently believed that the nuns had acted upon the instructions of Mr. Buramna, as he is responsible for both nunneries. So from that day on, his every movement was monitored.

Mr. Buramna was transferred after his arrest to the Luhuo County Detention Center. There, according to his lawyer, he was handcuffed to a railing for four days and kept awake day and night by two guards. During these four days, he says he was tortured and police threatened to arrest his wife and son if he did not sign a confession to possessing illegal weapons. Under such duress, Mr. Buramna signed and made a thumbprint on a confession admitting to the charges. He later recanted this "confession" in court.

Mr. Buramna's family hired two Chinese lawyers from Beijing to defend him. The two, Li Fangping and Jiang Tianyong, are well-known human rights defenders. Mr. Jiang was one of 21 Chinese lawyers who signed a public statement on April 1, 2008, offering to provide legal defense to Tibetans who were arrested in connection with protests that broke out in March 2008 in Tibetan areas throughout China. The government has threatened to close the law firms, or revoke individual lawyers' licenses, if these lawyers involve themselves in the Tibet issue, Human Rights Watch has reported.

On the morning of April 21, the trial opened in Kangding County, a one- to two-day drive away, rather than Kardze County, Mr. Buramna's hometown and scene of the alleged crime, apparently to prevent local Tibetan monks and lay people from protesting outside the courtroom. Mr. Buramna appeared in court wearing the bright yellow and crimson red robes of a Tibetan monk. Seven members of his family, including his wife and son, were in the court, some crying throughout the trial. Speaking in Chinese, Mr. Buramna denied the alleged crimes, arguing in particular that the weapons and ammunition found at his home had been planted there to frame him.

Mr. Buramna's lawyers say they were allowed only limited access to their client before trial and they were not allowed to access all the court documents related to the case, which limited their ability to cross-examine witnesses. Even so, they noted at trial that the court did not investigate the source of the firearms and ammunition, and even failed to check for fingerprints. They argued that the monk's living room was a public place that saw a large number of people coming and going, and that anyone could have hidden the weapons there. They stated further that an examination of documents related to the land used for the elderly people's home, which the government said was occupied illegally, showed the site was not state-owned.

The lawyers repeated the monk's assertion that he was tortured for four days and was forced to sign the confession under duress, which would make it invalid for use as a basis for conviction. No verdict was handed down at the end of the hearing, the court saying it would announce the sentence at another date. If convicted, Mr. Buramna will face a prison term of between five and 15 years.

Yet Beijing would be wrong to think that will be the end of the matter. The incident has led to widespread anger among Tibetans in the area. On the morning of Mr. Buramna's arrest, a number of monks and ordinary people in Kardze held a demonstration demanding his release; they were surrounded by the police and beaten, according to the same witness who saw the nuns' original protest. The elderly residents in his welfare institution also tried to protest, but according to the same source, their home was surrounded by the police. In June, there were more protests seeking his release, and several people were beaten and arrested.

Mr. Buramna's trial is the first of a major religious leader to be held since last year's disturbances in Tibetan areas. It's a sad commentary on the situation that one can say that at least this trial is being held in public. But such trials will not bring stability to the area. The nuns whose protest seems to have sparked this case acted spontaneously, and their protest had nothing to do with Mr. Buramna. They, and all Tibetans, want justice in their region. Putting Mr. Buramna in jail will only increase that thirst.

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April 22, 2009

Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Tibetan People’s Uprising

Tibet Information Office Australia

On 12 April, a large gathering of Tibetans and Australian supporters met in Dee Why to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Tibetan People’s Uprising. It was an emotional occasion with the audience remembering the ongoing struggle of Tibet and expressing gratitude for the kindness and support of the many Australians who have come forward to assist in so many ways. The meeting ended on a happier note with a much applauded display of Tibetan song and dance performed by local Tibetans.

Tenzin Phuntsok Atisha, Representative of His Holiness The Dalai Lama in Australia, made the following speech:

On behalf of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Government in-exile, I take this opportunity, on the occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Tibetan People’s Uprising, to express my heartfelt thanks and gratitude to the people and Government of Australia and especially to all the supporters of Tibet.

I sincerely appreciate the great contribution made by Australians to the Tibetan Community in exile, towards promoting and preserving Tibetan culture and in highlighting and educating the just cause of Tibet - not only to the Australian public, but also to the international community through various peaceful campaigns.

During 1959 and 1960, the International Commission of Jurists, Australian section played a prominent and vital role in establishing the status of Tibet and highlighting human rights violations in Tibet through its publications. Later, the gradual establishment of Tibet Support Groups across Australia since 1975 not only helped poor and needy Tibetan refugees in exile in India and Nepal, but also ensured the Tibet issue received wider international attention and awareness.

Tibet Information Office was formally established in Canberra in the early 1990s and in the late 1990s a Special Humanitarian Program was started by the Australian Government. I believe these actions represent a Statement of Justice, Care and above all Universal Responsibility by one fellow human being to another.

In a democratic country, people’s voices have great impact and your voice will certainly make a big difference. As we speak here, Tibet is under undeclared Martial Law. Therefore, I urge you to continue your concern and support for the just and peaceful struggle of the Tibetan people through the Middle Way Policy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in promoting Universal Human Values and Inter-Religious Harmony.

The Tibetan people and His Holiness the Dalai Lama will remain ever grateful and indebted to the great people of Australia. Your presence here tonight shows your generous and compassionate support.

Before I conclude, I once again would like to extend my Thank You to the Government of Australia, its people, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet and all the founding members and present members of the International Commission of Jurists, Australian branch, and Tibet Support Groups: ATS, TFG, ATC, DLIA, ATWA and TAGWA. The Tibet issue would surely die without your support.

Thank you and Tashi Delek.

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April 19, 2009

Jackie Chan warns over China 'chaos'

NineMSN

Hong Kong movie legend Jackie Chan has told a Chinese audience that too much political freedom can lead to chaos "like in Taiwan".

Chan, best-known for his martial-arts comedies, told an annual meeting of governments and business leaders that China should be wary of allowing too many freedoms, the Sunday Morning Post reported.

"I don't know whether it is better to have freedom or to have no freedom," he said at the Boao Forum for Asia.

"With too much freedom ... it can get very chaotic, could end up like in Taiwan."

The star of the Hollywood blockbuster franchise Rush Hour got into trouble in 2004 when he described the Taiwanese presidential elections as the "biggest joke in the world."

Chan also told the forum he would not buy a television made in China because he was afraid it might explode. Instead, he said, he would buy one from Japan.

The 55-year-old's latest film, "Shinjuku Incident", has been banned in China for being too violent, but Chan shied away from criticising Beijing.

"If you want to make a film in China, you have to follow our rules," he told the forum, according to the report.

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April 17, 2009

Tibetan Publisher to Receive 'International Freedom to Publish' Award

Phayul

Dharamsala: Paljor Norbu, an 81-year old Tibetan printer and publisher, who is currently in Chinese custody in Tibet, has been selected as the 2009 recipient of the Jeri Laber International Freedom to Publish Award.

Paljor Norbu, who is currently in custody in Tibet, is being recognized for his commitment to Tibetan culture and publishing in the face of great political obstacles and personal peril over the past half century, the International Freedom to Publish Committee (IFTPC) of the Association of American Publishers (AAP) announced Thursday.

The annual award for Paljor Norbu will be officially presented on April 28 at the PEN Annual Gala at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

On 31 October last year, six months after major anti-Chinese unrest in the Tibetan capital, Paljor Norbu, a descendant of a family with a long history of printing and publishing Buddhist texts for monasteries, was taken by the police from his home in Lhasa for the fourth time in his long career. He was arrested for allegedly printing “prohibited material,” including the banned Tibetan National flag. Paljor was later tried in secret in November and was sentenced to seven years in prison. His current whereabouts are unknown to his family and friends.

“China’s implacable efforts to subjugate a country, constrain a culture, and subvert freedom of expression are vividly illustrated by the prosecution of Paljor Norbu, who has for seven decades dedicated himself to the preservation of Tibetan culture through his work as a master printer,” said Hal Fessenden, chair of the IFTPC, in announcing the award.

“The IFTPC deplores the violation of China’s own laws in Paljor Norbu’s case – the undefined charges, lack of counsel, secret sentencing, and the refusal to inform the family of his current whereabouts. We join the international community in saluting Paljor Norbu’s determination to protect an endangered culture through his commitment to the written and printed word and call for his exoneration and immediate release.”

The International Freedom to Publish Award recognizes a book publisher outside the United States that has demonstrated courage and fortitude in the face of political persecution and restrictions on freedom of expression. The award is named in honor of Jeri Laber, one of the founding members of the IFTPC and the committee’s professional adviser for the past twenty-five years.

Phayul[Friday, April 17, 2009 14:52]


Paljor Norbu/File photo
Dharamsala, April 17: Paljor Norbu, an 81-year old Tibetan printer and publisher, who is currently in Chinese custody in Tibet, has been selected as the 2009 recipient of the Jeri Laber International Freedom to Publish Award.

Paljor Norbu, who is currently in custody in Tibet, is being recognized for his commitment to Tibetan culture and publishing in the face of great political obstacles and personal peril over the past half century, the International Freedom to Publish Committee (IFTPC) of the Association of American Publishers (AAP) announced Thursday.

The annual award for Paljor Norbu will be officially presented on April 28 at the PEN Annual Gala at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

On 31 October last year, six months after major anti-Chinese unrest in the Tibetan capital, Paljor Norbu, a descendant of a family with a long history of printing and publishing Buddhist texts for monasteries, was taken by the police from his home in Lhasa for the fourth time in his long career. He was arrested for allegedly printing “prohibited material,” including the banned Tibetan National flag. Paljor was later tried in secret in November and was sentenced to seven years in prison. His current whereabouts are unknown to his family and friends.

“China’s implacable efforts to subjugate a country, constrain a culture, and subvert freedom of expression are vividly illustrated by the prosecution of Paljor Norbu, who has for seven decades dedicated himself to the preservation of Tibetan culture through his work as a master printer,” said Hal Fessenden, chair of the IFTPC, in announcing the award.

“The IFTPC deplores the violation of China’s own laws in Paljor Norbu’s case – the undefined charges, lack of counsel, secret sentencing, and the refusal to inform the family of his current whereabouts. We join the international community in saluting Paljor Norbu’s determination to protect an endangered culture through his commitment to the written and printed word and call for his exoneration and immediate release.”

The International Freedom to Publish Award recognizes a book publisher outside the United States that has demonstrated courage and fortitude in the face of political persecution and restrictions on freedom of expression. The award is named in honor of Jeri Laber, one of the founding members of the IFTPC and the committee’s professional adviser for the past twenty-five years.

Paljor Norbu’s Story
(An excerpt from IFTPC’s Press Release)

Paljor Norbu is an eighty-one-year-old Tibetan printer and publisher from Lhasa. Although not a writer himself, he has played a crucial role in the preservation of traditional Tibetan publishing techniques and popular religious writings. A descendant of a family with a long history of printing and publishing Buddhist texts for monasteries, Paljor Norbu is renowned as a master printer, widely respected in Lhasa. He uses traditional woodblock printing techniques in his workshop, which employs several dozen workers. In addition to religious texts, the shop prints books, prayer flags, paper rolls for prayer wheels, traditional almanacs, ritual texts, and other items.

One of a tiny group of specialist traditional printers, Paljor Norbu was born in Mongka kyang, in Nyemo Valley, a village southwest of Lhasa, and became an apprentice printer at age eleven. As an adult, in addition to his regular work as a printer in Lhasa for the Tibetan government, he worked with several prominent monasteries to print texts from wooden blocks, and supervised the printing of one set of the 224 volumes of the famous Narthang Tengyur, one of the main editions of the commentaries on the Buddhist canon. He was thirty-one years old in 1959 when a major uprising against Chinese rule occurred. As a secretary of the printers’ guild working under the Tibetan government’s supervision, he was considered a “rebellious person” and put in jail for some period of time. In the sixties and seventies, the Cultural Revolution brought an assault on all traditional and cultural emblems of Tibetan civilization, including religious artifacts and religious texts. Woodblocks were burned, and the printing of anything other than strictly political texts was forbidden. In spite of this, wood-carvers secretly carved and hid a number of blocks. After Mao’s death, in 1976, Paljor Norbu was able to resume his work.

In 1987 the situation in Tibet again deteriorated after a number of demonstrations by Tibetans in Lhasa against Chinese rule. Paljor Norbu was detained twice in the early 1990s on suspicion of supporting the protests or producing illicit literature, but he was released without charge each time.

On October 31, 2008, six months after major anti-Chinese unrest in the Tibetan capital, Paljor Norbu was taken by the police from his home in Lhasa for the fourth time. The arrest took place in the middle of the night, and his family was not told where he was being taken. His shop was closed and his employees were told not to return. Since his detention, the Chinese authorities have not informed his relatives where he is being held, when he was tried, or what charges were levied against him. He is believed to have been accused of printing “prohibited materials,” probably referring to prayers for the Dalai Lama or copies of the Tibetan national flag, which are banned in China. He was tried in secret in November and according to unofficial reports from Lhasa was sentenced to seven years in prison. No information about his health or whereabouts have been provided by the authorities, and his condition since arrest is unknown.

The details of the charges and the verdict have not been made public, but the nature of the initial accusations and the length of the sentence suggest that he was tried on charges of “inciting separatism” (Article 103 of the Criminal Law). This vaguely defined crime has been used repeatedly to silence Tibetans resisting the tight and often arbitrary limits imposed on their freedom of expression by Chinese law. Paljor Norbu’s family has a long history of experiencing such limits: two of his children have already served three years in jail each for nonviolent actions considered to be political and criminal by the state, one for teaching children a forbidden song in 1989, and the other for helping the Karmapa, a high lama, to escape to India in 1999.

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April 17, 2009

Dutch to Invite Dalai Lama to Parliament

AP
By Mike Corder

HE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch lawmakers said Thursday they will invite the Dalai Lama to parliament despite a warning from China that the visit would harm relations between the two nations.

A lawmaker for the ruling Christian Democrats also sharply criticized China's ambassador for attempting to interfere with Dutch politics.

The ambassador sent a letter to the chairman of Parliament's foreign affairs committee urging lawmakers not to invite the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

The Dutch don't interfere with Chinese political meetings "and we expect the same respect from the Chinese ambassador," legislator Maarten Haverkamp said.

The Dalai Lama is expected to visit in June.

The Chinese ambassador, Zhang Jun, could not be reached for comment and the parliament refused to release his letter.

However, national broadcaster NOS obtained a copy and posted it on its Web site.

In it, Zhang says he does not want to see "the momentum of our bilateral relations in this challenging time of global economic crisis be severely weakened by this issue."

China's growing economic might has emboldened it to increasingly push to isolate the Dalai Lama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

Beijing froze high-level contacts with France after President Nicolas Sarkozy met the Dalai Lama in Poland in December. Relations were restored under a deal in which France pledged to reject Tibetan independence in any form.

Also, South Africa drew criticism last month when it barred the Dalai Lama from attending a peace conference, a move widely seen as bowing to pressure from Beijing.

Last month marked the first anniversary of anti-government riots in Lhasa, Tibet's regional capital, and 50 years since the Dalai Lama escaped into exile in India after Chinese troops crushed a Tibetan uprising.

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April 15, 2009

Tibetans vow worldwide protests to condemn death sentences.

Phayul
By Phurbu Thinley

Dharamsala, April 15: Several Tibetan NGOs grouped under the Tibetan People’s Uprising Movement (TPUM) Tuesday vowed massive worldwide protests to condemn recent death sentences passed on Tibetans by Chinese court.


Tenzin Choeying, national director, SFT, India, (L) and Ven. Ngawang Woebar of Guchusum Movement during a joint press conference in Dharamsala, India, Wednesday, April 15, 2009 (Photo: RFA/Dhonyoe)
A Chinese court last week handed down death sentences to Lobsang Gyaltsen and Loyak for their alleged involvement in starting deadly fires in last year's anti-China unrest in Tibet. Two other people- Tenzin Phuntsok and Kangtsuk were given suspended death sentences with two-year reprieve, while another Dawa Sangpo was sentenced to life imprisonment.

It was the first report of death sentences given out for last year’s unrest in Tibet that led to the most sustained uprising against Chinese rule in decades.

At a joint press conference here today, the Tibetan Women’s Association, National Democratic Party of Tibet, Gu-Chu-Sum Movement of Tibet and Students for a Free Tibet (India), declared April 17 as a “global day of action” to highlight what they believe was “unjust trials” of the five Tibetans.

The groups said there would be signature campaigns and demonstrations, including protests at respective Chinese embassies, in various parts of the world.

The four NGOs based in Dharamsala urged Tibetans and supporters around the world to take part in the global action campaign and, urged individuals and groups to write appeal letters to international bodies, governments and Chinese authorities.

“Tibetan NGOs would like to appeal all the freedom loving people of the world to kindly consider engaging with the Chinese authorities on these sentences and express grave concern that international judicial standards have not been upheld in the trial process,” the groups said in their joint press release.

The NGOs also urged the Supreme People’s Court, which usually reviews all the death sentences before being carried out, to repeal the death sentences and insisted that Chinese authorities should give “free and fair trials” to them according to the international judicial standards.

A signature campaign urging Wu Aiying, China’s Minister of Justice, to review the sentences on the five Tibetans is also under way. In the letter to the Minister, the NGOs demanded all cases related to last year’s events in Tibet be suspended until a full and independent inquiry into those events is held. The appeal letter also urged the Chinese minister to provide a full list of the names and whereabouts of Tibetans held under detention following the unrest.

The NGOs have also sent appeal letters to several rights groups, including Amnesty international and Human Rights Watch, asking for their help in the campaign to ensure fair and proper trial for the five Tibetans.

In their joint press release, the NGOs also called on the Chinese authorities to respect human rights and to allow all the detained Tibetans to independently choose their own lawyers.

China insisted that latest close-door trials had been open and fair according to Chinese law, and that the accused were defended by lawyers and provided with Tibetan interpreters.

Following the March 2008 protests, several lawyers from the Mainland China who offered to represent Tibetan detainees were, however, reportedly threatened by Chinese authorities not to help Tibetans or else they might lose their registration to practice law.

“Political prisoners were never given free and fair trial in Tibet. These sentences are part of widespread and violent campaign by the Chinese authorities to punish and silence any Tibetan who dare to speak out against Chinese rule,” says Ngawang Woebar, the president of Guchusum ex-political prisoners' movement.

Tibetan Government-in-Exile last week said those sentenced had not received a fair trial and warned of even greater resentment among Tibetans.

Chinese State News Agency Xinhua last week reported that another arson case is still under trial in Tibet.

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April 15, 2009

Tibetan prisoners paraded to intimidate residents, monks arrested in Kardze

Phayul

Dharamsala April 15 – The Chinese authorities in Kardze paraded 15 Tibetan political prisoners in the streets to intimidate the residents, Gelong, a monk of Sera monastery in south India, told Phayul.

The incident took place on April 5 in Kardze where Tibetans arrested earlier for protest demonstrations and refusing to farm were paraded in an army truck followed by armed security forces in about 20 other vehicles. The Tibetan prisoners had their heads shaven, their hands and legs chained at the parade that is aimed to frighten the Tibetans in the area, said Gelong.

The authorities announced through a loudspeaker that anybody who protested the Chinese government would face similar consequences.

Out of the fifteen, 3 have been identified as Jampa Dhondup, aged 27; Taphel, 56; and Tsering Wangrap; 42.

In another incident, 5 monks of Tsitsang monastery in Kardze have been arrested on April 1, according to the Trehor community based here. Chinese security forces ransacked the monastery and took away 5 monks on arbitrary charges, said a press release of the Trehor community. One of them has been identified as Sonam Nyima, administrative member of the monastery.

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April 13, 2009

School children protest naked at Chinese embassy

Phayul
By Namgyal Kunga

New Delhi, April 13: Outraged by the continuing oppression in Tibet, 10 Tibetan school children staged a naked protest at the heavily guarded Chinese Embassy in the Indian capital. The Tibetan students who had just finished their board exams barged into the embassy premises here to protest against what they called “on-going repression in Tibet and to show their solidarity to the Tibetans inside Tibet who continue to struggle for freedom amid Chinese government's brutal crackdown”.

The 10 Tibetan children who were in their undergarments chained themselves onto the barbed wire that surrounded the Chinese Embassy and shouted slogans calling for “freedom in Tibet” and “human rights in Tibet.” Nine of them were arrested by the police. The school children did not belong to any political group or NGO.


“We did this protest to show the Chinese leadership that their repressive policies in Tibet are naked truth no matter how hard they try to hide from the world what Tibetans in Tibet are going through”, said Dorjee Tsetan, a student of Bylakuppe Tibetan Children's Village School.

The protest comes days after China sentenced two Tibetans, Lobsang Gyaltsen and Loyak, to death for their alleged involvement in last year's protests in Lhasa. Two others, Phuntsok and Kangtsuk, were also sentenced to death but with a two-year reprieve, and Dawa Sangpo was sentenced to life imprisonment.

“There is an immense crackdown and brutality being imposed on the Tibetan people inside Tibet. Chinese government in their 50 years Occupation of Tibet has failed to respect the sentiments of the Tibetan people. We have lost everything, our homes, families, friends, relatives and even our basic rights to live as human being. We have nothing more to lose”, said Dorjee.


Rabgyal, another student of the same school, said "We have just finished our class 10th and 12th board examination, and as Tibetans we feel it is our moral responsibility to speak out on behalf of those Tibetans inside Tibet who can't, we have decided to use our vacation positively. To shelve our dignity is the only way we thought we can bring the attention of the world community, which has done little in the last 50 years in supporting us to get back our country."

"My parents were imprisoned for participating in a peaceful protest last year," said another student, Tsering, "I have no clue about their present condition. I came here to ask the Chinese government to release my parents and all the other innocent Tibetans who were imprisoned for expressing their feelings for Tibet and devotion to His Holiness the Dalai Lama."

This year marks 50 years of China's Occupation of Tibet. Tibetans both inside Tibet and in exile had to go through an immense suffering of separation.

“I left Tibet because I was deprived of my right to education, freedom of speech, religion and movement. Thousands of Tibetan children like me cross the Himalayas every year to escape the oppression in Tibet." said Lodoe, another protester, “The oppression must end so that Tibetan parents no longer have to part with their children.”

“I am thankful to India and the Indian people and this protest is in no way a disrespect to the sentiments of the Indian people. For us, this was the last thing we could do,” he added.

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April 9, 2009

Dalai Lama Envoy Asks China to Suggest Way Forward: Report

Phayul

Dharamsala, April 9: China must suggest ways to break a deadlock in talks on Tibet or the Dalai Lama's representatives will assume Beijing is not interested in a negotiated solution, Reuters reported an envoy of the exiled Tibetan leader as saying on Wednesday.

The last round of talks between China and envoys of the Dalai Lama failed in November when Beijing rejected their calls for "high-level autonomy" for Tibet.

Premier Wen Jiabao said last month that China was open to more talks as long as the Dalai Lama renounced what Beijing describes as separatism.

Kelsang Gyaltsen, the Dalai Lama's representative to Europe, said the Tibetan side had already put their proposals on the table at the last meeting in the form of a memorandum that Beijing rejected.

"If there is any seriousness and political will on the part of the Chinese government, the ball is now in their court," the report quoted Kelsang Gyaltsen, who took part in the negotiations with China, as telling reporters during a visit to London.

"They have now either to come up with their own suggestions for a way forward or we have to assume that the Chinese government is not interested in ... finding a mutually acceptable solution through dialogue with the Tibetans," he said.

However, he reportedly said the Dalai Lama's envoys had not yet reached this conclusion. "The time (since November) is too short. Let's see," he said.

He also urged European governments to take a common position on Tibet that was "clear and strong".

Gyaltsen said China's increasing influence in the world made the Tibet issue more, rather than less, important.

"It's important to the Chinese government what the outside world thinks about China. So ... today's members of the international community have more leverage to influence ... the Chinese leadership than 20 years back," he said.

Because of Tibet's potential for social instability, foreign governments interested in China's peaceful development also had an interest in the Tibet issue being solved, he said.

Peaceful protests by Buddhist monks against Chinese rule in March last year escalated into massive anti-China unrest across Tibet. Tibetan exiles say more than 200 people died in the crackdown. The unrest is described by many as the largest uprising since the Tibetan National Uprising of 1959 which was brutally crushed down by Chinese military force.

China sent military troops to occupy Tibet in late 1949 and the Dalai Lama fled the mountainous region in 1959 after the failed uprising against Chinese rule.

Meeting in Dharamsala, India, last November, Tibetan exiles reaffirmed their commitment to the Dalai Lama's "Middle Way" approach that seeks “real and meaningful” autonomy within the constitutional framework of PRC instead of outright independence for Tibet.

The Dalai Lama recently said China lacks sincerity in the talks. The 73 year old Tibetan leader said he was losing his trust in the Chinese government but maintained that his faith in the Chinese people remains unshaken.

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April 9, 2009

China Dissident Becomes Tibet's Unlikely Champion

AFP

WASHINGTON — As China's leadership works to glorify its rule in Tibet, one of China's most prominent dissidents is on a very different mission -- to document his country's atrocities in the Himalayan land.

Harry Wu, who spent nearly two decades toiling in labor camps as a political prisoner, recently opened an exhibition at his Washington museum on suffering in Chinese-ruled Tibet.

"I've heard a few Chinese say that Harry Wu is a traitor to China," Wu said inside his Laogai Museum in the heart of the US capital.

"And I right away respond -- yes, I am. I am a traitor to the People's Republic of China. Because the People's Republic of China was established by the communists," he said emphatically.

In a sharp break with China's line that it liberated Tibet, the exhibition depicts authorities destroying temples and other religious heritage of the region and setting up labor camps -- the exact number of which Wu said is impossible to verify.

The exhibition, which runs until May 30, features photographs and video footage taken secretly in Tibet either by Tibetans or their sympathizers.

One image shows stacks of lumber stacked up outside the new Chambdo prison, with one unnamed inmate saying conditions were worse than in Tibet's most notorious Drapchi prison.

"On the outside, it looks very modern and many of the facilities are new. But inside it is very tough," the prisoner said.

He said that at least in Drapchi prison, "you can see the sky and sometimes the mountains from the cells."

Wu, 72, is lucid and sprightly. In his 19 years inside China's labor camps -- or "laogai" he says he was subjected to torture and near starvation.

The geologist said he was shipped off to 12 different laogai, where he was forced like a slave to work in a bid to change his views. Wu had criticized communism, in particular the Soviet clampdown on Hungary's 1956 uprising.

He was freed in 1979 and later moved to the United States, where he worked in a doughnut shop to make ends meet before eventually telling his story.

And as he tried to expose human rights abuses in China, he found himself opening his own eyes to a new issue -- Tibet.

"I found that of the many different groups of immigrants to the United States -- Mexicans, Koreans, Chinese, Japanese or whatever -- you always have some of them who commit some sort of crimes and go to jail," he said.

"You don't find any Tibetans doing crime. And you can easily make friends with them," he said.

Wu, raised to think that the Dalai Lama was a feudal oppressor, later met the Tibetan spiritual leader and has since developed views on Tibet that go even beyond what the Dalai Lama advocates.

While the Dalai Lama says he is seeking only greater autonomy for Tibetans under Chinese rule, Beijing brands him a separatist and pressures world leaders not to meet with the Nobel Peace laureate.

Wu, however, firmly believes that Tibet should be -- and was -- independent.

"Tibet has nothing to do with the Han Chinese," Wu said, referring to China's main ethnicity.

He thumped the table passionately as he showed his collection of Chinese government maps, which mark ethnically Tibetan areas in a different color.

Wu said that Beijing's argument -- that Tibetans for centuries accepted Chinese emperors' rule -- was no different from the British saying they should still control India because they once colonized it.

"They have their own systems, they have their culture, their religion, their military. They have a government, they have tax. It is independent -- totally different," Wu said.

China sent troops into Tibet in 1950 and nine years later crushed an uprising which led the Dalai Lama to flee into India.

Marking the 50th anniversary of the uprising last month, China established a new holiday celebrating "Serfs' Liberation Day," saying Beijing freed Tibetans from a Buddhist theocracy that enslaved all but the religious elite.

China has also opened a Tibet museum in Beijing, which reinforces the official line on the region seen by most Chinese as an inalienable part of the country.

Lodi Gyari, the Dalai Lama's chief negotiator with Beijing, sits on the board of Wu's foundation and said the exhibition provides a useful counterpoint.

"Harry Wu's work at the Laogai Museum is done for the same reasons that the Holocaust Museum was founded: to remember and to expose these ugly truths so that such things will never happen again," Gyari said.

"The Tibetan people need to forgive, but we must not forget."

The Laogai Museum, whose main exhibit documents China's labor camps, opened in November with the support of a fund established by Jerry Yang, the co-founder of Internet giant Yahoo.

Yang donated the money after Yahoo came under fire for providing data to Chinese police helping them jail cyber dissidents including outspoken journalist Shi Tao, who remains in prison.

Wu said his museum attracted a steady flow of US schoolchildren but few Han Chinese. He said he hoped more Chinese would visit -- he even sent an improbable invitation to the Chinese embassy staff.

But Wu believes that instead of trying to persuade Han Chinese on Tibet, Tibetans can help the Chinese by fighting the communist system.

"I've told the Dalai Lama -- we Chinese cannot support you; you, the Tibetans, should support us," Wu said.

"Communist China is like a plate -- not made of plastic, of paper, of metal but of china. If you take away part of it, you can break the entire Chinese communist system."

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April 8, 2009

2 Tibetans Sentenced to Death by Chinese Court

Phayul
By Kalsang Rinchen

Dharamsala, April 8 — Two Tibetans have been sentenced to death by the Lhasa Municipal Intermediate People's Court today in what the Chinese state media described as “arson cases that left seven people dead and five shops burned to the ground in Lhasa,” last March.

It was the first report of death sentences given out for the March 14 violence in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, that Chinese officials say killed 22 people but the exile Tibetan government claims more than 200 Tibetans have been killed by the Chinese forces.

Lobsang Gyaltsen was sentenced to death for burning two clothing shops in downtown Lhasa on March 14, killing a shop owner, according to Chinese state media Xinhua.

Loyak, was given the death penalty for his role in the burning of a motorcycle shop that killed the owner, his wife, his son, and two employees, Xinhua said.

Two other Tibetans, Tenzin Phuntsok and Kangtsuk, have been given suspended death sentences with two year reprieve. Another Tibetan named Dawa Sangpo has been sentenced to life imprisonment.

Exile Tibetan government’s spokesperson has told Associated Press those sentenced had not received a fair trial and warned of even greater resentment among Tibetans. "These decisions are made by a kangaroo court of law. There is no proper legal defense for the accused," AP quoted Thupten Samphel as saying. "These kinds of decisions increase China's Tibet problem. China should show magnanimity to make Tibetan people less resentful."

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), a Tibetan NGO monitoring human rights in Tibet, condemned the verdicts saying they clearly “highlight the current level of repression in Tibet where state agencies freely abuse the human rights of the Tibetan people with impunity.”

TCHRD calls the verdicts “an intimidation being passed onto the Tibetans who dare show their dissent with the state.”

The centre says around 230 Tibetans have received varying prison terms for their participation in the spring protest last year.

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