Nov 20, 2009

Tibet: Trial Detailed

Active ImageCourt documents offer a first rare glimpse of a capital trial related to 2008 unrest in Tibet.




Below is an article published by Radio Free Asia:

Court documents relating to one of three Tibetans believed to have been executed by Chinese authorities for their part in the Lhasa unrest of March 2008 have confirmed the identity of one of the men.

According to the documents, judicial authorities in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) of China handed down the death sentence to Lobsang Gyaltsen, who was convicted of burning a Han Chinese shop owner to death during the unrest of March 2008.

"For committing arson, the defendant Lobsang Gyaltsen is sentenced to death and to the revocation of his life-long political rights," the Lhasa municipal People's Intermediate Court said in its judgment, a copy of which was seen by RFA's Tibetan service.

Tibetans in China and overseas had previously reported the executions of at least three people convicted of rioting during last year's widespread uprising against Chinese rule.

The reports mentioned one Lobsang Gyaltsen, 24, of Lubuk township, near Lhasa.

Accomplices cited

The court document confirmed that a Tibetan tour guide named Lobsang Gyaltsen, known also by his Chinese nickname Banzhang, was detained March 24, 2008, by Lhasa police on suspicion of involvement in setting fire to shops during the unrest.

The disturbances flared March 14 in Tibetan regions of China following three days of peaceful protests in Lhasa.

Lobsang Gyaltsen was formally arrested April 1, 2008.

The Lhasa municipal procuratorate, or government prosecution service, accused Lobsang Gyaltsen of "actively participating in assault, smashing, looting, and burning" in the Ramoche street area of Lhasa on March 14.

"During the afternoon of that day, Lobsang Gyaltsen set fire to the Hongyu Kuye Garment on Qingnian Lu with the help of fellow accused Pen Kyi," the court judgment said.

"The victim Zhao Rancun was a Han Chinese national, 45 years old, who died due to burns," the judgment said, while estimating the damage to Zhao's shop from the fire at 250,000 yuan (U.S. $36,600).

"The accused also set another garment store, Niaomo Shijia, on fire, causing damage worth 1.1 million yuan (U.S. $161,100).

The judgment, issued by the appeals department of the Lhasa municipal People's Court, said subsequent investigations had interviewed Zhao's wife and son and the owner of the Niaomo Shijia garment store.

Lobsang Gyaltsen was also convicted of inciting others to participate in riots and of assaults on police, it said.

"The court found that Lobsang Gyaltsen did participate in the March 14 arson, threw stones at the armed police on Ramoche street, and instigated Tenzin (another accomplice) to participate in the arson."

"At 14.00 hours on the same day, Lobsang Gyaltsen, with the assistance of Pen Kyi, set the Hongyu Kuye garment shop on fire," it said.

"Lobsang used his lighter to set fire to a shirt which he threw on the pile of clothes in the shop. Pen Kyi threw kerosene oil that she brought with her which caused the fire to catch and engulf the whole store in flames."

In October, Tibetan exiles and residents of the region first reported the execution of several people convicted of rioting during last year's widespread uprising against Chinese rule.

They were the first reported executions in connection with rioting that erupted in March 2008 in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) capital, Lhasa. Capital punishment is administered only rarely in Tibet, experts say.

Mixed plea

The judgment, dated April 8, 2009, said that Lobsang Gyaltsen denied setting fire to Hongyu Kuye Garment but acknowledged setting fire with an accomplice to the Niaomo Shijia shop, which deals in clothing as well as precious metals.

It said that his legal representative Phuntsok Wangyal appealed for a lighter sentence, but that the appeal was turned down.

The judgment added that Lobsang Gyaltsen was sentenced according to Clause 1, Articles 57 and 115, of the Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China.

Before his execution, according to one source, Lobsang Gyaltsen was permitted a visit with his mother.

"I have nothing to say, except please take good care of my child and send him to school," he was quoted as telling her.

A local source said Lobsang Gyaltsen's mother's home is now under round-the-clock surveillance.

Rioting rocked Lhasa in March last year and spread to Tibetan-populated regions of western China, causing official embarrassment ahead of the August 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Chinese officials say 21 people-including three Tibetan protesters-died in the violence.

The India-based Tibetan government-in-exile estimates that 220 Tibetans were killed and 7,000 were detained in a region-wide crackdown.

The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy reported separately that four people were executed on Oct. 24.

A Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) report said that as of September 2009 its Political Prisoner Database contained a total of 670 records of Tibetans detained on or after March 10, 2008-a figure it deemed "certain to be incomplete"-for exercising rights such as the freedoms of speech, religion, assembly, and association.

By the end of April 2009, TAR courts had sentenced 84 Tibetans to punishments ranging from fixed jail terms to life, as well as to death or death with a two-year reprieve, in connection with the 2008 riots, the CECC report said.

The report also detailed a widespread Chinese "patriotic education" campaign that requires Tibetan monks and nuns to pass examinations on political texts, agree that Tibet is historically a part of China, and denounce the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

Original reporting by Dolkar for RFA's Tibetan service.Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.