Feb 04, 2009

Tibet: Tibetans Sentenced for Sharing Information with "The Dalai Clique"

Active ImageSeven Tibetans were handed down sentences for information related to non-violent protest activity.

 Below is an article published by: CECC

A Communist Party-run newspaper has provided the first detailed information about Tibetans convicted and sentenced to terms of imprisonment for nonviolent activity that authorities link to rioting on March 14, 2008, in and near Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region. The November 8, 2008, Lhasa Evening News (LEN) report asserted that the defendants had "endangered state security."

China's state-run media has previously provided legal process information about the cases of only a few dozen Tibetan "rioters," but almost no information about the large but unknown number of Tibetans believed to have been detained in connection with peaceful protest activity. (See the CECC 2008 Annual Report for more information on the
2008 Tibetan protests and their consequences.)

The LEN article (translated in a December 22 International Campaign for Tibet report) described "four 'March 14 incident' cases" involving a total of seven Tibetans who allegedly provided information ("intelligence") to Tibetan organizations based in India that are part of what the Chinese government and Communist Party refer to collectively as "the Dalai Clique." The report did not, however, mention the Dalai Lama himself or provide any information directly linking any of the four cases to the March 14 [2008] protests and rioting.

The Lhasa Intermediate People's Court sentenced one Tibetan to life imprisonment and six Tibetans to fixed terms of imprisonment ranging from 8 to 15 years on charges of "espionage" (Criminal Law, Article 110) or "illegally sending intelligence abroad" (Article 111).

The court accused six of the defendants of activity "concerning the security and interests of the state" and one defendant of activity "harming the security and interests of the state," according to the LEN report. China's Constitution (Article 54) states that Chinese citizens "must not commit acts detrimental to the security, honor, and interests of the motherland." The Criminal Law chapter on "Crimes of Endangering National Security" (Articles 102-113), however, mentions the "security" of the state only once (Article 102) and only with respect to colluding with a "foreign State," a description that is not applicable to "the Dalai Clique." The chapter does not mention the "honor" or "interests" of the state or link them to specific crimes.

As a result, law enforcement and judicial officials exercise broad discretion in identifying and punishing behavior that they deem to "concern" or "harm" China's security, honor, and interests. The table below summarizes the information provided in the LEN report.


The LEN report did not provide any details about the type of information that any of the defendants allegedly provided to entities outside of China. The report did not identify the group or individual deemed to be part of "the Dalai Clique" that allegedly received information from the four defendants accused of acting together: Wangdu, Migmar Dondrub, Phuntsog Dorje, and Tsewang Dorje. One of the other defendants, Sonam Dragpa allegedly provided information to the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), a non-governmental organization (NGO) that seeks Tibetan independence according to the TYC Web site; Yeshe Choedron allegedly provided information to the Tibetan government-in-exile; and Sonam Tseten allegedly provided information to Gu-Chu-Sum, an NGO that Tibetan former political prisoners established to work on behalf of Tibetan political prisoners, according to the group's Web site.

At least two of the Tibetans, Wangdu and Phuntsog Dorje, have served previous sentences as political prisoners. Wangdu was detained on March 8, 1989, the day martial law took effect in Lhasa after three days of protests and rioting. According to the CECC Political Prisoner Database, Wangdu's initial three-year sentence was extended by five years to a total of eight years' imprisonment after he and at least 10 other Tibetan political prisoners signed (in prison) a petition stating that the 1951 17-Point Agreement between the Chinese government and the Tibetan government in Lhasa was forced on an independent Tibet. Wangdu, who had learned English, was a monk and tour guide at Lhasa's Jokhang Temple before the 1989 detention. Prior to detention from his home on March 14, 2008, Wangdu worked in Lhasa for the Australia-based Burnet Institute as a project officer for the institute's HIV Prevention in Lhasa Project, according to information in the ICT report, a December 22 [2008] Associated Press report (reprinted in Fox News), and an October 9 [2008] Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) report. Information about the project is available on the Burnet Institute's Web site.

Phuntsog Dorje, a former employee of the Snowlands Hotel in Lhasa, served a 10-year sentence after detention in 1990, according to the 1994 Human Rights Watch report, "Detained in China and Tibet: A Directory of Political and Religious Prisoners."

Authorities suspected Phuntsog Dorje of having links to a pro-independence group. In 1993, Phuntsog Dorje was suffering from kidney problems attributed to "extraordinarily heavy labor," the report said, citing an October 19, 1993, Tibet Information Network report (TIN ceased operations in 2005).

The Commission is aware of only one other official Chinese report of detention of Tibetans for peaceful protest activity during the wave of protests that began on March 10, 2008, the anniversary of the 1959 Lhasa uprising. The report concerns one of the two protests reported to have occurred in Lhasa on March 10 [2008]. A March 25 [2008] China Tibet News report (translated in OSC, 27 March 08) stated that on March 24 [2008] the Lhasa People's Procuratorate authorized public security officials to formally arrest on charges of "illegal assembly" 13 of 15 monks whom police detained on March 10 [2008] for "chanting reactionary slogans" and carrying home-made Tibetan flags near the Jokhang Temple. The report did not name any of the monks charged with "illegal assembly," but named another of the monks, Lodroe (Luozhui), as the leader of the protest and the first to display the Tibetan flag. The report did not provide any information about the charges against Lodroe. No information is available about whether or not a court tried and sentenced the monks. All of the monks were temporary students at Sera Monastery in Lhasa but who hailed from other monasteries located in Tibetan autonomous prefectures in Sichuan and Qinghai provinces, according to March 10 [2008] and March 12 [2008] Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports and two March 12 [2008]TCHRD reports (1, 2).

Hundreds of Drepung Monastery monks staged the other March 10 [2008] peaceful protest in Lhasa by attempting to march from the monastery to the city center, where the Potala Palace and the Jokhang Temple are located, according to the RFA reports and a March 11 [2008] TCHRD report. According to information and analysis provided in Section V, Tibet, of the CECC 2008 Annual Report, Tibetan protests spread quickly through more than 50 county-level areas in the Tibetan autonomous areas of China.

Protesters resorted to rioting in a total of 12 county-level areas, according to official Chinese media reports, but generally peaceful Tibetan protests took place in more than 40 additional county-level areas. [...]Chinese authorities released by June 2008 more than 3,000 of the more than 4,400 detained Tibetans whom officials characterized as "rioters" and who had surrendered or been detained by April 9, based on CECC analysis of a June 21, 2008, China Daily report and previous Chinese state-run media reports.