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Fears for extent of damage after major fire at sacred Jokhang Temple during Tibetan New Year

February 18, 2018

  • There are fears that a major fire might have damaged the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, one of the holiest and ancient sites in Tibet, on the second day of the Tibetan New Year (Losar). Videos posted online showed flames shooting from the direction of the roof of the seventh-century temple on Saturday (February 17); Tibetans could be heard weeping and praying.
  • Damage may be more widespread than the authorities acknowledge, and reports that communications are being blocked and posts about the fire on social media deleted, consistent with the oppressive political climate in Lhasa. Thousands of pilgrims are currently in Tibet’s capital for New Year.
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US Members of Congress Introduce Resolutions to Commemorate Tibet’s 1959 Uprising as “Tibetan Rights Day”

February 15, 2018

Today, Senators Leahy (D), Feinstein (D), and Cruz (R) and Representatives McGovern (D) and Hultgren (R), introduced companion resolutions to commemorate the 1959 Tibetan Uprising as “Tibetan Rights Day” on March 10, and to support the human rights and religious freedom of the Tibetan people in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The resolutions recall that on March 10, 1959 the people of Lhasa rose to protect the residence of the Dalai Lama, fearing for his life, and that an estimated 87,000 were later killed during the ensuing violent crackdown orchestrated by the Chinese Communist Party. Furthermore, the resolutions recalls that March 10, 2018 is also the tenth anniversary of the 2008 protests that started in Lhasa and then spread across the Tibetan plateau, which were brutally suppressed by Chinese authorities. At least 152 Tibetans have self-immolated inside the PRC in protest against Chinese rule since then.

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ICT and FIDH ask EU to urge for Access to Tibet as it observes 2018 EU-China Tourism Year

February 15, 2018

On the occasion of the 2018 EU-China Tourism Year (ECTY), which was launched in January in Venice, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) have written to the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and to the European Union High Representative, Federica Mogherini, to express a number of concerns in relation to the promotion of tourism in Tibet.

The letter, dated February 14, 2018, highlights amongst others the lack of access to Tibet for foreigners (when Chinese tourists enjoy free and open access to the EU), the restrictions imposed on Tibetans’ freedom of movement and the lack of involvement of Tibetans in the decision-making process of tourism policies and projects. It also raises a number of questions and recommendations to EU leaders, and urges them to extend the notion of reciprocity -a notion promoted by the EU with regards to its trade relationship with China- to “the respect for fundamental rights, including the freedom of movement and the freedom of information of European citizens in China and Tibet”.

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Testimony of Dhondup Wangchen at the Hearing by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China on “Tibet From All Angles: Protecting Human Rights, Defending Strategic Access, and Challenging China’s Export of Censorship Globally”

February 14, 2018

Honorable Senator Rubio and Representative Smith,

I am very grateful for this opportunity to testify before the Congressional Executive Commission on China on my experiences in Tibet under the Chinese authorities.

My name is Dhondup Wangchen. I was born on October 17, 1974 to a family of Tibetan farmers in Bayen which is in the province we call Amdo. In today’s administrative divisions, Bayen is in Tsoshar prefecture, Qinghai province, People’s Republic of China.

I arrived in USA on December 25, 2017 and it was the first time in many years that I felt safety and freedom. The reunion with my family in San Francisco was a wonderful moment that I had looked forward to in the past years, with a mixture of anxious joy and the hesitation a man feels who was hindered to be the husband he ought to be for his loving wife; a man who was not given the chance to stand by with fatherly advice to his children in a world full of challenges, and a man denied being the son needed for his aging parents, tormented by the thought that they wouldn’t see each other again in their lifetime.

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Chinese police circular urges public to report on loyalty to ‘evil forces’ of Dalai Lama

February 13, 2018

  • Chinese police have issued a circular urging the public to inform on people they suspect of being loyal to the Dalai Lama and his “evil forces” across Tibet. According to the Chinese state media, the circular is aimed at deterring the “gangsters” that “the Dalai group uses to spreading its message of separatism.”
  • The circular on “illegal behavior” was posted on February 7, a month before the politically sensitive March 10 anniversary period, when the Tibet Autonomous Region is closed to foreigners. This year marks a decade since overwhelmingly peaceful protests swept across Tibet in 2008, with many demonstrators calling upon the Chinese government to allow the Dalai Lama to return home.
  • Underlining the hostile anti-Dalai Lama message it seeks to send to the world, the Chinese state media also made a harsh critique of the German company Daimler this week despite the auto-maker already apologizing twice to China for using a quote by the Dalai Lama to advertise Mercedes-Benz on Instagram.
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Tibetans in Tibet and in exile appeal to Chinese courts over use of Tibetan language, express support for Tashi Wangchuk

February 12, 2018

  • A group of Tibetans has written to the Supreme Court expressing their concern about the failure by regional courts to use the Tibetan language, which they state contravenes the Chinese Constitution. In a rare and bold step, the appeal letter, published on the Tibetan-language website Trimleng, an important forum for discussion particularly on legal and policy issues affecting Tibetans in Tibet, is signed with the names of 117 Tibetans who are both in Tibet and in exile.
  • The appeal is also a carefully-worded expression of support for businessman and shopkeeper Tashi Wangchuk, who was imprisoned in January, 2016, following the release of a New York Times video[1] profiling his efforts to request additional Tibetan language classes at schools in his home area of Yushul (Yushu) in Qinghai.
  • A group of 15 internationally known scholars and professors on Tibet, from France, the UK, US, Czech Republic, Canada and Australia called for clemency for Tashi Wangchuk in a letter published in the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong on February 8 (2018).[2] This follows expressions of concern and support for Tashi Wangchuk from German[3] and Latvian[4] Parliamentarians, and an emergency resolution by the European Parliament.[5]
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Tibetan Activist Dhondup Wangchen to testify before United States Congress, during first visit to Washington, DC

February 9, 2018

Tibetan video activist Dhondup Wangchen is visiting Washington, DC from February 9 to 15, 2018 to testify at a Hearing organized by the Congressional Executive Commission on China and will meet Congressional and Administration officials. The Hearing will take place on Wednesday, February 14 from 10am to 12pm in 301 Russell Senate Office Building. In addition to calling on the Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, he will also meet with Washington based NGOs as well as the Tibetan community.

Detained by Chinese authorities in Tibet in March 2008 for making the documentary film “Leaving Fear Behind” (in which ordinary Tibetans expressed their feelings about their situation in the light of the Beijing Olympics), Dhondup Wangchen was sentenced to six years in prison for “inciting subversion”. His friend and assistant, Tibetan monk Golok Jigme, suffered from detention and torture, too. Dhondup was released at the end of his sentence in 2014, but continued to be deprived of his freedom.

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Release from prison of Tibetan writer monk Gartse Jigme

February 8, 2018

A Tibetan writer and monk, popularly known as Gartse Jigme, has been released on February 4, 2018 after serving just over five years in prison for his books on the situation in Tibet and suffering of the Tibetan people.

Images emerged on social media of Gartse Jigme draped in khatags (Tibetan greeting scarves) by fellow monks after his return home to Tsekhog (Chinese: Zeke) county in Malho (Chinese: Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture), Qinghai, in the Tibetan area of Amdo. He was said to be frail although in reasonable health.

Gartse Jigme, who was arrested in January 2013 following a raid on his monastic quarters, began his writing career in 1999 after study for a monastic degree. He had been under constant surveillance and detained a number of occasions since the publication of his second book in 2008, called ‘Courage of the Tibetan King” (‘Tsanpoe Nyingtop’ བཙན་པོའི་སྙིང་སྟོབས), a collection of essays in the Tibetan language about the political situation in Tibet since the March, 1959 Uprising and the protests that swept across Tibet in 2008. In one essay, translated into English by ICT, Gartse Jigme, who is in his early 40s, wrote: “When I think about these things, it seems to me that the political protests in many places in central Tibet, Kham and Amdo this year [2008] were not organized by the Dalai Lama but were the inevitable expression of the pain stored up for so long in the minds of Tibetans young and old.”

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Tibetan who survived more than 20 years imprisonment disappears after bold protest for peace

February 8, 2018

A Tibetan, who is a former prisoner who continued to protest while in prison despite being subjected to the most severe torture, has been detained again after apparently carrying out a solo demonstration outside the Potala Palace in Lhasa on January 28, 2018.

According to exile sources, Lodoe Gyatso, who has served over 20 years in prison and had a death sentence commuted, is again in detention after he released a video announcing his intention to carry out a peaceful protest. A video message by Lodoe Gyatso was posted by Voice of America Tibetan service showing Lodoe Gyatso (also known as Sogkar Lodoe based on his home county of Sog) dressed in pristine white Tibetan garment speaking to camera.[1]

Lodoe announces in the video (an English translation of the message is included at the end of this report) his plan of staging a protest calling for world peace, describing his action as part of a long campaign of non-violent Tibetan protest. A Tibetan source told Radio Free Asia that Lodoe Gyatso is now being held in custody in his home county of Sog (Chinese: Suo) in Nagchu (Naqu) prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

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Latvian Parliamentarians Call for Fair and Transparent Judgement Process for Tibetan Language Advocate Tashi Wangchuk

February 6, 2018

On January 25th, Members of the Latvian Parliaments, including members of the Latvian Parliamentary Support Group for Tibet, adopted a statement on the case of Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk.

The signatories, twenty members of the Saeima (the Latvian Parliament) – out of a total of 100 parliamentarians – call for a “fair and transparent trial of Tashi Wangchuk” and “urges the People’s Republic of China to implement a judgement process that is constant with international legal standards, with the presence of observers at his trial”.

The statement follows a number of resolutions and statements calling for a fair trial for Tashi Wangchuk and/or his release –
including a resolution of the European Parliament and statements by French and German parliamentarians, adding to the growing international pressure in the case of the young human rights defender, who has been detained by the Chinese authorities since January 2016 and is still waiting for the verdict of his trial held on 4 January.

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Mercedes-Benz apologizes for use of Dalai Lama quote, helping Beijing to export its censorship worldwide

February 6, 2018

The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) is dismayed to learn that German carmaker Mercedes-Benz had apologized to the Chinese authorities for using a Dalai Lama quote on its Instagram page.

Reuters reported that Mercedes-Benz had posted an advertisement for its cars on Instagram with a quote from the Dalai Lama: “Look at situations from all angles and you will become more open”. The post quickly attracted the criticism of Chinese netizens, despite the fact that Instagram is not accessible in China except through VPN connections.
In reaction, Mercedes-Benz deleted the ad and posted an apology on its Weibo page. In it, the company apologized for its “extremely erroneous message” saying,

“Taking this incident as a guide, we will immediately take practical actions to deepen our understanding of Chinese culture and values - including for our overseas colleagues - and regulate our behavior to prevent such incidents from occurring again.”

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ICT to honor long-time activist for Tibet Grace Spring with Light of Truth Award

February 5, 2018

In consideration of her many decades of contribution in putting a spotlight on Tibet, the Boards of the International Campaign for Tibet have decided to bestow Grace Spring with a special Light of Truth Award.

Grace Spring is an artist, an activist and a Tibetan supporter who for more than 10 years held a solo vigil every Friday morning in front of the Chinese Embassy in Washington with a Tibetan national flag and a placard, drawing attention to the plight of the Tibetan people.

In an interview to the Washington Post in December 1989, Grace said she initiated the vigil after the Chinese Government’s clampdown on Tibetan demonstrators in Tibet in 1987. “I asked myself what is possible for me to do as an American, just by myself,” Spring told the Washington Post. “It only takes one witness. I stand there, carrying the Tibetan flag and a sign.”

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Congressman Jim McGovern speaks in House about China’s new controls on Larung Gar Tibetan Buddhist Academy

January 31, 2018

Congressman Jim McGovern took to the floor of the House of Representatives on January 30, 2018 and raised the issue of China’s new administrative controls on the Tibetan Buddhist monastic center of Larung Gar, as outlined in a Human Rights Watch report. Congressman McGovern said, “It is a significant blow to freedom of religion in Tibet and China, and a matter of great concern to all members of Congress.” His remarks are given below along with the Human Rights Watch report.

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German MPs call for release of Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk

January 29, 2018

Two members of the German Parliament (The Bundestag), have called for the release of detained Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk, who currently awaits the outcome of his trial in Yulshul (Chinese: Yushu) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (the Tibetan area of Kham in Qinghai Province).

The two parliamentarians, Claudia Roth and Maria Klein-Schmeink (both members of the Green Party group in the Bundestag) have sent an open letter to the Chinese ambassador to Germany, Shi Mingde, on January 26, 2018. In it, they urged him “to take effective measures to ensure Tashi Wangchuk’s freedom of speech as guaranteed by the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” The letter goes on to “demand Tashi Wangchuk’s immediate release and the termination of proceedings as long as there is no legally valid evidence to substantiate the accusations against Tashi Wangchuk.”

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Rowell Fund for Tibet Announces Grants to Projects on Education, Elderly Care, Photography, and Archival Initiatives

January 26, 2018

The Rowell Fund for Tibet’s Board of Advisors has decided to award funds for 2018 to six projects that deal with Education, Elderly Care, Photography, and Archival of Tibet heritage documents. The Fund will award $37,320 to applicants for projects throughout Asia in memory of lifelong Tibet supporters, Galen and Barbara Rowell, who died in a plane crash in 2002.

The Fund received 34 applications from Tibetans in Tibet and outside for this grant cycle.

“It is nice to be part of this hugely beneficial program that honors the legacy of our friends and family, Galen and Barbara and their contributions to the survival and thriving of Tibetan culture and environment,” said Bob Palais, a member of the Board of Advisors of Rowell Fund for Tibet.

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French Senators Call for Fair and Transparent Judgement Process for Tibetan Language Advocate Tashi Wangchuk

January 23, 2018

Fourteen members of the French Senate have issued a statement calling on the Chinese Government to observe international legal standards and provide Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk with a fair and transparent judgement process. They asked that “Tashi Wangchuk enjoy access to a lawyer of his choice and that he be given access to his family on a regular basis.”

Tashi Wangchuk’s trial was held on January 4, 2018. According to his lawyer, Tashi Wangchuk pleaded not guilty, and no verdict has yet been returned. Lawyer Liang Xiaojun also said that a judge heard oral arguments for four hours and will issue a verdict at an unspecified date.

Following is the translation of the statement in French, issued by the International Information Tibet Group of the French Senate:

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Tibet raised in US House of Representatives debate on China’s Strategy to Accrue Global Power

January 19, 2018

The US House of Representatives saw a discussion on the night of January 18, 2018 under the Special Order session that highlighted the situation in Tibet and the need to pass pending legislations relating to it as a way to China’s onslaught on American society.

The discussion was at the initiative of Representative Ted Yoho, Chairman of the Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee on House Foreign Affairs Committee. The subcommittee had organized a hearing on Tibet on December 6, 2017.

While Members of Congress wanted good relations with China the discussion saw them expressing concern at China’s increasing attempt to subvert American society. As Mr. Yoho said in his remarks, “…China has grown to become a revisionist power—not rising within the current order, but seeking to change, subvert, or coerce it to suit China’s end—not playing by the rules, but rewriting the rules to suit the needs of China.”

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European Parliament adopts an urgency resolution calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Tashi Wangchuk and Tibetan monk Choekyi

January 18, 2018

Brussels – The European Parliament adopted today a new urgency resolution on China, expressing deep concern regarding the cases of two Tibetan political prisoners, the language advocate Tashi Wangchuk and the monk Choekyi.

The resolution which also covers the cases of Chinese human rights activists Wu Gan, Xie Yang, and Lee Ming-cheh “expresses its deep concern at the arrest and continued detention of Tashi Wangchuk, as well as his limited right to counsel, the lack of evidence against him and the irregularities in the criminal investigation; calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Tashi Wangchuk”.

“The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) welcomes the adoption of this resolution, which underscores once again the critical role of the European Parliament in standing up for victims of human rights abuses in China and Tibet” said ICT’s EU Policy Director Vincent Metten. “We hope that this strong-worded resolution, along with the expressions of concerns by a number of European governments and EU institutions in the last few months, will have an impact on the outcome of Tashi Wangchuk’s trial and on Choekyi’s condition. We also applaud the call for the resumption of the dialogue between the Chinese Government and the Dalai Lama and his representatives, the condemnation of anti-Buddhism campaigns and the adoption of the Counterterrorism Law, which could lead to the penalisation of peaceful expression of Tibetan culture and religion”.

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