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Tibetan man dies after self-immolation; oppressive measures intensified in March 10 anniversary week

March 7, 2018

A Tibetan man in his forties, Tsekho Tugchak, set fire to himself and died today (March 7) in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba), eastern Tibet, the first self-immolation in Tibet this year. It is the 153rd self-immolation in Tibet, and happens at a time of intense securitization across Tibet in the buildup to the sensitive anniversary of the March 10 Uprising in 1959, and the tenth anniversary of protests that swept across Tibet in 2008 on the same date.

Graphic images circulated online of Tsekho Tugchak’s blackened body, lying on the ground, his arms outstretched. He was from a nomadic village in Meeruma township in Ngaba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan, the Tibetan area of Amdo. The last Tibetan to set fire to himself, Konpe, was also from Ngaba, and set himself on fire on December 23, 2017, close to the area of the first self-immolation in Tibet in February, 2009.[1]

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‘Wall of steel’ in Tibet with major military drill in buildup to March 10 anniversary

March 5, 2018

On the same day as a major prayer festival in Tibet on March 2 (2018), the Chinese authorities held a major military drill in Lhasa termed as a ‘wall of steel’ in the buildup to the sensitive political anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day, March 10, in 1959. This week is also the tenth anniversary of a wave of overwhelmingly peaceful protests that swept across Tibet from March 10, 2008.

The joint military drill on March 2 (2018) consisted of a mass show of force of ‘combat-ready’ troops from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the People’s Armed Police (PAP), underlining the heavy militarization of Tibet and the political importance at the highest-levels in China of Tibet’s ‘stability’. In its extreme nature, this massive show of force – which has become an almost annual ritual at this time of year – is also an indicator of CCP anxieties over its authority in Tibet.

The military drills coincided with the mass presence of troops at prayer festivals in monasteries in eastern Tibet, giving the impression of a war zone. Despite the heavy show of force, thousands of Tibetan pilgrims still came to monasteries and religious sites to offer prayers.[1]

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Images of repression and resilience from Tibet on ‘Day of Miracles’

March 3, 2018

A major show of military force was in evidence today (March 2) during an important prayer festival at Kumbum monastery in eastern Tibet as Tibetan New Year (Losar) rituals draw to a close. Footage from Kumbum shows marching ranks of black-uniformed troops in riot gear, giving the impression of a war zone rather than a peaceful prayer festival, the Monlam Chenmo.

Footage and images circulating on social media showed celebrations of the Monlam Chenmo across the Tibetan area of Amdo over March 1 and 2 (2018), with a particularly strong military presence at the ancient Kumbum monastery (in present-day Qinghai), where thousands of devotees gather each year to offer prayers and view the famous butter sculptures.

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International NGOs urge Governments and UN to Act on China’s Human Rights Abuses, including in Tibet

February 26, 2018

A group of international NGOs, including the International Campaign for Tibet, has sent a private letter to a select UN member states about raising China’s human rights abuses at the UN Human Rights Council. The letter’s authors say, “The Human Rights Council should take further steps to show China that undermining key legal protections for freedoms of expression and association and the rights to a fair trial, not to mention disappearing or arbitrarily detaining dissenting voices, is unacceptable behaviour – especially for a would-be “global leader” “.

The letter highlighted five cases of human rights defenders, including that of Tibetan education advocate Tashi Wangchuk, which “show that the ferocious crackdown on human rights defenders, including lawyers, that has intensified since President Xi Jinping assumed power continues unabated’.

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U.S. committed to supporting the aspirations of the Tibetan people, says Under Secretary Steve Goldstein at State Department Losar Reception

February 23, 2018

The State Department hosted its annual reception for Losar, the Tibetan New Year, on February 20, 2018. Under Secretary Steve Goldstein and Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Samuel D. Brownback, addressed the gathering of Administration and Congressional staff, diplomats, NGO representatives, and members of the Tibetan American community. Representative Ngodup Tsering offered greetings on behalf of H.H. the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration while Capital Area Tibetan Association President Namka Tenzin spoke on behalf of the Tibetan American community. Khenpo Samdup of the Drikung Dharma Chakra center offered the opening prayers of auspiciousness. There was Tibetan cultural performance by Karma Gyaltsen and Tashi Yangzom, and observance of Losar rituals, including the offering of traditional Chemar, Dresil, Kapse, and Chang.

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Amnesty International Says Tibetans continued to face discrimination and restrictions in 2017

February 22, 2018

A new Amnesty International Report says Tibetans continued to face discrimination and restrictions on their rights to freedom of religion and belief, of opinion and expression, of peaceful assembly and of association.

The Amnesty International Report 2017/18, released on February 22, 2018, documents the state of the world’s human rights in 159 countries and territories during 2017. The report said, “Tashi Wangchuk, a Tibetan education advocate, remained in detention awaiting trial at the end of the year, without access to his family.”

The report said that the Chinese Government “continued to draft and enact new laws under the guise of “national security” that presented serious threats to human rights.” It continued, “Activists and human rights defenders were detained, prosecuted and sentenced on the basis of vague and overbroad charges such as “subverting state power” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. Controls on the internet were strengthened. Repression of religious activities outside state-sanctioned churches increased.”

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ICT Welcomes UN experts call for immediate release of Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk

February 21, 2018

Six UN human rights experts have called for the immediate release of Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk. In a statement released today, the experts “expressed serious concern over the ruling by a Chinese court to uphold charges of ‘incitement to separatism’ brought against a human rights activist who appeared in a documentary calling for linguistic and cultural rights in Tibet.” The experts from various fields of human rights expertise said “all of the charges levelled against Tashi Wangchuk (…) should be dropped”. In unusual strong language, the experts “condemn the continued detention of Mr. Wangchuk and the criminalization of his freedom of expression as well as his right to stand and speak up for what he perceives as human rights violations in his region and country”.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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Marriott Hotels’s statement on Tibet raises serious concerns for endorsing Chinese government’s propaganda

January 17, 2018

Following Chinese government’s objection to its labelling of Tibet (amongst others) on a survey drop-down menu under “countries” the President of Marriott, Arne Sorenson, issued a statement on January 11, 2018 in which it said, “…we don’t support anyone who subverts the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China.”

The International Campaign for Tibet is seriously concerned and feels inappropriate for a multinational corporation to have a political position on a future of a community.

The right of people to self-determination is a cardinal principle that is enshrined in the United Nations Charter. We have therefore written to Mr. Sorenson expressing our concern and saying that since he has opined on the political future of the Tibetan people, he should also state his position on the universally acknowledged human rights violations suffered by the Tibetan people under the rule of the Chinese government. Failing to do so would mean endorsing the Chinese government political propaganda on Tibet.

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Trial of Tibetan language advocate today ends without known verdict

January 4, 2018

The trial today of a Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk, who appeared in a New York Times video documentary, received global attention as he and his Chinese lawyer refuted charges of ‘separatism’.

In unprecedented scenes in the courtroom in Yushu, Qinghai, the New York Times video was shown in which Tashi Wangchuk is seen travelling to Beijing to present an appeal about the rights of Tibetans to speak and learn their own language. Tashi Wangchuk and his lawyer pleaded not guilty, and no verdict has yet been returned.

Tashi Wangchuk’s lawyer Liang Xiaojun said in a microblog today (January 4, 2018) that a judge heard oral arguments for four hours and will issue a verdict at an unspecified date. Liang Xiaojun also posted a summary of the case by the authorities at Yushu People’s Intermediate Court, Qinghai, which stated that in the video documentary, Tashi Wangchuk had “intentionally attacked” the Chinese government, and “incited ethnic hatred”. The statement also said that the New York Times video had conveyed a “negative image” of the Chinese authorities to the world.

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