Gyurmey Thabkey, Kalsang Dondrub, and Lobsang stand trial in Qinghai's Haidong Prefecture. Photo credit: people.com.cn
Courts in Tibetan areas of China have been handing down long prison sentences to Tibetans accused of “inciting splittism” for activities connected to the series of self-immolation protests that have escalated over the past year. Just this week, three men were sentenced in Qinghai to between four and six years in prison for unspecified pro-independence text and images connected to the immolations. No detail is provided of the alleged offenses, but the official media report regarding the trial (translated below) goes to great lengths to state that the trial—which was concluded within one day, including sentencing—was carried out in strict accordance with the law and with the defendants’ rights fully protected.
This trial is the latest sign of Chinese authorities’ determination to use criminal prosecution to respond to the serious problem of self-immolation protests by Tibetans. In December 2012, local authorities in Gansu announced that criminal liability would be pursued against both those who commit self-immolations and those who aid and abet such protests.
By the end of 2012, Dui Hua’s Political Prisoner Database included about 5,000 people known or believed to be in custody (including in prison, RTL, detention, etc.). Of these, nearly a quarter were Tibetan, with the number of Tibetan activists recorded in the database growing 28 percent year-on-year largely due to the self-immolation protests. Imprisoned for charges similar to those brought against the men tried this week, prominent monk Yonten Gyatso was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment in June 2012 for sharing photographs and information about Tibet, while 20-year-old Ngawang Topden, an art student, was reportedly sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in February 2013 for storing images of self-immolations and the banned Tibetan national flag in his mobile phone.
Haidong Prefecture Intermediate People’s Court Issues Sentences in First-Instance Trial for Inciting Splittism
Kan Wacao and Zhang Rui, People’s Daily Online
March 18, 2013
On the afternoon of March 18, 2013, the Haidong Prefecture Intermediate People’s Court of Qinghai Province publicly tried the inciting splittism case of defendants Gyurmey Thabkey†, Kalsang Dondrub‡, and Lobsang and issued its verdict at the conclusion of the trial. For the crime of inciting splittism, Gyurmey Thabkey was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment with subsequent deprivation of political rights for three years; Kalsang Dondrub was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment with subsequent deprivation of political rights for four years; and Lobsang was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment with subsequent deprivation of political rights for two years.
In the course of the trial, the Haidong Intermediate People’s Court ascertained that defendants Gyurmey Thabkey, Kalsang Dondrub, and Lobsang carried out the actions of inciting splittism by using others’ self-immolation incidents to disseminate text and images relating to Tibetan independence, actions that had a negative effect both locally and internationally and violated the provisions of Article 103 of the Criminal Law, constituting the crime of inciting splittism. The facts charged by the prosecution were clear and the evidence was reliable and sufficient; [therefore] the crime stands as charged. Based on the facts, nature, circumstances, and degree of social harm of the three defendants’ [respective] crimes, and having given full consideration to the opinions of both the prosecution and defense, the court issued the aforementioned verdict.
Furthermore, the Haidong Prefecture Branch of the Qinghai People’s Procuratorate assigned personnel to appear in court for the prosecution, and defendants Gyurmey Thabkey, Kalsang Dondrub, and Lobsang each appeared in court with their defense counsel to participate in the proceedings. The Haidong Prefecture Intermediate People’s Court tried this case in strict adherence with the law and regulations and fully safeguarded the procedural rights of the defendants. In the course of the trial, the court provided the defendants with Tibetan interpreters and the defendants and their defense counsel fully expressed their defense opinions during the investigation and debate over the facts and evidence relevant to conviction and sentencing. More than 100 people including friends and relatives of each defendant and people from all segments of society observed the trial and sentencing hearings.