Thu, May 01, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Protesters call on Japan to release Tibetan Taiwanese

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Dozens of Tibetan and human rights activists shouted “Free Tibet! Free Tashi!” yesterday during a demonstration in front of the Japanese representative office in Taipei, calling on Japan to release Tashi Tsering (札西慈仁) as soon as possible.

Tashi, an exiled Tibetan who holds a Taiwanese passport, was arrested in Nagano, Japan, on charges of “forcible obstruction of business” when he attempted to approach the Olympic torch during the Nagano leg of the relay.

Tashi was detained for 48 hours with no visitors allowed before being transferred to a prosecutor on Monday. However, a decision was made to extend his detention for 10 more days.

“At this point, officials from our representative office in Japan are not allowed to visit him and we don’t know what awaits him after the extended 10-day detention — release, even longer detention, or indictment,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Phoebe Yeh (葉非比) told the Taipei Times.

The activists found Japan’s handling of Tashi’s case unusual.

“Tashi did not act violently when he tried to approach the torch and he didn’t have anything on him that could cause anyone physical harm either,” Own Su-jei (翁仕杰), deputy secretary-general of the Taiwan-Tibet Exchange Foundation, told the crowd. “Normally, such an act is not considered an offense in Japan — or at most a very minor offense with the person released after the 48-hour detention period.”

He said that three other Japanese who were arrested for throwing eggs at the torch relay had already been released.

“The unusual handling of the case leads us to believe that Japan may be under political pressure from China,” Own said. “We urge the Japanese government to stand firm on the values of human rights and not to bow to political pressure from China.”

Chinese president Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) is scheduled to visit Japan next Wednesday.

After delivering the speech, Own, along with Taiwan Tibetan Welfare Association president Tenzin Tsering and the Taipei Bar Association’s Human Rights Protection Committee chairman Kao Yung-cheng (高涌誠), presented letters addressed to Japan’s Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Nagano central police station, where Tashi is being detained.

The three were received by an official from the representative office who promised to deliver the letters, but declined to comment further.

The activists also announced Nagano central police station’s telephone number, urging all those who are concerned to call the agency.

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