Tibetan tried for subversion


Sat, Jan 06, 2018 - Page 6

A Tibetan who has waged a campaign to preserve his region’s ancestral language on Thursday was put on trial in China for inciting separatism in a case Amnesty International denounced as “ludicrously unjust.”

Tashi Wangchuk was featured in a New York Times documentary that followed him on a trip to Beijing, where he attempted to get Chinese state media and courts to address what he described as the diminishing use of the Tibetan language.

Wangchuk was put on trial at the Intermediate People’s Court in Yushu, his hometown in a Tibetan area of Qinghai Province.

The charge can carry a sentence of up to five years, but Wangchuk’s lawyer, Liang Xiaojun (梁小軍), said prosecutors were expected to seek even more jail time.

Wangchuk pleaded not guilty and the trial did not come to a verdict, but nearly every case that goes to trial in China — especially on sensitive state-security issues — ends with a guilty verdict.

“He doesn’t believe he’s incited separatism. He only wants to strengthen Tibetan language education,” Liang said.

Wangchuk has been detained in Yushu since January 2016, not long after the Times published its story and documentary video about his activism, according to the newspaper.

Liang said the short documentary was “the most important evidence” used by the prosecution.

In the video, Wangchuk complained of a “systematic slaughter of our culture.”

“In politics, it’s said that if one nation wants to eliminate another nation, first they need to eliminate their spoken and written language,” Wangchuk said.

In the Times’ stories, Wangchuk notably says he wants to use Chinese law to build his case and he praised Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).

Amnesty International said it was “appalling” that Wangchuk could face jail time.

“These are blatantly trumped up charges, and he should be immediately and unconditionally released,” Amnesty International East Asia research director Roseann Rife said in a statement.

Human Rights Watch Hong Kong-based researcher Maya Wang (王松蓮) said Wangchuk was merely exercising his constitutionally guaranteed rights.

“If Chinese authorities consider that ‘inciting separatism,’ it’s hard to tell what isn’t,” Wang said.