A Tibetan who worked for an international public health NGO has beensentenced to life imprisonment and six other Tibetans to long prison terms for allegedly passing on information about the situation in Tibet, according to a report published in the Chinese press. Wangdu, a former Project Officerfor an HIV/AIDS program in Lhasa run by the Australian Burnet Institute, wascharged with “espionage” by the Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court.Three other Tibetans were sentenced from 10 to 15 years for “providing intelligence” to the “Dalai clique”, including two exile Tibetan NGOs named in the official report, and a second former NGO worker sentenced to 14 years imprisonment.
The sentences are unprecedented in their severity for Tibetans accused of passing on information to people outside Tibet. This new development indicates a harder line approach to blocking news on the current crackdown in Tibet, and also appears to represent a challenge to NGOs working on the plateau. The official report, published in the Lhasa Evening News in Chinese and translated below into English, also underlines Beijing’s view that the Dalai Lama was responsible for the wave of protests against Chinese rule that swept across Tibet from March onwards. Hundreds of Tibetans remain in custody following more than 125 overwhelmingly peaceful protests over asix-month period from March 10. A definitive number of prisoners is not known due to the security crackdown and the Chinese authorities’ efforts to silence Tibetans, including the warning implicit in the sentencing of Wangdu and the six other Tibetans detailed in this report.
The article in the Lhasa Evening News on November 8, translated in full into English below, reported the sentencing of seven Tibetans including former Jokhang monk and health worker Wangdu (Chinese transliteration: Wangdui).Migmar Dhondup (Chinese transliteration: Mima Dunzhu), who also worked foran NGO and is known as a passionate conservationist, was sentenced to 14 years in prison for “espionage”. Both Migmar Dhondup and Wangdu were accused of collecting “intelligence concerning the security and interests of thestate and provid[ing] it to the Dalai clique…prior to and following the‘March 14’ incident”.
The Chinese authorities blame the Dalai Lama and the exile authorities for“inciting” the protests that swept across the Tibetan plateau for several months from March 10 onwards, with exile organizations such as the Tibetan Youth Congress accused by Beijing of being explicitly involved in organizing the protests. This is despite the evidence that the overwhelmingly peaceful protests were spontaneous expressions of deeply-felt resentment against more than 50 years of Chinese rule. The Lhasa Evening News report states that the“crimes” of the four Tibetans prove that the “March 14th incident “was well planned by the Dalai Clique and its ‘Tibetan independence’ separatist forces, and was deliberately created after they had colluded with ‘Tibetan Independence’ elements within Tibet in a well organized and pre-meditated manner.”
Phuntsog Dorjee, a former political prisoner who once worked at the Snowlands Hotel in Lhasa, was sentenced to nine years, and Tsewang Dorjee to eight years. Both were accused of working with Wangdu in order to send information outside Tibet.
The three other Tibetans named in the report were charged with crimes relating to their alleged contact and communication with exile NGOs and the Tibetan government in exile. Yeshi Choedon (Chinese transliteration: YixiQuzhen) was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for espionage after she allegedly provided “intelligence and information harmful to the security and interests of the state to the Dalai clique’s ‘Security Department’.” Sonam Tseten (Chinese: Suolang Cidian) was sentenced to ten years “for the crime of illegally sending intelligence abroad”. The Dharamsala-based NGO Gu ChuSum, which helps former political prisoners, was named as the recipient organization of this information. Sonam Dakpa (Chinese: Suolang Zhaba) wasaccused of being a member of “the Dalai clique’s ‘Tibetan Youth Congress’”and was sentenced to ten years for allegedly sending information abroad.
Since the protests broke out across Tibet on March 10, the Chinese authorities have sought to impose an information blackout and for a period of several months virtually sealed off the plateau from the outside world.Thousands of Tibetans have been detained, with extreme brutality a routine feature of their detention. Some Tibetans are profoundly psychologically disturbed upon release, with others unable to walk or speak, or with brokenor dislocated limbs. There are serious fears for the welfare and safety ofWangdu, Migmar Dhondup, and the five other prisoners now sentenced in Lhasa.Their current whereabouts is unknown.
These latest terms of imprisonment exceed other sentences imposed on Tibetans accused of communicating, or attempting to communicate, information to the outside world. Most recently, a Tibetan female cadre, Norzin Wangmo,was sentenced to five years for speaking to a friend on the phone about thesituation in Tibet. Exact details of the charges are unknown. (See ICTreport, “Disappearances continue across Tibet: Tibetan woman sentenced fortalking on telephone,” ICT, November 19, 2008,http://www.savetibet.org/ .)
Forty-one year old Wangdu, who has been sentenced to life imprisonment is a former Jokhang monk from Dechen Township, Taktse County, around 25kilometers east of Lhasa. He previously served eight years in prison after
Wangdu, who speaks fluent Chinese and once worked as a guide for Chinese tourists at the Jokhang, is still listed as a member of staff on the website of the Melbourne-based Burnet Institute, one of the leading medical research and public health Institutes in Australia. Wangdu worked on the HIVPrevention in Lhasa Project, which commenced in 2001 with AusAID and BurnetInstitute funding, and aimed to develop resources to be used to educate Tibetans about HIV. A former political prisoner who shared a cell in Tibet Autonomous RegionPrison (Drapchi) and carried out labor with Wangdu in the prison’sgreenhouses during his previous sentence told ICT: “During that time inprison [the early 1990s] I became very close to [Wangdu] and he started learning English with me from [another prisoner]. He is such an open-minded,talented, easy-going guy and got on really well with other prisoners while he was in Drapchi. He is very good at Tibetan literature and painting and Chinese language as well. He used to worry about the new generation in Tibet because they are losing their culture and their language, and he often criticized people for not being interested in anything other than money. The last time I saw him, when we said goodbye to each other, I was very sad.” Migmar Dhondup, who was also arrested in connection with the March 14protests and has been sentenced to 14 years imprisonment, is in his early thirties and also worked for an NGO doing community development work. He is originally from Tingri (Chinese: Dingri), in Shigatse (Chinese: Xigaze),Tibet Autonomous Region. Migmar Dhondup, who speaks fluent English and is very well educated, also used to work as a tour guide.
November 8, 2008, Lhasa Evening News, p. 2.
Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court pronounces sentence in four “March 14incident” cases for the crime of endangering state security
Tibet’s Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court in accordance with the lawand in open court publicly passed sentence in recent days in four “March 14incident” cases for the crime of endangering state security. Criminalresponsibility was pursued in accordance with the law against seven defendants, including Wangdui [Chinese transliteration: 旺堆, Tibetan:Wangdu].
A spokesperson for Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court said that thefacts of the criminal cases were clear, and that there was solid and ampleevidence to fully prove that the “March 14” serious violent criminal incident that happened in Lhasa and elsewhere was meticulously planned bythe Dalai clique and hostile “Tibetan independence” splittist forces, andthat it was deliberately instigated by means of organized and premeditated communication with “Tibetan independence” elements within the borders.
The open trial at Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court verified that the defendant Wangdu accepted tasks assigned by the Dalai clique’s “SecurityDepartment” of establishing an underground intelligence network in Lhasa, ofcopying large amounts of CD ROMs with content inciting splitting the nationas well as handbills inciting a “Tibetan people’s uprising”, which theco-defendant Mima Dunzhu (米玛顿珠, Tibetan: Migmar Dhondup] distributed within the borders. Prior to and following the “March 14” incident, they collected intelligence concerning the security and interests of the state and provided it to the Dalai clique. The actions of both people violatedArticle 110 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China,constituting the crime of espionage. The defendants Pingcuo Duoji [PhuntsokDorjee, Chinese transliteration: 平措多吉] and Ciwang Duoji [次旺多吉,Tsewang Dorjee] collected intelligence concerning the security and interestsof the state, and sent it abroad via Wangdu. The actions of both people violated Article 111 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China,constituting the crime of illegally sending intelligence abroad. Of theabove defendants, Wangdui and Pingcuo Duoji are recidivists and should be punished severely in accordance with the law. On October 27, Lhasa CityIntermediate People’s Court sentenced the defendant Wangdui in accordancewith the law to life imprisonment with deprivation of political rights forlife, for the crime of espionage; the defendant Mima Dunzhu was sentenced tofixed term imprisonment of 14 years with deprivation of political rights forfive years, for the crime of espionage; the defendant Pingcuo Duoji was sentenced to fixed term imprisonment of nine years with deprivation ofpolitical rights for five years, for the crime of illegally sendingintelligence abroad; and the defendant Ciwang Duoji was sentenced to eightyears imprisonment with deprivation of political rights for five years, for the crime of illegally sending intelligence abroad.
The defendant Suolang Zhaba [索朗扎巴, Sonam Dakpa] joined the Dalai clique’s “Tibetan Youth Congress” organization, and accepted the task assigned by that organization of collecting a large amount of intelligence concerning the security and interests of the state prior to and following the “March 14” incident, and of sending it to that organization. Such actions violated Article 111 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China, constituting the crime of illegally sending intelligence abroad. On October 27, Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Suolang Zhabain accordance with the law to fixed term imprisonment of 10 years with deprivation of political rights for five years, for the crime of illegally sending intelligence abroad.
The defendant Yixi Quzhen [益西曲珍, Yeshi Choedon] accepted tasks assigned by the Dalai clique’s “Security Department”, and received financial aid from the Dalai clique’s “Security Department”, for providing intelligence and information harmful to the security and interests of the state to the Dalaiclique’s “Security Department”. Such actions violated Article 110 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China, constituting the crime ofespionage. On November 7, Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court sentenced the defendant Yeshi Choedon in accordance with the law to fixed term imprisonment of 15 years with deprivation of political rights for five years, for the crime of espionage.
The defendant Suolang Cidian [索朗次点, Sonam Tseten] accepted the taskassigned by the Dalai clique’s “9, 10, 3” [Gu Chu Sum] splittistorganization of collecting a large amount of intelligence concerning the security and interests of the state and sending it to that organization.Such actions violated Article 111 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China, constituting the crime of illegally sending intelligence abroad. On November 7, Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court sentenced the defendant Suolang Cidian in accordance with the law to fixed term imprisonment of 10 years with deprivation of political rights for five years, for the crime of illegally sending intelligence abroad.