CAT: Comité de Apoyo al Tíbet, Madrid
Fundación Casa del Tíbet, Barcelona
On Monday 5th June 2006, the Nº 2 Central Court of the National Court of Spain will begin to investigate the claims of genocide in Tibet almost a year after the lawsuit for genocide in Tibet was first lodged, and nearly six months after the case was accepted.
This is a historic date for the advance of justice in Tibet, and is the first opportunity for a Tibetan victim to testify on their experiences under the Chinese occupation.
Judge Ismael Moreno, of Court Nº 2, has called Thubten Wangchen, a Spanish citizen of Tibetan origin, to declare as private prosecutor at 9:30 a.m. In addition to this preliminary proceeding, the judge has also begun an international investigative commission in the United Kingdom and Canada in order to question two of the numerous witnesses and victims of the international crimes denounced in the lawsuit.
Thubten Wangchen, director of the Fundación Casa del Tíbet of Barcelona, is a Tibetan victim with Spanish nationality. He will recount his personal experience of the international crimes denounced at the very start of the occupation. As a child in Kyirong (Tibet), his pregnant mother was kidnapped by the Chinese occupying forces and was disappeared, together with other women from the village. None of them were ever seen again. As the lives of all his family were in danger, Wangchen was forced to flee into exile, first to Nepal where he survived by begging, and then to India , where he became a Tibetan monk. In the early 80s he moved to Spain, working as a translator and tourist guide, which led him back to Tibet. On one such visit, he was arrested and threatened with death for having a photograph of the Dalai Lama in his possession, although he managed to escape. (See below for the full story).
The Court has asked the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs for information on all the United Nations documents and resolutions regarding the case of Tibet , the posts held by the accused, and any information it may have on Tibetan victims, as requested by the counsel for the prosecution,
Lastly, once the evidence of witnesses has been examined, the judge will decide on the questioning of the accused.
BIOGRAPHY OF THE CO-PLAINTIFF THUBTEN WANGCHEN WHO TESTIFIES IN COURT AS PRIVATE PROSECUTION:
THUBTEN WANGCHEN SHERPA SHERPA is one of the many victims and witnesses of these acts. Of Spanish nationality, Wangchen was born in 1954 in the Tibetan region of Kyirong to Tibetan parents, Dawa and Dolma. When he was three his village was occupied by Chinese military forces whose leaders began to use the locals, including his pregnant mother, for forced labour. Despite being eight months pregnant, she was forced like other pregnant villagers to perform hard labour in a deliberate attempt to induce miscarriages. One day, feeling unwell after a hard day’s work, she was taken away by Chinese soldiers to their camp outside the village, under the pretext of providing her with medical treatment, but she never returned, nor did the child she was carrying in her womb. The same fate befell other pregnant women, and any men in the village who protested or simply spoke out against the occupation were arrested and tortured.
In March 1959 when news spread that the Dalai Lama had fled Lhasa, Tibet’s capital, panic broke out in every village throughout Tibet, including Kyirong, and thousands of Tibetans began the flight into exile through the high mountain passes of the Himalayas. These exiles included Thubten Wanchen, his father and two brothers. People fled in groups of about twenty, walking at night to avoid detection by the Chinese border guards. The journey lasted roughly two weeks and many Tibetans lost their lives: some, captured by Chinese patrols, others, falling to their deaths at night over the cliffs of the steep mountains gorges.
In April 1959 they finally reached Kathmandu, the capital of the independent kingdom of Nepal, which was swamped by the flood of Tibetan refugees and where for two years many families, like that of Thubten Wangchen, were forced to beg from tourists in order to survive. Hearing that the Dalai Lama was living in India, they moved there without papers or passports, riding the trains in secret. Once there, an agreement of cooperation was reached between the Government of India under Nehru and the Tibetan Government in Exile, to employ all the Tibetan exiles in the construction of India’s mountain roads, as being accustomed to high altitudes and the cold, they could withstand the working conditions that most Indian workers found unbearable.
When he was seven, Wangchen began with his father and brothers to work and live on the high mountain roads in India. In view of the terrible situation of the children of the Tibetan exiles, who either had to work hard or beg on the streets, a further agreement between both Governments led to the creation of schools for them.
In 1963 Thubten Wanchen started school in Dalhousie, India, where he studied for seven years before entering the Namgyal Monastry, seat of the Dalai Lama, in 1970 to begin his monastic life.
In late 1981 he came to Spain for the first time, as translator for a Tibetan lama at the invitation of a centre of Buddhist studies. Once here, he stayed and acquired Spanish nationality.
In July 1987 Wangchen began working for a travel agency in Barcelona as a tourist guide for Tibet. On this trip, when the group reached the Tibetan town of Shigatse, seat of the Panchen Lama (the second most important spiritual authority in Tibet after the Dalai Lama), at the entrance to his monastery Wangchen asked permission for the Spanish group of tourists to visit his quarters and talk to him. While awaiting the reply from the Chinese authorities who control the monasteries, and at the insistence of passing Tibetans who beseeched him and the Spanish tourists for pictures of the Dalai Lama, Wangchen started to hand out some of these photos, so treasured by Tibetans but forbidden by Chinese law. Suddenly, a Tibetan who had been sweeping the entrance to the monastery hurried off to the nearest police station, and within minutes security police arrested Wangchen and took him inside the monastery, where he was forced to sit down in the centre of a room, surrounded by over ten security police. They began questioning him and on searching him and finding more photos of the Dalai Lama they accused him of having committed a serious counterrevolutionary crime. They questioned him about his nationality, as he denied being Tibetan, his passport in exile being Nepalese. His captors insisted he was a Tibetan criminal and threatened to imprison him for having committed that crime. As he was being dragged from police quarters to the vehicle that would take him to prison and whose siren he could hear, his group of tourists gathered around him and he was able to explain to them quickly in Spanish that he was being taken to prison and begged them to help him by reporting what had happened once they left Tibet. The police hurriedly pushed him inside the vehicle.
At the prison he was subjected to long sessions of questioning in an attempt to discover where he had been born, what his nationality was and whether he had any connections with the Dalai Lama’s Government in Exile. Wangchen stuck to his story that he had been born in Nepal to a family of Sherpa origin, as their features are very similar to those of the Tibetans, and that he had been living and working in Europe for many years. They made him sign a written confession saying that he had committed that crime, and they advised him to admit to his mistakes, as otherwise he would be condemned to death. Wangchen complied in a document in English. He was then questioned all over again, this time by different security police, and was again made to write a confession. After hours in police quarters he was taken to his hotel where the security police searched his room and his belongings in his presence, and where they found further “counterrevolutionary material”.
After these findings he was taken back to the prison for further questioning and written confessions. His belongings were confiscated, including his Nepalese passport, and he was told that he would no longer need it, as a few days later he would die for having committed a crime against the unity of the Motherland. In his confession, Wangchen admitted to having made mistakes that would not be repeated, and he asked them to release him, using the following ruse. He told them that the group of Spanish tourists included some very important government officials and that if he, being a foreigner, were arrested and sentenced, it would lead to a very serious diplomatic scandal.
Faced with these threats, the security officials spent all night arguing in the next-door room until finally deciding in the early hours of the morning to return him to his hotel, and forcing him and the entire group of tourists to leave the country. In September of that year, 1987, the Tibetan people erupted in a series of demonstrations in Tibet’s most important cities. The TV news coverage accused four Tibetans of being the ringleaders of the separatist and conterrevolutionary uprisings and the photographs shown of the wanted criminals included that of Thubten Wangchen, who had left the country in time.
For more information:
José Elias Esteve: Lawyer who researched and drew up the lawsuit, and vice president of the CAT : firstname.lastname@example.org
Alán Cantos: Director of the CAT and coordinator of the international campaign on the lawsuit: Tel. 91 350 24 14 email@example.com
Fundacion Casa del Tibet: Tel. 93 2075966 firstname.lastname@example.org