Thousands of Tibetans and Indian supporters gather in New Delhi in solidarity with Tibetans insdie Tibet from Jan 30-Feb 2, 2013. (Phayul photo)
DHARAMSHALA, February 4: Calls for the release of eight Tibetans who have been sentenced to lengthy jail terms, including one sentenced to death with a two year reprieve, in connection with Tibet self-immolations has grown over the past week.
On January 31, Chinese courts in eastern Tibet sentenced Lobsang Kunchok to death with a two-year reprieve and Lobsang Tsering to 10 years on charges of “intentional homicide.” The same day, another court sentenced six Tibetans to varying jail terms of 12 to three years in jail on similar charges.
The New York based global rights group, Human Rights Watch, last week said Chinese judicial authorities should “immediately release” Kunchok and Tsering, while noting that their conviction “relied solely on confessions they gave during five months in detention.”
“These prosecutions are utterly without credibility,” said Sophie Richardson, China director. “The Chinese government seems to think it can stop self-immolation by punishing anyone who talks about it. But in pursuing these ‘incitement’ cases, the government compounds the tragedy of these suicide protests.”
HRW noted that it has documented “endemic use of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and coercion of Tibetans in detention.”
According to the group, since mid-2011, the Chinese government has detained and prosecuted at least a dozen people who have allegedly been associated with immolations in addition to detentions of monks and family members as an apparent deterrent against future immolations.
“Self-immolations take place in the context of the Chinese government’s long-standing repressive policies in the Tibetan areas that have seen severe restrictions on Tibetans’ rights,” HRW said.
“To date there has still been no concerted effort from the Chinese government to address the underlying grievances in Tibet, which have contributed to the rising number of self-immolations by Tibetans.”
Also on Friday, the United States government called on China to allow Tibetans to express their grievances freely and peacefully against what it called “policies threatening Tibet’s distinct religious, cultural, and linguistic identity.”
“We are aware that there are reports that Chinese authorities have handed down sentences to two Tibetans for allegedly inciting the self-immolation of others,” US state department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said in Washington.
“As we have regularly said, the United States wants to see these kinds of tragic acts of self-immolation come to an end, and we continue both publicly and privately to urge the Chinese government at all levels to address policies in Tibet – in Tibetan areas that have created tensions and that threaten the distinct religious, cultural, and linguistic identity of the Tibetan people.”
Nuland further called on the Chinese government to “permit Tibetans to express their grievances freely, publicly, peacefully, and without fear of retribution.”
The Dharamshala based Central Tibetan Administration also condemned the harsh sentences, blaming the Chinese leadership as “solely responsible for the growing unrest and deteriorating situation in Tibet.”
“The series of rushed sentences clearly show that Tibetans in Tibet are denied basic human rights,” the exile Tibetan administration said. “It is also evident that these are done in utter disregard to the Tibetan aspiration and deep anguish at the continuing self-immolations in Tibet.”