DHARAMSHALA, July 13: Tashi Wangchuk, a young Tibetan entrepreneur and language rights advocate who is awaiting trial on charges of “inciting separatism”, has been awarded the ‘Tenzin Delek Rinpoche Medal of Courage’ in recognition of his courage and dedication to promoting Tibetan human rights and justice for the Tibetan people.
The ‘Tenzin Delek Rinpoche Medal of Courage’, an annual award, is given to Tibetan human rights defenders who show deep commitment to enhancing the freedom and rights of the Tibetan people at great personal risk. The aim of the award is to provide protection to such individuals through international recognition. The award is presented marking the 2nd anniversary of the mysterious death of Tibetan spiritual leader Tenzin Delek Rinpoche in Chinese custody.
“I am honoured to see the ‘Tenzin Delek Rinpoche Medal of Courage’ awarded to Tashi Wangchuk today and I call for his immediate release”, said Nyima Lhamo, niece of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, currently in the American capital to testify before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission’s hearing on Religious Freedom in Tibet.
“The Chinese government has a long history of harsh treatment of those who speak out against its failing policies. In 2015 my uncle died after spending over 13 unjust years in Chinese custody despite the fact that we had applied for due medical parole, and today the world is watching how China is disdainfully treating Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo. The comparison of these cases shows just how little China learned from the tragic death of my uncle, and I appeal to the international community to firmly hold China accountable for the treatment of its critics,” said Lhamo.
In 2015, Tashi Wangchuk travelled from his hometown in eastern Tibet to Beijing to try to file a lawsuit against local Chinese authorities for denying Tibetans the right to learn in their own language. His quest was featured in a New York Times
video report and article, ‘Tibetans Fight to Salvage Fading Culture in China‘, in November 2015, in which he said, “My goal is to change things a little bit, to push to preserve some of our nation’s culture... The entire Tibetan ethnic nationality and culture is at risk of disappearing;” Two months later, in January 2016, Tashi was detained by Chinese authorities. In March 2016 he was charged with “inciting separatism,” and faces up to 15 years in prison.
Pema Yoko, Interim Executive Director, Students for a Free Tibet said, “Tashi Wangchuk has shown enormous tenacity in his battle to progress the fundamental rights of the Tibetan people; a tenacity found so threatening by China that despite his actions being entirely within the Chinese Constitution, Tashi languishes in detention, awaiting a “trial” where he could be sentenced to 15 years.”
“The Tibet movement, and other rights groups, are doing everything we can to press for Tashi’s safe and immediate, unconditional release; every day he remains in detention is a day that he is at risk of torture and inhumane treatment at the hands of the Chinese authorities”, said Mandie McKeown, Campaigns Coordinator, International Tibet Network.
“By honoring Tashi Wangchuk, we pay tribute to his enormous personal courage and dedication to the rights of the Tibetan people. We also pay tribute to the thousands of other Tibetans in or from Tibet who have spent years of their lives unfairly imprisoned or detained for the important role they have played in the struggle for Tibetan freedom”, said Dorjee Tseten, Member of Tibetan Parliament in Exile and SFT Asia Director.
Tashi Wangchuk, was awarded the ‘Tenzin Delek Rinpoche Medal of Courage’ in absentia at an event held in Washington DC on Wednesday. The ‘Medal of Courage’ award Judging Panel is made up of International Tibet Network Steering Committee Members, Geshe Nyima (Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s cousin) and representatives from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International UK.