By Tenzin Monlam
From top left - Senator Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition), Senator Thanh Hai Ngo, Senator Linda Frum, Senator Marilou McPhedran and Senators Dennis Patterson.
DHARAMSHALA, November 27: Ahead of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's China visit from December 3-7, a group of Canadian lawmakers led by Senator Dennis Glen Patterson has launched an inquiry into the state of political prisoners in Tibet to ‘shine a light’ on the repression and suppression of basic rights and freedoms in Tibet.
Senator Marilou McPhedran, Senator Thanh Hai Ngo, Senator Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) and Senator Linda Frum spoke in support of the inquiry launched on November 23. They all shared their concerns of the dire situation through stories of political prisoners such as the 11th Panchen Lama, Dr. Yeshe Choedron, Shokjang, Tashi Wangchuk, and Lobsang Jamyang.
“I am concerned and disturbed to learn that a child (Panchen Lama) was abducted by the state (China) and that his whereabouts and current condition remain unknown,” said Senator Patterson.
He also added, “I do hope that this inquiry will serve, as our government reaches out to engage with China, to emphasize that in doing so we must also reinforce and advocate for the basic human rights and freedoms that we cherish and protect in Canada.”
The senators expressed their concern over the lack of specific details on the names, whereabouts and statistics. Senator McPhedran expressed her concern over the ill treatments faced by the political prisoners during interrogations and the trials that do not meet the international standard.
“According to an incomplete database on China created by the Congressional Executive Commission on China, 650 Tibetan political prisoners were behind bars on August 1, 2016. The accused do not have access to any true legal representation. Trials are held in camera if state security is invoked. Chinese lawyers who offer to defend Tibetan suspects have been harassed or disbarred,” said Senator Ngo.
Mentioning Tashi Wangchuk, a Tibetan language rights advocate from Yushu, Senator Ngo shared how Tashi was ‘tortured and had suffered extreme inhumane treatment in detention’ and his lawyer having only limited access to meet him.
According to New York Times, the Tibetan activist for education rights may face up to 15 years’ imprisonment on charges of inciting separatism.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Senator Martin highlighted the case of monk Lobsang Jamyang (Pen-name: Lomik), who was sentenced to seven-and-half years in prison on 9 May 2016 behind closed doors. He was arrested on April 17, 2015 in Ngaba County.
“Jamyang’s case is not unique. He is merely one example of a deeply concerning pattern of human rights abuses taken against Tibetans within China,” she said, “For decades, there have been countless Tibetans taken as political prisoners by Chinese authorities within China. Often times, these individuals have been convicted of so-called ‘crimes’ relating to peaceful political activities or the mere exercise of their fundamental human rights.”