By Tenzin Sangmo
Phayul Photo: Kunsang Gashon
DHARAMSHALA, Jan. 28: Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) and Gu-chu-sum Movement Association of Tibet collectively presented a shadow play yesterday at Mcleod Day School chronicling the events leading to the detainment and imprisonment of Tibetan language rights activist Tashi Wangchuk in 2016.
Wangchuk, a 33-year-old shop owner in Yushu, was sentenced to five years of imprisonment for ‘inciting separatism’ by a Chinese court two months after he appeared in the New York Time’s video titled “A Tibetan’s journey for justice,” and an accompanying article.
Yesterday marked the third anniversary of his imprisonment.
In the New York Times video, he spoke of how the government authorities were actively blocking the teaching and studying of the Tibetan language.
In the video, he said, “140 people have self-immolated since 2009. I now understand why because there are very few ways to solve the problems. No one wants to live in an environment that is full of pressure and fear.”
He attempts, in the same video, to get the China Central TV to report it and to file a lawsuit at the supreme people’s court. After he failed to schedule a meeting, he tries unsuccessfully to enter the China Central TV complex.
The Constitution of the PRC says, “All nationalities have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages, and to preserve or reform their own folkways and customs.”
Wangchuk said his failure proved that the problem of the Tibetan’s cannot be solved through law.
Wangchuk’s first unsuccessful appeal against his sentence was heard in August 2018.
Wangchuk and his lawyer denied charges of ‘separatism’ and pleaded ‘not guilty.’
Recently, one of Wangchuk’s lawyers, Lin Qilei, was denied access to Wangchuk. According to International Campaign for Tibet’s (ICT) report, he travelled to Dongchuan Prison in Xining City, Qinghai Province, on Jan. 15 in order to ascertain Wangchuk’s current situation and his wish to file a new petition for his release, according to a posting by China Human Rights Defenders.
Upon arrival at the prison, the lawyer was told that the “crime” involved in this case was “sensitive” and that he could not meet with Wangchuk; approval was needed at a higher provincial level. The lawyer learned that he still did not plead guilty to the charges against him.
According to Wangchuk’s lawyers, he was tortured during his first week in detention, being held for a lengthy period in a “tiger chair” where he was subjected to interrogation and repeatedly beaten. His interrogators also threatened to harm his family.
Governments and parliamentarians across the world have called for his immediate release, and in February 2018, six UN human rights experts condemned the “criminalization of linguistic and cultural rights advocacy” and called for Wangchuk to be freed from prison.”
Wangchuk had said at the end of the video that “if I am locked and cannot proceed with what I am doing and if they force me to do or say something I do not wish you, I will choose suicide.”
As the prison term begins on the date of detention in China, Wangchuk should be released in early 2021.