By Tenzin Dharpo
Tibetan language rights activist Tashi Wangchuk. file photo
DHARAMSHALA, Jan. 30: Tibetan language rights activist Tashi Wangchuk has reportedly been denied the right to appeal his conviction at a higher court after he continued to refuse pleading guilty for his five-year sentence on the charges of inciting separatism’.
Chinese Human Rights Defenders said that on January 15, Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk’s lawyer Lin Qilei was not allowed to meet with his client during a visit to Dongchuang Prison in Xining, Qinghai Province. The denial for the meeting between Wangchuk and his lawyer is seen as obstructing his legal rights for an appeal against his conviction.
Dharamshala based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said that despite Chinese constitution clearly stating right of a person to appeal against his/her conviction at a higher court, Wangchuk is clearly being denied the right. “Despite legal provisions, the right to appeal has long remained a mirage due to the flawed criminal justice system and judicial proceedings marred by political and ideological considerations of the Chinese state and the party leadership. In practice, the right to appeal is not more than a paper exercise,” TCHRD said.
The rights group also said, “Tashi Wangchuk’s plight exemplifies not just the general situation of all Tibetan prisoners of conscience but also the lawless rule of the Chinese government in the name of promoting ‘socialist rule of law’, a euphemism for unrestrained abuse of power by the Chinese Communist Party”.
The 33-year-old was arrested on 27 January 2016 after a New York Times news article and a video report came out, documenting Tashi’s mission to file a formal complaint against Chinese officials for failing to support Tibetans’ right to Tibetan language education.
Tashi’s lawyers, who had limited access to him during his pre-trial detention, reported that he was subjected to torture and degrading treatment during the first week of detention.
According to his lawyers, he was initially held for a lengthy period in a ‘tiger chair’ where he was subjected to arduous interrogation and was repeatedly beaten. His interrogators also threatened to harm his family, they said. Due to China’s secrecy around the announcement of trial outcomes, his lawyers were not allowed inside the court to witness the sentencing.
Tashi’s case had received attention from multiple governments and independent human rights experts. In March 2018 six UN human rights experts expressed serious concern over the ruling by a Chinese court to uphold charges of “incitement to separatism” and called for all charges against him to be dropped. In January 2018, government delegations from the UK, EU, US, Germany and Canada were denied access to witness his trial.