Thursday, April 09, 2009
THE DRAGON IS HUNGRY FOR MORE SACRIFICES
s we have been reporting here since February, the major Tibetan religious event known as Monlam Chenmo, the Great Prayer Festival, was banned by Chinese authorities this year in most areas. In doing this the authorities managed to provoke deeper resentment resulting in further protests in these areas. The monks of Jonang Sey Thubten Chokgyal Ling Monastery in Ngaba County were among those who rose to protest the banning order on March 1 (earlier report), with hundreds of them marching toward Ngaba town. A stand-off with security forces was defused when the monks voluntarily returned to their monastery.
Part of the traditional Monlam observance at Sey Monastery includes the annual public procession of Maitreya Buddha's statue. Last Friday, April 3, this religious procession was belatedly carried out by monks and residents, but the devotees became uneasy at the massive show of Chinese force which accompanied their celebration. A huge crowd gathered at the monastery, and a large number of security forces attempted to disperse the religious gathering. These "security" forces reportedly drove their vehicles directly into the crowds. The whereabouts of those injured in the incident, and whether they received medical treatment, is still unknown.
Last Sunday April 7, Jampa Sonam, a 21 year old Tibetan, raised freedom slogans alone outside a government building near the Kardze Monastery. After calling out for Dalai Lama's long life and for Tibetan independence, the Chinese police pounced and beat him up severely before taking him away to an unknown destination.
In a newly-reported incident on March 23, a twelve year old boy named Dhondup Rinchen and two of his friends pasted up hand-written posters calling for "Free Tibet" and "long life for Dalai Lama" in Kardze. Chinese police beat the boys severely and they were expelled from their school. Their families have been charged an unknown financial penalty for the offence.
Voice of Tibet reports that another Tibetan monk has been charged with "leaking state secrets". Thugsam, 36, was a monk at Nurma Monastery in Machu County, Kanlho Prefecture (Ch: Gansu province) but he was arrested at Labrang Tashikyil Monastery (Sangchu County, Amdo) on March 11. Thugsam is accused of passing information about the protests, arrests and police-administered beatings to Tibetans outside the country. Why aren't Chinese hackers who steal from more than half the countries on the planet ever charged with espionage, I wonder? (no I don't, actually)
The first known death sentences have been pronounced upon Tibetans as a result of the March 14 riot in Lhasa last year. Lobsang Gyaltsen and Loyak are to be executed, while Tenzin Phuntsok and Kangtsuk also received the death sentence with a two year reprieve. Dawa Sangpo was given life imprisonment.
The five men were said to be charged in relation to three arson cases which resulted in deaths. One other arson case is still being heard by the court (and only by the court, as these affairs are closed). An unidentified official assured everyone that the trials were fair, and that the accused had lawyers and translators.
Well then, we'll just have to take his word for that then, shall we?
Last year, Chinese lawyers who had come forward to voluntarily defend some of the thousands of Tibetans now held in Chinese prisons, had the full weight of the Communist Party and Government come down on their heads. Sympathetic lawyers were banned from acting for these Tibetans, and many had their practising licenses revoked or withheld from renewal. This seems to be an important piece of information to include in any media reporting on these latest sentences, as an indication of how fair and open the trials likely were. Yet it is curiously missing from any reports I've seen yet. A spokesman for the Tibetan Government summed up the situation in a nutshell:
"These decisions are made by a kangaroo court of law. There is no proper legal defense for the accused," Thupten Samphel said. "These kinds of decisions increase China's Tibet problem. China should show magnanimity to make Tibetan people less resentful."London-based Free Tibet Campaign reported on this aspect of China's legal system for Tibetans in one particular case last year:
Last October Free Tibet reported lengthy sentences passed on eight monks from the Tibetan town of Kyabe for alleged bombing offences. According to reliable information received by Free Tibet from a well-placed source, the monks were denied all access to legal counsel and family from the time of arrest to sentencing. The trial of the monks was conducted in camera according to the source and the nature of the charges and eventual sentencing of the monks were not made public by the court. These measures, and the failure of the court to inform even family members of the sentences, contravene legal safeguards incorporated into the Chinese constitution and the criminal justice system. The court only acknowledged the sentences passed on the Kyabe monks after it was contacted by the Associated Press.This is certainly a very strange way to conduct a justice system. You can send urgent emails to China's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Justice here.
In related news, China today executed two Uighur men in connection with the August 4, 2008 attack against security forces in East Turkestan (Ch: Xinjiang province). Officials held a public rally at a sports stadium in Kashgar to announce the death sentences, with 4,000 people in attendance. Azat, a 34 year old vegetable seller, and Hermit, a 29 year old taxi driver, were then taken to another location and executed. The execution method was not reported, so no word on whether one of the shiny new "mobile execution units" was used, or just the old-fashioned bullet to the head. China executes more people than the rest of the world combined.