Tibetan activist and political prisoner, Tashi Wangchuk, denied a visit with his lawyer ahead of the three year anniversary of his detention

19 January 2019

Tashi Wangchuk to launch new appeal against his five-year sentence for ‘incitement to separatism”

Tibetans and Civil Society Groups call for his immediate release as he has committed no crime

27 January is the third anniversary of the detention of Tibetan political prisoner and language rights activist, Tashi Wangchuk, currently serving a five year sentence for the highly politicised charge of “incitement to separatism”.

News has emerged that Tashi Wangchuk is currently being denied access to his lawyer. On 15 January 2019, lawyer Lin Qilei (蔺其磊) attempted to visit Tashi at Dongchuan Prison, Xining in Qinghai, to discuss his dissatisfaction with the original judgment and appeal, and his wish to file a new petition to the Supreme Court. [1] On arrival, his lawyer was told that his request to meet with Tashi needed to go via the Internal Investigations Department. Despite following this procedure, his application  was denied. The Head of Department, Yang Dong (杨栋), informed Lin Qilei that “higher level” permission was required due to the “sensitive” nature of Tashi Wangchuk’s crime. Lin Qilei has promised that he will shortly be contacted with an update.

Since his trial, Tashi Wangchuk has only been allowed three family visits. Directly after Tashi’s first appeal hearing in August 2018, his family were able to meet with him but, when they attempted to bring him some clothes the following day, they were told that Tashi had already been moved to Xining. His siblings were able to visit in November 2018 but are currently waiting for permission for a further visit.

Tashi Wangchuk, a businessman aged 34, was detained on 27 January 2016. His arrest came less than two months after he featured in a New York Times article and video report [2] were he discussed  his formal complaint against Chinese officials for failing to support Tibetans’ right to Tibetan language education. [3] Tashi was held for two years without trial and his lawyers had limited access to him during his pre-trial detention. In May 2018 he was sentenced to a five year prison sentence on charges of “incitement to separatism”.

“Tashi Wangchuk’s detention and sentence are entirely politically motivated, and it is a complete outrage that not only does he remain behind bars despite his innocence, but that the Chinese authorities are even denying his fundamental rights to legal representationsaid Dorjee Tseten, Executive Director of Students for a Free Tibet. “His plans for a petition to the Supreme Court are a testament to his remarkable spirit and determination not to give up fighting this travesty of justice, and we commend his courage.”

“Tashi made his complaint about the lack of Tibetan language teaching in schools entirely legally and at all times acted within Chinese constitution, He has not committed any crime. The delays throughout case demonstrate that the authorities know that they had no basis for arresting or imprisoning him. The only solution to this ongoing injustice is to grant his immediate release.” added John Jones, Campaigns Manager, Free Tibet. “We support his efforts unreservedly, and to mark the third anniversary of his detention, Tibetans, Tibet supporters and global civil society groups around the world are calling for his immediate and unconditional release.”

Tashi Wangchuk was tortured during the first weeks of his detention, when he was held for lengthy periods in a ‘tiger chair’, subjected to sustained and arduous interrogation, and suffered repeated beatings by Chinese guards. Furthermore, the Chinese authorities threatened to harm his family during this period. [4]

Two years after he was initially detained, Tashi Wangchuk was tried in a closed door trial to which his family, foreign diplomats and the media were barred. [5][6] Despite explicitly stating that he was not calling for Tibetan independence, Tashi Wangchuk was charged with the highly politically motivated ‘offence’ of “incitement to separatism”, a charge that “criminalize(s) the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression and his defense of cultural rights”, according to UN experts. [7]

Since being detained,, numerous governments [8] have expressed concern about his detention and treatment by the Chinese authorities. Most recently, in November 2018, the United States and the United Kingdom raised strong objections to Tashi’s detention during China’s United Nations Universal Periodic Review [9] and urged publicly for his immediate release. [10]

At least eight independent United Nations human rights experts have also, on multiple occasions, raised questions with the Chinese government about the legal grounds for Tashi Wangchuk’s detention and his treatment while in Chinese custody. [11] The experts have asked China to provide information as to why the charge of “incitement to separatism” links to his work callingfor linguistic rights, and what measures are being taken by the Chinese government to ensure “the free exercise of the rights to freedom of opinion and expression and freedom to take part in cultural life” in Tibet.

We are in no doubt that Tashi Wangchuk’s activismhas been criminalised by China for shedding light on the State’s failure to protect the basic human right to education and specifically Tibetan language education.

We urge governments to step up their calls to China for Tashi Wangchuk’s immediate and unconditional release.

Signed by all members of the Political Prisoners Campaign Working Group, convened by International Tibet Network [12]. These are:

Canada Tibet Committee – www.tibet.ca

Free Tibet – www.freetibet.org

Lungta – https://www.facebook.com/LungtaBelgium/

Swedish Tibet Committee – www.tibet.se

Students for a Free Tibet – https://studentsforafreetibet.org/

Tibet Initiative Deutschland – https://www.tibet-initiative.de/

TibetMx –https://www.tibetmx.org/

Tibet Society – https://tibetsociety.com/

Tibetan Women’s Association – https://tibetanwomen.org/

Rangzen Natal (Brazil) – https://www.facebook.com/FreeTibeteNatal/



[1] Tashi Wangchuk’s first, unsuccessful, appeal against his sentence was heard in August 2018. Prison Law of the People’s Republic of China; Article 21 “If a prisoner is not satisfied with the effective judgment, he may file a petition. A people’s procuratorate or a people’s court shall without delay handle the petitions filed by prisoners.”  http://www.npc.gov.cn/englishnpc/Law/2007-12/12/content_1383784.htm

[2] New York Times: “A Tibetan’s Journey for Justice” https://www.nytimes.com/video/world/asia/100000004031427/a-tibetans-journey-for-justice.html

[3] Chinese policies that undermine education in the Tibetan language run counter to provisions in China’s own laws, specifically the Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law; protections for language and culture included in Chinese law are routinely not implemented in Tibet. These policies also violate the international right to cultural rights of Tibetans living under Chinese rule. See more on pages 11-15 of the Human Rights Action Plan for Tibet – https://drive.google.com/open?id=1x_iVpWTGgoQRjQx6WMp4UYxzFy4b3LKy

[4] Background Briefing 2017: Tibetan human rights defender Tashi Wangchuk, International Tibet Network, https://docs.google.com/document/d/1V42KWh8A1MxcSYTaJyMP2v1mhZGwa9qHlj7i9ESCnDs/

[5] Tashi Wangchuk’s trial was held at Yushu Intermediate People’s Court, in Jyekundo County in the Kham region of Tibet (Ch: Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province). On 4 January lawyer Liang Xiaojun, tweeted, The trial of Tashi Wangchuk in the crime of inciting separatism has ended, which took 4 hours from 9:30 to 13:30. The judge announced the court to be closed and the day of sentence will be chosen afterward. The trial was conducted in Mandarin, and the video “A Tibetan’s Journey to Justice” was screened to the court as evidence. Other related evidence was also shown. The prosecution, the defense and Tashi Wangchuk himself have all expressed their points of view. Tashi’s expression was very clear and his views were concise.” https://twitter.com/liangxiaojun/status/948796514200993793

[6] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/04/world/asia/tibet-china-language-separatism-tashi.html

[7] Communication to China from five UN Special Rapporteurs, José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez Vice-Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Karima Bennoune Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights 6 David Kaye Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression Rita Izsák-Ndiaye Special Rapporteur on minority issues Nils Melzer Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, 10 February 2017,  https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=22981

[8] EU Beijing Delegation Statement: https://www.gov.uk/government/world-location-news/eu-delegation-to-china-statement-on-international-human-rights-day and US Beijing Embassy Statement: http://beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/mobile/ambassador-human-rights-day-statement-2016.html  

[9] https://tibetnetwork.org/13-states-criticise-chinas-abuses-in-tibet-at-the-un-human-rights-council/

[10] During China’s 3rd cycle Universal Periodic Review, the representative of the United States said “Cease house arrest and travel restrictions for people based on their rights defence work and release those imprisoned for such work, including Tashi Wangchuk, Ilham Tohti, Huang Qi and Wang Quangzhang”

[11] Joint statements have been issued by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; the Special Rapporteur on minority issues; the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders; Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues; and the Special Rapporteur on Racism. https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=23653

[12] International Tibet Network is a facilitating and support organisation for the global Tibet movement www.tibetnetwork.org



Gloria Montgomery, Tibet Society, +44 (0)20 7923 0021

John Jones, Free Tibet, + 44 (0)207 324 4611

Mandie McKeown, International Tibet Network, +44 (0)7748 158 618

Dorjee Tseten, Students for a Free Tibet, Dorjee@studentsforafreetibet.org