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China: ‘Quick Arrests and Quick Sentencings’ Followed Tibetan Protests

Posted by Author on March 11, 2009

Human Rights Watch, March 9, 2009 –

(New York) – The first extensive analysis of official Chinese accounts regarding the arrests and trials of Tibetan protesters from March 2008 shows that by the Chinese government’s own count, there have been thousands of arbitrary arrests, and more than 100 trials pushed through the judicial system, Human Rights Watch said today. New Human Rights Watch research and analysis point to a judicial system so highly politicized as to preclude any possibility of protesters being judged fairly.

Human Rights Watch has examined dozens of court reports, statements by leading officials, local judicial statistics, and official Chinese press reports. These documents reveal that the number of protests was higher than previously acknowledged by the government, that protesters have been sentenced outside the Tibetan Autonomous Region in the provinces of Sichuan and Gansu, that protestors died or were killed in Lhasa, and that courts have sentenced protesters under state security charges for nonviolent acts such as waving the Tibetan flag and throwing pamphlets on the street.

“The Chinese government has refused every external request for a real accounting of the detention, arrest and sentencing of those involved with the Tibetan protests,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “Both the arrests and the releases seem to have been arbitrary, and we still know next to nothing about those who are still detained or have been imprisoned.”

Against a backdrop of ever-more intrusive controls over religious and cultural activities, accelerated state-led economic development, and large-scale compulsory resettlement of farmers and nomads, major protests against Chinese rule erupted on March 10, 2008, in Lhasa and spread across the Tibetan plateau. That date marked the anniversary of the failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule. Over the next four days, hundreds of monks from Drepung, Sera, and Ganden temples peacefully protested. But on March 14 near Romoche temple, members of the public started protesting police who were preventing monks from leaving the compound; some protesters turned violent and burned several police cars. The police retreated and then inexplicably disappeared from Lhasa for much of the rest of the day. Rioters burned Chinese shops and government buildings and attacked Chinese-looking passersby. Dozens of protests were held in Tibetan communities across the plateau over the course of that week.

The Chinese government has framed all discussions about Tibet as a sovereignty issue, claiming that the country’s territorial integrity and inter-ethnic relations were threatened by a secessionist movement supported by “hostile foreign forces.” The government has consistently rejected all allegations of human rights abuses in Tibet, by claiming that Tibetans’ rights are fully protected under the law; pointing to political, social and economic development over the past half-century; or rejecting the expression of such concerns as conspiracies to fan ethnic dissatisfaction against the Communist Party and the government.

“The government’s national security concerns do not exempt it from its obligation to respect fundamental rights and freedoms and offer equal status before the law to all its citizens, whatever their ethnicity,” said Richardson. “Yet Beijing’s own official accounts reflect judicial defects so severe that it is not possible to deliver a fair trial to any one accused of having taken part in the protests last year.”

Human Rights Watch said that the government’s official figures about arrests and convictions suggested that several hundred suspected protesters are still in custody. The Chinese government, which says that the protests resulted in 21 casualties, has not responded to demands from the United Nations and international human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch to account for these detentions. In a joint appeal on April 10, 2008, six United Nations special procedures mandate holders issued an urgent appeal calling on the government of China for “complete compliance with due process and fair trial rights according to international standards for those detained or charged with crimes, including provision of each person’s name, the charges against them, and the facility where they are detained or imprisoned, as well as ensuring access to legal defense.” …… (more details from Human Rights Watch)

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