Online court records in China are missing for Tibetan political cases

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, located in Dharamshala, reported on July 23 that China had erased all records of Tibetans convicted for suspected crimes of “endangering state security” or “inciting separatism” from its online database of court judgments.

According to the center, this indicates that an undetermined number of Tibetans are tried and sentenced in secret without any government recognition or knowledge of their detention.

For instance, China’s official database of court rulings does not include the court decision of Tibetan language rights campaigner Tashi Wangchuk, who was freed in January 2021 after serving a five-year sentence for allegedly “inciting separatism”. In contrast to Chinese custom, the activist was not even handed a copy of the judgment upon his release from custody.

Tashi Wangchuk was also discovered to remain under ongoing police monitoring even after being free for 2.5 years, as is the situation with all Tibetans who have been freed from prison after serving time for offenses including “endangering state security”.

This information came to light when a Chinese national by the name of Lin Qilei attempted to meet Tashi Wangchuk earlier this month while traveling to Kyedgudo (Chinese: Yushu), a Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in the Qinghai Province.

On July 20, 2023, Lin allegedly tweeted: “On July 4, 2023, when driving through Yushu, I made a halt and established communication with Tashi Wangchuk, who had previously served a five-year jail term and had been out for two years. He was subjected to limitations during his detention that prevented him from speaking with any legal counsel, and just before his release, he was given a warning not to speak with any attorneys. Additionally, upon his release, he learned that he had to get permission before leaving his hometown. My first plan was to go to Yushu and take in the sights while he was there. I went out to him when the neighborhood police station got in touch with me, but despite his eagerness to engage, he showed hesitation and remained silent. I then discovered that he was not permitted to see me.

The Chinese leadership views criticism or opposition to its policies, which egregiously violate the civil and political rights of the Tibetan people as well as their social, cultural, economic, and other rights, which China vehemently claims to fully respect, as “endangering state security” or “inciting separatism” in Tibetans.

The Center has also underlined that in July 2021, Human Rights Watch of New York stated that the national database could not be used to locate the judgments against four Tibetan monks on suspicion of state security crimes. The four monks from Tengdro Monastery in Shigatse (Xigaze) City, Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), Choegyal Wangpo, Lobsang Jinpa, Norbu Dondrub, and Ngawang Yeshe, were sentenced to 20, 19, 17, and five years in prison, respectively, in September 2020.

Human Rights Watch has added that Tibetans who were prosecuted or found guilty on supposed state security accusations were not included in any publicly available court documents or court films. Furthermore, it is said that it is typical for Chinese official media not to cover similar incidents that take place in the TAR.

This explains China’s concern to keep the aforementioned categories of Tibetan cases as far away from their grasp as it can. Rights organizations and others keep an eye on official records and reports as part of their research activities.

News Desk

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