Tibetan NGO Worker Given A Life Sentence

2008 11 Lhasa wanbao

Electronic edition of the Lhasa Evening News

High Peaks Pure Earth has been looking at the news behind the news today. Unfortunately the news is already over five weeks old but behind it is a wealth of information courtesy of the 9 November 2008 edition of the Lhasa Evening News (拉萨晚报 La Sa Wan Bao).

Thankfully this one particular news story with the dramatic headline“Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court Pronounced Judgement on Four Criminal Cases of “March 14 Incident” Accused of Endangering National Security” was picked up sooner rather than later by the Dharamsala based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) in yesterday’s press release titled “Chinese Court Sentences Seven Tibetans Between 8 Years to Life Imprisonment”.

The news behind the news is intriguing to say the least. As usual, there is one scapegoat to deter other people from following their example. As the Chinese saying goes, 欲加之罪,何患无辞 (yùjiāzhīzuì, héhuànwúcí which roughly means that if you are out to condemn someone, you can always trump up a charge). In this case, the scapegoat goes by the name of Wangdu, a former Jokhang monk in his 40s. A former political prisoner, Wangdu had been working as an HIV/AIDS activist and was employed by the Australian medical research and public health NGO the Burnet Institute.

An earlier press release from TCHRD tells us that Wangdu disappeared in Lhasa on 14 March, 2008. Despite nine months having passed since then, the Burnet Institute’s website poignantly still lists Wangdu as a staff member. Maybe they were waiting for his return. His disappearance had not gone entirely unnoticed, on the back of TCHRD’s press release, his case was taken up as an urgent action by the Dublin based human rights group Frontline Defenders. For curious High Peaks Pure Earth readers who want to know all there is to know about Wangdu, his record number is 2004-00243 in the Congressional – Executive Commission On China’s Political Prisoner Database. Look him up.

2008 11 Wangdu

Wangdu (left) and colleague at an HIV/AIDS awareness stall in Lhasa Photo: TCHRD

 

As Wangdu was charged on the grounds of “espionage”, the people he allegedly gathered to conspire with him were duly punished including Migmar Dhondup, Phuntsok Dorjee and Tsewang Dorjee who received sentences of 14, 9 and 8 years respectively. The TCHRD press release left out some crucial information that was contained in the Lhasa Evening News. Namely that two Tibetans were charged with conspiring with Tibetan NGOs, Beijing’s favourite scapegoat after the Dalai Clique, the Tibetan Youth Congress – as chronicled earlier in a previous post and this time a new one, a Dharamsala based NGO called Gu Chu Sum that helps Tibetan ex-political prisoners.

Here is the full High Peaks Pure Earth translation of the Lhasa Evening News article:

 

Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court Pronounced Judgement on Four Criminal Cases of “March 14 Incident” Accused of Endangering National Security

 

Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court of Tibet, in accordance with the law, recently held a public trial on four criminal cases of the “March 14 Incident” accused of endangering national security and announced the judgement publicly. Seven defendants, including Wangdu (Wangdui 旺堆) and others, have been held criminally responsible in accordance with the law.

A Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court spokesman said that the facts of crimes of the above-mentioned four criminal cases are clear, and its evidence is irrefutable and ample. All these have fully proved that the “March 14 Incident”, the serious and violent incidents that occurred in Lhasa and other areas, was well planned by the Dalai Clique and its “Tibetan independence” separatist forces, and was deliberately created after they had colluded with “Tibetan Independence” elements within Tibet in a well organized and pre-meditated manner.

After Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court held the trial, it ascertained that the defendant Wangdu received the assignments from the “Public Security Department” of the Dalai Clique, and set up an underground intelligence network in Lhasa. He made a great number of copies of a CD, the contents of which were inciting to split the country, and leaflets inciting to hold a “People’s Uprising in Tibet” given to him by the “Public Security Department” of the Dalai Clique, then, he, together with the defendant Migmar Dhondup (Mima Dunzhu 米玛顿珠), distributed them in Tibet. In addition, right before and after the “March 14th Incident”, they also collected information concerning national security and interests and provided this to the Dalai Clique. Their actions violated the 110th article of the Criminal Code of the People’s Republic of China [1], constituting the crime of espionage. The defendants Phuntsok Dorjee (Pingcuo Duoji 平措多吉) and the defendant Tsewang Dorjee (Ciwan Duoji 次旺多吉) collected information concerning national security and interests and they provided it to organizations outside of China through Wangdu. Their actions violated the 111th article of the Criminal Code of the People’s Republic of China [2], constituting the crime of providing intelligence illegally to organisations outside of China. Among the afore-mentioned defendants, Wangdu and Phuntsok Dorjee are recidivists, thus, in accordance with the law, they should be punished severely. On October 27th, Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court sentenced, in accordance with the law, defendant Wangdu to life imprisonment and deprived of political rights for life for the crime of espionage, defendant Migmar Dhondup to 14 years in prison and deprived of political rights for 5 years for the crime of espionage, defendant Phuntsok Dorjee to 9-year imprisonment with deprivation of political rights for 5 years for the crime of illegally providing intelligence to organisations outside of China and Tsewang Dorjee to 8 years in prison and deprived of political rights for 5 years for the crime of illegally providing intelligence to organisations outside of China.

The defendant Sonam Dakpa (Suolang Zaba 索朗扎巴) joined the “Tibetan Youth Congress” of the Dalai clique and accepted assignments from this organization. Right before and after the “March 14th Incident” in Lhasa, he had collected a great amount of intelligence concerning national security and interests and had submitted this to the organisation. His actions violated the 111th article of the Criminal Code of the People’s Republic of China, constituting the crime of illegally providing intelligence to organisations outside of China. On October 27th, the Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court, in accordance with the law, sentenced Sonam Dakpa to 10 years in prison and deprived of political rights for 5 years for the crime of illegally providing intelligence to organisations outside of China.

The defendant Yeshi Choedon (Yixi Quzhen 益西曲珍)accepted assignments from the “Public Security Department” of the Dalai Clique and also received funds from the “Public Security Department” of the Dalai Clique. She provided intelligence and information endangering national security and interests to the “Public Security Department” of the Dalai Clique. Her actions violated the 110th article of the Criminal Code of the People’s Republic of China, constituting the crime of espionage. On November 7th, Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court sentenced the defendant Yeshi Choedon to 15 years in prison and deprived of political rights for 5 years for the crime of espionage.

The defendant Sonam Tseten (Suolang Cidian 索朗次点) accepted assignments from the separatist organisation “Gu Chu Sum”. He collected a great amount of intelligence concerning national security and interests and provided it to the afore-mentioned organisation. His actions have violated the 111th article of the Criminal Code of the People’s Republic of China, constituting the crime of illegally providing intelligence to organisations outside of China. On November 7th, the Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court, in accordance with the law, sentenced Sonam Tseten to 10 years in prison and deprived of political rights for 5 years for the crime of illegally providing intelligence to organisations outside of China.

 

[1] Article 110 covers the crime of espionage dealt with in Article 97 of the 1979 law. While the sentencing range stays the same as before – three years to life imprisonment, or death – the former distinction between “agents” (tewu, which used to be reserved for Kuomintang spies from Taiwan) and “spies” (jiandie, denoting mainly non-Chinese agents) has now been dropped, and the latter term is used throughout. The new article includes two main categories of offense: “Joining an espionage organization or an accepting assignment from an espionage organization or its representative” in 110 (1) and “identifying bombardment targets for an enemy” in 110( 2). It is unclear from this article that those who carry out such “assignments” are required to be aware they are doing so for an entity identified by the authorities as a “spy organization.”

 

In practice, “espionage” is a highly elastic term in Chinese criminal law. For example, in unconnected cases, Hada and Ngawang Choepel were accused of this offense, yet no evidence was ever presented to show that either had access to any privileged information or that they passed anything resembling “intelligence” to any “spy organization.” Both are from sensitive ethnic minority regions – Inner Mongolia and Tibet – and both were concerned about the preservation of their respective cultures. And they received harsh sentences: 15 years in prison for Hada, 18 for Ngawang Choepel.

 

[2] Article 111 incorporates into the Criminal Code the main principles of the State Secrets Law and the 1988 Supplementary Regulations of the NPC Standing Committee on the Punishment of Crimes Involving Leaking State Secrets regarding the provision of secret material to parties outside China. Article 111 defines the offense as: “Stealing, prying into, purchasing or illegally providing state secrets or intelligence for institutions, organizations and individuals outside the country.” While this generally mirrors the formulation of Article 32 of the State Secrets Law, the vague term “intelligence” (qingbao), which does not appear in that law, has been added, thus expanding the scope of materials covered beyond documents classified in accordance with the formal system it established. The full range of penalties is available for this crime, from probation to life imprisonment, or death.

1 Comment

  • wangdu and migmar are my really good friend. I wanna file a petition to free them from prison. can you please give me some feedback.