Imprisoned Tibetan rights activist unable to see lawyer as he passes one year since trial

Tashi Wangchuk. CTA. 2018
Tashi Wangchuk. CTA. 2018
Tashi Wangchuk. CTA. 2018
10th June 2019

Chinese authorities have prevented Tashi Wangchuk's lawyer from seeing his client in prison, as the Tibetan activist passes one year behind bars since his trial

The Chinese government has continued to prevent Tibetan language activist Tashi Wangchuk from seeing his lawyer, as he finishes his first year in prison since his trial last year.

Human rights lawyer Lin Qilei has not been able to see or speak to his client since his request to visit in February was denied by authorities, Lin told Free Tibet.

Lin added that Tashi Wangchuk’s father has died while the activist has been behind bars. The lawyer asked a prison guard to pass the news to Tashi which he reportedly agreed to do.

On 22 May, Tashi Wangchuk was found guilty of “inciting separatism” and sentenced to five years in prison. This sentence included the two years that he had already spent in detention following his arrest in January 2016.

His arrest followed the publication by the New York Times of an interview with him about his campaign against what he called the “systematic slaughter” of Tibetan language and culture by China.

In August 2018, he was moved to his current location, Xining Prison. His siblings were able to visit him in November. Lin said it’s possible they have visited since but are under pressure from the Chinese government not to talk about it publicly.

Lin Qilei told Free Tibet in February that the sentencing of Tashi Wangchuck is a shortcoming of the legal system in China, which is not independent but politically driven.  

“They want to make an example of him,” Lin said at the time. “China is very angry about his case. Authorities are advising lawyers in China not to defend such cases and the lawyers association in Beijing has also urged lawyers to stay away from representing clients in similar cases.”

“As of the first anniversary we still don’t really understand what’s going on and we still don’t have any more information… The situation is tense and so holding an anniversary as well as giving a statement is very difficult in this case,” he added.

Restrictrictions on access to Tashi mean his health remains unknown to his lawyer as he passes one year behind bars.

Lin told Free Tibet, “He’s not guilty of a crime and must be released.”

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In late April, Wangchen, a 20 year old from eastern Tibet, gathered with friends to commemorate the Panchen Lama’s 30th birthday. The group called for the release of the Panchen Lama, who was detained as a boy in 1995 and has been missing ever since. They also called for the Panchen Lama and the exiled Dalai Lama to one day be reunited in Tibet. For this peaceful act, Wangchen was arrested. When his aunt, Dolkar, shared the news of Wangchen’s arrest, she too was charged.