EU must condemn Tibetan death sentences

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

The EU holds its 26th human rights dialogue with China tomorrow in Prague (1). The meeting presents a key opportunity for the EU to raise for the first time with China strong concerns regarding the recent imposition of the death penalty on five Tibetans as well as China’s persistent failure to account for the whereabouts of more than 1000 Tibetans detained after last year’s protests in Tibet and who are still missing.

Free Tibet welcomes this latest round of dialogue but believes that participating EU officials must do much more than simply use the dialogue as a forum for the resumption of constructive engagement with China.

Specifically Free Tibet urges EU officials at the dialogue to:

Raise serious concerns regarding the unsound nature of evidence that has recently led to the imposition of the death sentence on five Tibetans found guilty of starting fires that led to confirmed deaths in Lhasa in March 2008 (2).
Demand from their Chinese counterparts that the death sentences be quashed with immediate effect and that any further cases related to protests in Tibet in March and April 2008 should be suspended until a full and independent inquiry into those events, as called for by the UN Committee Against Torture in November 2008, has been held.
Press their Chinese counterparts to account fully for the whereabouts and identities of more than 1000 Tibetans still missing more than one year after being detained in connection to the spring 2008 protests. A list of names and whereabouts of all Tibetans still detained should be submitted by China to the EU.

It is understood that the human rights dialogue will focus on two principal areas: access to justice in China and Tibet and the rights of defendants in criminal proceedings to legal defence; and protection for persons with disabilities.

Director of Free Tibet, Stephanie Brigden, said:

“With access to justice and the rights of defendants on the agenda for tomorrow’s dialogue, EU officials have a vital opportunity to state to their Chinese counterparts their firm opposition to the death sentences recently imposed on five Tibetans. It would be unforgiveable in a dialogue supposedly addressing shortcomings in the access to justice for the EU not to make a strong statement of concern about these very real death sentences that were imposed in courts closed to independent observers”.


For further information:

Matt Whitticase, External Communications: t +44 (0)20 7324 4605 / +44 (0)7515 788456 or email:

Stephanie Brigden, Director: t +44 (0)20 7324 4605 / +44 (0)7530 528264 or email

Notes to Editor:

(1) The human rights dialogue precedes the 10th EU-China summit to be held next week, also in Prague. China postponed the last summit scheduled to have taken place in France in December 2008, citing its opposition to meetings taking place prior to the summit between leaders of EU member states and the Dalai Lama. China was particularly incensed at a meeting between President Sarkozy of France and the Dalai Lama. At the time France held the rotating presidency of the EU. More information is available via Free Tibet’s press release:

(2) Information regarding the cases is only available via media sources controlled by the Chinese government but even the limited information raises serious concerns. One conviction is reported to have been based upon a confession of guilt. In November 2008, the UN Committee against Torture, in its fourth periodic review of China stated its deep concern “…of routine and widespread use of torture… especially to extract confessions or information to be used in criminal proceedings” and “Continued reliance on confessions as a common form of evidence for prosecution…” (Paragraph 11. CAT/C/CHN/CO/4 21 November 2008)

More information on the death sentences is available via Free Tibet press releases: and