Linguists add voice to campaign calling for release of detained Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk

Monday, 5 March 2018

The campaign to push for the release of Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk (1) continues to grow, with the Linguistic Society of America (LSA) adding its support (2).

The LSA, which works to advance the scientific study of language and which has over 4,000 members around the world, is now encouraging linguists to join them in contacting the Chinese Minister of Justice to call for Tashi Wangchuk’s release.  

Tashi Wangchuk, a Tibetan language rights activist and entrepreneur from Jyekundo County in the Tibetan prefecture of Yushu (3), has been in detention since his arrest in January 2016. He was later charged with "inciting separatism."  

His arrest came shortly after an interview that he conducted with the New York Times in late 2015. In a short documentary featured on the online edition of the New York Times, he highlighted his work promoting the Tibetan language, insisting that his work was not political but solely about preserving Tibetan culture (4). Human rights and Tibet groups, including Free Tibet, have followed Tashi Wangchuk’s case closely throughout this time. 

Tashi Wangchuk finally stood trial on 4 January 2018. The court room was closed to journalists and foreign diplomats who had arrived to monitor the proceedings. No verdict or sentence was issued on the day, or during the ensuing two months.

Free Tibet made contact with the LSA about Tashi Wangchuk’s case following Tashi Wangchuk's trial in January 2018. The LSA maintains a longstanding commitment to human rights, a statement on its website declaring:

“The LSA aspires to a world in which the essential nature of language and its central role in human life is well understood. The LSA emphasizes the close relationship between linguistics and human rights, through advocacy, collaborations, education, endorsements, and public engagement. The LSA and its members stay actively involved in voicing their opinions on humanitarian issues, as well as motivating those around them to participate in advocacy.” (5)

This show of support from the LSA came one week after six human rights experts at the United Nations called on China to release Tashi Wangchuk. In a strong statement, the six experts said:

“We condemn the continued detention of Mr. Wangchuk and the criminalization of his freedom of expression as well as his right to stand and speak up for what he perceives as human rights violations in his region and country.”

They added that: “Free exchange of views about State policies, including criticism against policies and actions that appear to have a negative impact on the lives of people need to be protected and further encouraged.” (6)

In January, the European Parliament issued a resolution calling for Tashi Wangchuk’s “ immediate and unconditional” release. (7)

Free Tibet’s Campaigns and Communications Manager, John Jones, said:

“Two whole months have passed since Tashi Wangchuk stood trial, and yet there is still no sign of a verdict. Over two years have passed since his arrest and yet there is still no evidence of any crime. From the United Nations to Tashi Wangchuk’s fellow language advocates around the world, the message to Beijing is clear: enough is enough. This ongoing, daily injustice must end. Tashi Wangchuk must be released immediately.”


For further information or comment, contact Free Tibet Campaigns and Communications Manager John Jones: 
T:+44 (0)207 324 4605

Notes to editors



(1) For further background on Tashi Wangchuk's case, see ‘New details emerge about Tashi Wangchuk's status’, Free Tibet, 1 July 2016;

'Tibetan language activist set to stand trial ', Free Tibet, 18 January 2017

‘Tashi Wangchuk set to stand trial next week’, Free Tibet, 31 December 2017;

‘Tashi Wangchuk trial goes ahead’, Free Tibet, 8 January 2018

(2) Tibetan Language Activist Awaits Sentence from Chinese Courts, Linguistic Society of America, 28 February 2018

(3) Jyekundo County, Yulshul Prefecture (Chinese: Yushu), eastern Tibet (Chinese: Qinghai Province)

(4) Tibetans Fight to Salvage Fading Culture in China, New York Times, 28 November 2015