Tibetan Nomad and Environment Activist Retrial: China must restore justice by overturning unjust verdict against A-Nya Sengdra

Monday, 15 June 2020

The Chinese government must right the flagrant injustice against imprisoned Tibetan nomad and community leader A-Nya Sengdra [1] by overturning his conviction and seven year sentence at his retrial, tomorrow,Tuesday 16 June. [2]  

On 19 May 2020, five UN experts [3] called for all charges against A-Nya Sendgra to be dropped [4] stating “the criminalisation of the legitimate work” of A-Nya Sengdra can be seen as part of “a wider crackdown on Tibetan” human rights defenders. The UN experts urged the Chinese Government to comply with international law and lift the charges against Mr Sengdra and raised serious concern that he is known to have serious health issues and is being held in extremely poor conditions.  

A-Nya Sengdra has campaigned against government corruption and environmental destruction caused by illegal mining activities and endangered animal poaching. He was sentenced on 6 December 2019 [5] on accusations of hosting two WeChat groups with names that included words like “anti-corruption”, “environmental protection’’ and “people’s petitions”.  

Sengdra was sentenced on charges of “gathering people to disturb public order” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”; charges frequently used by Chinese authorities to silence Tibetan community activists and environment defenders. The governments of the US, UK, Canada and Germany are among those that have been alerted about the second trial.

“The Chinese government has a dangerous habit of manipulating their own laws in order to criminalise Tibetans in Tibet,” said Lobsang Yangtso, International Tibet Network. “Since 2018, Chinese authorities have been issuing regulations that can get Tibetans arrested en masse and under false charges; A-Nya Sengdra is the victim of a crackdown that has seen over 400 Tibetans convicted last year, despite no evidence being presented that they committed a crime.”

A-Nya Sengdra’s arrest and conviction fits a wider pattern of harassment of Tibetan activists and environmental defenders, which has seen hundreds of arrests. Starting in February 2018, provincial and regional authorities across Tibet have overseen a crackdown against what the CCP calls “underworld forces” and “criminal gangs”. Public notifications, appealing for help from the public, have made it clear that the definition of criminal gangs includes Tibetans who organise protests to protect the environment, critics of local or national government authorities and Tibetans trying to preserve Tibet’s language and customs.

John Jones, Campaigns and Advocacy Manager at Free Tibet, said, “Tibet under Chinese Communist Party rule is home to countless injustices, from environmental devastation to abuses of power by local authorities. In trying to challenge these injustices, A-Nya Sengdra became a victim of one himself - a groundless arrest, over a year in detention and a sham trial. This appeal is a critical opportunity to right this wrong. If the court is in any way serious about examining this case, it should reverse A-Nya’s prison sentence and allow him to resume his community work without fear of arrest or harassment.”

After his arrest, on 4 September 2018, A-Nya was beaten in detention and held for 14 months without trial. His brother Jimtri was also arrested around the same time (along with a group of nine other Tibetans [6]) and later died from unknown causes in late 2019 after being taken to hospital from his detention centre. He was due to stand trial on the same day as A-Nya Sengdra.



John Jones, Free Tibet, john@freetibet.org, +44 7770681938

Mandie McKeown, International Tibet Network, +44 (0)7748 158 618


Notes to Editors:

1. A-Nya Sengdra [Pinyin: Aya Sanza CH: 阿亚桑扎] is a Tibetan nomad and community organizer from Kyangche, Gade County, Golok, Amdo [CH: Jiangqian, Gande, Guoluo, Qinghai].

2. Sources in Tibet have confirmed that A-Nya Sengdra’s appeal against his seven-year prison sentence will take place on Tuesday 16 June at Guoluo Prefecture Intermediate People's Court, located in Dawu Town in Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, eastern Tibet [CH: Gande Maqin County, Guoluo Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province]. A-Nya Sengdra’s retrial was originally set for 27 April but was postponed after the presiding judge was taken unwell.

3. The UN experts: Mr. Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Ms. Leigh Toomey (Chair-Rapporteur), Ms. Elina Steinerte (Vice-Chair), Mr. José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, Mr. Sètondji Roland Adjovi and Mr. Seong-Phil Hong, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Ms. Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Mr. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

4. OHCHR, ‘UN experts urge China to drop charges against jailed Tibetan minority human rights defender’, 19 May 2020: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=25894&LangID=E

5. 6 December 2019: ‘Tibetan Activist handed seven year prison sentence’ https://www.freetibet.org/news-media/na/tibetan-activist-handed-seven-year-prison-sentence; 17 January 2020: Jailed Tibetan activist appeals second trial: https://www.freetibet.org/news-media/na/jailed-tibetan-activist-appeals-second-trial

6. The eight other Tibetan standing trial on 5 & 6 December 2019 were also given prison sentences. Their names are: Sothor, Asho, Dosang, Wanggyal, Gyaltsen, Abhi, Ugen Tsering, Wanchen and Jimtri, A-Nya Sengdra’s brother.