WRITE TO THE GOVERNOR OF SICHUAN PROVINCE
Tsewang Choephel (次旺曲培 Ciwang Qupei) is a monk from Nyitso Monastery in Tawu County in Kardze, eastern Tibet. He was arrested in May 2015 when he was 29 years old and has not been seen since. According to our information he has not yet been tried. Many Tibetan political prisoners endure long periods in prison, sometimes over a year, before they go to trial.
Although the charges against Tsewang Choephel are not known, he appears to have been arrested in connection with the self-immolation of a fellow monk and resident of Nyitso Monastery, Kalsang Yeshi.
Kalsang Yeshi set himself on fire in front of a police post located on the premises of Nyitso Monastery on 23 December 2014. Police quickly removed Kalsang Yeshi’s body, opening fire on monks who were trying to prevent them from taking it. This was followed by protests from around one thousand local Tibetans, who gathered outside the police post and demanded that the body be returned to his family. The body was later cremated and the remains thrown in a nearby river.
Tsewang Choephel was at the scene of Kalsang Yeshi’s self-immolation, and during the subsequent protests he expressed anger towards the Chinese authorities. From this point he was put under heavy surveillance, and, on the morning of 18 May 2015, was stopped by police while riding his motorcycle on a highway. He was arrested and taken to the police station. His current whereabouts are unknown.
Dear Wei Hong
I am contacting you to raise the case of Tsewang Choephel. Tsewang Choephel was arrested in May 2015 and has not been seen since. According to our information he has not yet been tried. Tsewang Choephel had been under surveillance from December 2014, when he took part in a protest at Nyitso Monastery following the self-immolation of fellow monk Kalsang Yeshi.
Tsewang Choephel has committed no internationally-recognised crime. His arrest, detention and conviction appear to be in response to him peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression by participating in a demonstration. As you know, Article 35 of the Chinese constitution guarantees freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of demonstration for all citizens.
I urge you to do everything within your power in your capacity of Governor of Sichuan Province to immediately and unconditionally release Tsewang Choephel. So long as he remains in prison, I also call on you to guarantee that he is protected from torture and other ill-treatment, that he has access to a lawyer of his choice, and that he has access to family members and any medical treatment that he may require, as required under China’s Human Rights Action Plan and the Prison Law of the People’s Republic of China.