tashi wangchuk

Tashi Wangchuk

Tashi Wangchuk, an advocate for Tibetan language education reportedly indicted on charges of separatism earlier this month, should be released immediately and all charges against him should be dismissed. Mr. Wangchuk is currently awaiting trial in Yulshul (Chinese: Yushu) Prefecture in the Kham region of eastern Tibet (in Qinghai province). He has been detained since January 27, 2016, following the release of a New York Times video (“A Tibetan’s Journey for Justice”) profiling his attempts to request additional Tibetan language classes at schools in the Yulshul region. Chinese authorities have charged him with inciting separatism but have provided no evidence in support.

“Tashi Wangchuk should be allowed to return home immediately and must be cleared of these charges,” Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet, said. “Indicting a shopkeeper with ‘inciting separatism’ in order to stop his peaceful advocacy for his mother tongue is a serious miscarriage of justice. The Chinese Constitution clearly states that he, and all Tibetans, are well within their rights to protect and use the Tibetan language.”

In the New York Times video Tashi Wangchuk alluded to the risks posed by his efforts under the current repressive atmosphere in Tibet, saying that Chinese police can arrest Tibetans “under any name” and adding that “there’s no way to appeal because the legal system is imperfect.” Max Baucus, the United States’ Ambassador to China, called for his release in his 2016 Human Rights Day statement:

China’s constitution states that “all nationalities have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages.” So I ask why Tashi Wangchuk, a Chinese citizen who is deeply interested in education, remains in jail for his peaceful advocacy of Tibetan language education. We pursue no political motives when we call for his immediate release.

The Tibetan language – the bedrock of Tibetan culture, religion and identity – has been steadily undermined under Chinese rule over the past six decades. Chinese authorities focus on the dominance of the Chinese language to the detriment of Tibetan, and also marginalize the Tibetan language by withdrawing it from the curriculum. Chinese policies that undermine Tibetan language run counter to provisions in China’s own laws, specifically the Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law; protections for language and culture included in Chinese law are not implemented in Tibet.

If convicted, Tashi Wangchuk could face up to 15 years in prison. ICT joins Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in calling for his immediate release.