The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) strongly condemns the January 26 execution of Lobsang Dhondup after a trial that China claims was closed due to unnamed “state secrets.”
“There is every indication that Lobsang Dhondup did not receive a fair trial,” said Mary Beth Markey, U.S. Executive Director of International Campaign for Tibet.
“The Chinese court should make public the information that constitutes its case and its justification for killing this man,” Markey continued.
A State Department official told ICT that the U.S., which was denied a request to have a representative present at the trial, has serious concerns about the apparent lack of transparency and due process in this case.
The official also told ICT that the Chinese Foreign Ministry had repeatedly assured the U.S. that the Chinese Supreme People’s Court would review the cases before any sentence was carried out, and that it is not clear whether this review took place.
According to Chinese criminal law, any death sentence passed by lower courts has to be approved by the Chinese supreme people’s court.
Lorne Craner, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, specifically raised this case during the U.S.-China human rights dialogue in December.
“We fully expect the U.S. government to make a formal protest that reflects its strong interest in this case,” Markey continued.
Lodi Gyari, the Special Envoy of the Dalai Lama said that he had “asked directly and indirectly that this case be dealt with fairly and with due process of law.”
“I am gravely concerned that the Chinese have taken this action without such considerations,” Gyari continued.
Lobsang Dhondup was reportedly accused of “inciting separatism,” “causing explosions” and “illegal possession of guns and ammunition” in connection with an April bomb blast that injured several people in Chengdu. He is connected to several other bombings through an alleged confession after he was picked up by authorities near the site of the Chengdu bomb blast in April 2002.
In the Chinese system, confessions from detained individuals are often received through coercion. There has been no independent confirmation of the nature of Lobsang Dhondup’s confession.
Regarding the alleged bombings, there is no indication of any escalation of violence from Tibetans in general or, in this case, that those acts were aimed at causing loss of life.
No one was killed at the incident at Chengdu, for which Lobsang Dhondup was taken into custody. There were no fatalities in any of the other incidents except for one in the town of Kandze on October 3, 2001, in which one person was killed.
The other Tibetan sentenced in this case, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, is a popular Buddhist leader.
He is known for his allegiance to the Dalai Lama and involvement in Tibetan community-based activities, such as building schools, monasteries and health clinics in poor Tibetan areas, and it is likely that the move against him and those connected to him was politically motivated.
“We fear that Lobsang Dhondup has been executed by the Chinese authorities to serve a political agenda,” said Markey
Two other prominent religious figures in Kandze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture were the targets of official actions last year: Sonam Phuntsok, who was sentenced to five years in prison for allegedly bombing a medical clinic; and Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok, who was taken into custody from the religious encampment at Larung Gar, where he taught and where thousands of monks and nuns were summarily expelled and their dwellings demolished.
One connection among these lamas is that they have not only focused on spiritual education but have also involved themselves in social welfare among the Tibetan people.
This tightening of repression comes at a time when the Chinese government is sweepingly branding political activities as acts of terrorism following the September 11 incident.
Amendments to the Chinese Criminal Law adopted in December 2001 place severe punishments for those who “organize or lead a terrorist organization” from three years to ten years’ imprisonment to between ten years and life (article 120 of the Criminal Law). The term “terrorist organization” is not defined thereby allowing a broad and ambiguous range of interpretation including non-violent political activities.
“We are deeply concerned that the Chinese are using these isolated incidents to generally characterize Tibetan political dissent as terrorism in the post-9/11 era,” said Markey.
Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s appeal on his death sentence was rejected yesterday, according to China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency, which would leave him with a death sentence suspended for two years.