Tibetan activist jailed for advocating cultural rights

A Chinese court has sentenced a Tibetan activist to five years’ imprisonment under a national security law, for peacefully advocating cultural rights in Tibet.

The prosecution and sentencing of Tibetan language education activist Tashi Wangchuk today (May 22, 2018) highlights the repressive environment in China for freedom of expression, said global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.

Wangchuk has been in pre-trial detention for almost two years with no access to his family. On January 4, 2018, the Yushu Intermediate Court upheld the charges of “incitement to separatism” levelled against Wangchuk, under Article 103, Section 2 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China.

The charges stem from comments in an article and video documentary in the New York Times in 2015 that detailed his Tibetan language advocacy efforts. Six UN human rights experts had previously called for his release.

“The promotion of culture and language should never be a crime,” said Josef Benedict, CIVICUS civic space research officer.

“The sentence against Tibetan activist Tashi Wangchuk highlights the systematic persecution of those who are brave to speak out and defend human rights in China. CIVICUS calls on the Chinese authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally,” Benedict said.

China occupied Tibet in 1950 and claims the region has been part of its territory for centuries, although many Tibetans, who are linguistically and ethnically distinct from Chinese, say they were in effect independent. Ethnic Tibetans in China face discrimination and restrictions on their rights to freedom of religious belief, expression, association. Peaceful calls for greater autonomy in the Tibet Autonomous Region and Tibetan-populated areas have been met with harsh repression carried out under ‘anti-separatism’ campaigns.

CIVICUS has documented an escalation of repression against activists in China, ahead of its review at the Human Rights Council in November 2018

There has been a continuing pattern of arbitrary detentions, unfair trials and harsh prison sentences. Security laws further compound the problem, with authorities now able to engage in more widespread surveillance of human rights defenders (HRDs), carry out raids and arrests and seize property without oversight. The use of these laws by the state turns HRDs into criminals and results in a climate of fear in which other citizens are deterred from becoming involved in human rights work.

“We call on the government to immediately repeal all security laws that impose unreasonable restrictions on freedom of expression and release all activists including human rights lawyers and journalists detained because of their legitimate human rights work,” said Benedict.

Civic space in China is rated as closed by the CIVICUS Monitor, a tool that tracks threats to civil society in all countries.


For more information, contact:

Josef Benedict