Political Prisoners

Death sentences for three Tibetan activists:


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(Showing solidarity for the three prisoners)

The People’s Court of Kardze has convicted three Tibetan for “inciting separatism” and “disturbing social order”, with sentences ranging from death to 16 years in prison. Three Tibetans; Pema Yeshi, 28, Sonam Gonpo, 24, and Tsewang Gyatso, all from “Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture” (‘TAP’) Sichuan Province, were sentenced by the Kardze Intermediate People’s Court on 17 November 2009 to two-year suspended death sentence, life imprisonment and 16 years term respectively on charges of “inciting separatism” and “disturbing social order.” This brutal punishment was a resulting of the 3 individuals distributing pamphlets calling for Tibet independence on roads. These court hearings were held in “secret” to prevent spread of information.

China: Tibet: Death sentences and prison for three Tibetan activists. Beijing silences media

(Chinese military patrol in the streets of Lhasa in 2009 after the crackdown)


D_Wangchen.jpgDhondup Wangchen

Dhondup Wangchen, a Tibetan filmmaker, is serving a six-year sentence in a Chinese prison camp for filming Tibetans inside Tibet speaking openly about the Beijing Olympics, the Dalai Lama, and China’s policies in Tibet.

Write a Personal Message
Release Dhondup Wangchen Now.
To [Decision Maker],

Dhondup Wangchen was sentenced to a six-year prison term on December 28, 2009 for simply filming Tibetans living in Tibet speaking about the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Dalai Lama, and China’s policies in Tibet. His trial was held in secret in Siling in eastern Tibet (Chinese: Xining, Qinghai Province) and he was denied access to the lawyer of his choosing. His trial clearly did not meet international legal standards.

Dhondup Wangchen is innocent. He has been unjustly persecuted by the Chinese government for exercising his basic right to freedom of expression as recognized under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which China is a signatory.

I join people worldwide in calling on you to immediately and unconditionally release Dhondup Wangchen.

The film, Leaving Fear Behind, was shot by Dhondup Wangchen, a Tibetan from a poor farming family in western Qinghai province. It is a riveting and compelling testament to how and what Tibetans actually think and believe about the Olympics, China, and the Dalai Lama. The filmmakers traveled thousands of miles, asking ordinary Tibetans to express in their own words, something they are not free to do. This had dire consequences for Dhondup.

The footage for the film was smuggled out of Tibet in early March 2008. Dhondup and his cameraman, Jigme Gyatso, were fully aware of the risks they took in not concealing their identities, but wanted to speak out openly about the situation in Tibet. In order for the film to be made, fear truly had to be set aside.

Dhondup Wangchen was detained on 26 March 2008 in Siling, eastern Tibet (Ch: Xining, Qinghai Province). Jigme Gyatso, the other filmmaker was also detained in late March 2008 but released “temporarily” in October 2008. Dhondup Wangchen is reportedly being held without charge at Ershilipu Detention Center in Xining Kachu town (Ch: Linxia, Gansu Province).

Dhondup Wangchen’s wide Lhamo-tso now lives with their four young children (who attend Tibetan Children’s Village) in Dharamsala, India. She continues to appeal to China and the international community for her husband’s release. Watch a bit of the movie:


Ngawang Choephel

Ngawang  was born in western Tibet in 1966. He and his mother fled the brutality of the Chinese occupation when he was two years old. Ngawang grew up as a refugee in southern India and early on discovered his talent for traditional Tibetan arts. After 10th grade,  Ngawang joined the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) in Dharamsala, which accepted him into their three-year program. He received his diploma in 1988. Ngawang Choephel attended Middlebury College on a Fulbright Scholarship.

Imprisonment in Tibet:

Ngawang entered Tibet Autonomous Region from India in July of 1995, he was detained on suspicion of espionage, in Sept 1995 by Chinese forces. And in December 1996, he was tried and convicted of espionage and counterrevolutionary propaganda. Tibetan advocacy groups, human rights organizations, parliamentarians and several governments have vigorously pressed for Mr. Choephel’s release. In response to repeated inquiries about his well being from the Vermont delegation of the US Congress, the Chinese Embassy reported in October 1999 that Mr. Choephel had been suffering serious medical ailments.


After spending 6 years in Chinese prison, Ngawang was finally released on medical parole just weeks before the summit in China between Presidents George W Bush and Jiang Zeminan. This outcome is a testament to the hard work of campaigners around the world, who kept Ngawang Choephel’s case in the public eye and demanded that their governments press for his release. Ngawang went right to work on his new film, Tibet in Song.

Tibet in Song: (Currently playing in theaters)

Free Tibet’s Panchen Lama!
Gendun Choekyi Nyima was kidnapped by the Chinese authorities just 2 months after he was officially recognized in 1995 as the 11th Panchen Lama, one of Tibet’s most important religious leaders. He and his family have been held under house arrest ever since.
Shortly after Gendun Choekyi Nyima’s detention, the Chinese government installed another young boy, Gyaincain Norbu, in his place. For many years this puppet Panchen Lama was kept hidden, but in the past couple of years, Chinese authorities have used Gyaltsen as their mouthpiece for propaganda campaign against Dalai Lama.

On Sunday, April 25th, 2010 Gendun Choekyi Nyima turned 21 years old. His detention is purely political and a means for the Chinese government to further control Tibetans’ culture and religion. Please take action for his release!

  • Ask people in your community to send birthday greetings to the Panchen Lama.
  • Send a letter to the Chinese government demanding his release. Print and mail your letter to your Chinese consulate.
  • Panchen Lama Viral Image Action. Make the Panchen Lama image your Facebook/Myspace/Twitter/Hi-5 profile image and “Post a Note”


Kunchok Tsephel

The founder of the popular Tibetan literary website ‘Chodme’ or ‘Butter Lamp’ was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment in November 2009.
Kunchok Tsephel, 39,  had been arrested in February. His computer, mobile phone and other belongings were seized and his website shut down. It is thought that his charges relate to the content of his website, which promoted Tibetan culture and literature. The case is another example of how Tibetans are being denied their basic right to express themselves freely, and demonstrates the harsh punishments given to Tibetans who seek to celebrate their own unique culture using the internet.Read more about internet censorship in China and Tibet.


Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche

Respected Tibetan religious leader Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche’s suspended death sentence has been commuted to life imprisonment.

Exclusive Interview with Geshe Lobsang Tenpa, former student of Deleg Rinpoche.

Watch Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche’s short petition here: See the Free Tibet Campaign slideshow petition


The Missing 1000

March and April 2008 saw the largest protests in Tibet for 50 years. China’s response was swift and brutal. Today a climate of fear reigns across Tibet. It is estimated that over 6,000 Tibetans were detained in connection with the protests. The fate of over 1,000 people remains unknown, rendering them extremely vulnerable to torture.

The Numbers detained

Lack of official information combined with severe restrictions on communication from Tibet render it an impossible task to determine the exact number of Tibetans still in detention.
The Chinese government has failed to disclose relevant figures and reports by the Chinese state media reveal statistical discrepancies between the numbers of those reported detained, released and charged. According to a China Daily report on 21 June 2008, by 9 April 2008 Chinese authorities had released 3,072 of the 4,434 people detained whom officials characterised as ‘rioters’. According to analysis by the American Congressional Executive Commission on China (CECC) the current status of at least 1,200 Tibetans remains unknown.

Unless Chinese authorities have released without charge a very high proportion of the Tibetans reportedly detained as a result of peaceful activity or expression on or after March 10, 2008, the resulting surge in the number of Tibetan political prisoners may prove to be the largest increase in such prisoners that has occurred under China’s current Constitution and Criminal Law.” CECC, 2008 Annual Report, page 183

Fate of The Missing 1000

During March-April 2008, most of those detained were arrested for non-violent acts of dissent. Tsering Tsomo, a 27 year old nun, was arrested for distributing leaflets calling for the return of the Dalai Lama in Kandze Town. She was severely beaten by police before being taken away. Tibetan nomad Sangey Tashi was arrested for waving the Tibetan flag. Monks at the Jokhang and Labrang Monasteries who spoke openly to journalists about the lack of human rights in Tibet remain missing.

Other Tibetans languish in prisons for simply having produced and distributed flyers calling for freedom, sending information on the situation in Tibet abroad, flying the banned Tibetan flag, possessing books and videotapes of the Dalai Lama or downloading the Tibetan national anthem onto mobile phones.

Update 25 March 2010: According to reports Ngakchung was sentenced to seven years imprisonment by the Kandze People’s Intermediate People’s Court. There is no information on the exact date of the trial and sentencing, under what charges he was convicted and whether he was given any legal rights guarantee under the Chinese constitution and international laws. Ngakchung was sentenced after being held without charge for nearly two years.

Ngakchung (Chinese: A Qiong), a thirty-eight year old monk from Serthar has been missing since July 2008. Ngakchung is a monk at Serthar Larung, one of the largest monasteries in Tibet.

Ngakchung, along with two other relatives Taphun and Gudrak, was arrested on 7 July by a group of plain clothed policeman from the Sichuan Province Police Bureau while he was leaving a restaurant in Chengdu City. Several eye-witnesses saw the incident. All of them are monks at Serthar Larung Monastery.

Three weeks later Taphun and Gudrak were released in Chengdu without any charges. Their health was in good condition despite having undergone intense interrogation concerning their possible with the Spring Protest of 2008. They did not see Ngakchung in detention during this time.

With concern for Ngakchung’s well-being increasing, relatives and various other members of Ngakchung’s monastery began inquiring about his whereabouts to the county and prefecture governments as well as the provincial police but were denied information.

Three months after the arrest Serthar County Police confirmed to Ngakchung’s mother that he was held for allegedly passing information outside Tibet about the March 2008 protests. They told his mother that they will not give out information on his whereabouts until Ngakchung confesses.

Evidence shows that individuals are most likely to suffer torture during the initial stages of detention, when the detainee is outside the protection of formal legal procedures. Those who were released earlier in 2008 spoke of the horrendous abuse they suffered when they were first detained.

TAKE ACTION by writing to the Chinese Government about the missing Tibetans!


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