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Teenage Students Held Incommunicado for Graffiti

September 24, 2007

Human Rights Watch 2007
News and Releases
Compiled by Kandy Ringer

BBSNews September 23, 2007 -- New York (HRW) The Chinese government
should immediately release seven Tibetan high school students detained
on suspicion of writing pro-Tibetan independence slogans on buildings,
Human Rights Watch said today. One of the detainees, aged 14, is
reported to have been badly beaten during or after the arrest and was
bleeding profusely when last seen by relatives.

The seven male students, all from nomad families, are studying at the
Amchok Bora village secondary school, in Xiahe (Labrang) county, Gannan
prefecture in Gansu province. Four of the boys are 15 years old and
three are14. Gannan is designated as one of China's official "Tibetan
autonomous" areas.

Human Rights Watch said that police detained some 40 students on or
around September 7. The students were alleged to have written slogans
calling for the return of the Dalai Lama and a free Tibet the previous
day on the walls of the village police station and on other walls in the
village. Within 48 hours, all but seven of the students were released
from police custody. Police reportedly also questioned school staff
about the slogan- writing graffiti incident.

"Arresting teenagers for a political crime shows just how little has
changed in Tibet," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
"Beating up a child for a political crime shows just how far China has
to go before it creates the 'harmonious society' China's leaders talk so
much about."

The students were initially held in a police station in Amchok Bora, and
allowed to see their families. However, on September 10, plainclothes
officials believed to be state security moved them to the nearby county
town of Xiahe (Labrang), east of the village. Shortly before the
children were moved from the village, police had reportedly refused
permission for the relatives to take the injured boy for medical
treatment. Officials in Xiahe have since refused to reveal the students'
location or even to confirm that they are in custody.

The given names of five of the missing boys are Lhamo Tseten, age 15;
Chopa Kyab, age 14; Drolma Kyab, age 14; Tsekhu, age 14; and a second
Lhamo Tseten, age 15. The names of two others are unknown, and the
identity of the wounded detainee is not known. Tibetans rarely use
family names.

The students' arrests are the latest example of an increasingly harsh
response from Chinese authorities to the slightest hints of dissent over
issues as diverse as cultural and religious policies, forced
resettlement of Tibetan herders, environmental degradation, replacement
of Tibetan cadres with ethnic Chinese ones, and increased migration of
ethnic Chinese settlers to traditionally Tibetan regions. Several
incidents in recent months have involved clashes between Tibetan
residents and police forces.

In late September 2006, Chinese border police opened fire on a group of
73 Tibetans as they walked toward the border with Nepal. Two people,
including a teenage nun, were shot and killed, and police subsequently
detained about a dozen children. Their whereabouts were not known for
four months, and no public investigation has been undertaken into that
event.

According to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which
China is a State Party, children have the right to freedom of
expression. No child should be subjected to torture or other cruel,
inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, or detained unlawfully or
arbitrarily. Children who are legally detained should be held only as a
matter of last resort and for the shortest possible period of time.
Children in detention have the right to contact with their families and
to prompt access to legal assistance.

Human Rights Watch urged UNICEF to urgently raise these cases with the
government and seek guarantees of protection for these vulnerable children.

"To end this embarrassing and abhorrent episode, the Chinese government
should immediately release the boys, protect them and their parents from
further abuse, and explain why they were treated so harshly," said Adams.

More of Human Rights Watch's work on China is available online.

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