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Tibetan protestors executed for Lhasa riot killings

October 26, 2009

Jane McCartney in Beijing
Times Online (UK)
October 23, 2009

Tibetan exiles have reported the first executions
of those convicted for last year's riot in Lhasa,
with at least two people put to death in a rare
implementation of capital punishment in the restive region.

Two Tibetans convicted of arson and sentenced to
death in April were executed on Tuesday morning
in Lhasa, reported The Tibetan Centre for Human
Rights and Democracy based in the Indian town of
Dharamsala - the home in exile of the Dalai Lama.

It said Lobsang Gyaltsen and Loyak had been
sentenced to death for their part in setting fire
to five shops in the Tibetan capital, killing
seven people, in the riot that rocked Lhasa in
March 2008. Officials say 21 people - including
three Tibetan protesters - died in the violence,
which embarrassed Beijing just as it was
preparing to stage the Olympic Games and prompted
a security crackdown across the Himalayan region.

The body of Mr Gyaltsen had been returned to his
family and then submitted to a river burial - an
unusual form of funeral rite that is more common
in southeastern Tibet. Sky burial is the usual
ceremony in Lhasa. The ashes of Loyak were
returned to his family, the centre said.

The centre reported that two other people may
also have been executed. One had been sentenced
to death, suspended for two years, a form that in
almost all cases amount to life in prison. The fourth had been jailed for life.

The use of the death penalty has been extremely
rare in Tibet over the last two decades,
apparently amid anxiety that such punishments
could set off renewed outbursts of anti-Chinese unrest.

In September, 1987, two Tibetans were executed
after a public rally in the Lhasa sports stadium
that 14,000 people - mostly government workers -
were required to attend. While those executed
were convicted of ordinary criminal offences, the
timing was believed to convey a political message
to Tibetans since it came just a week after the
Dalai Lama had unveiled a peace plan in Washington.

Within days, Lhasa erupted in violence when
Tibetans rushed through the streets calling on
the Chinese to leave Tibet and set fire to a
police station opposite the Jokhang Temple in the
city centre on October 1. More riots followed in
early 1988 and in 1989, when martial law was imposed in the city.

The next executions were not until 1990 when two
Tibetans accused of planning a jailbreak after
receiving suspended death sentences on murder
charges were shot by firing squad. Internal court
documents showed the pair had also started a
pro-independence cell while in prison, along with other inmates.

The only other reported executions came during a
nationwide crackdown on crime in 1996. State
media said 29 people, including 18 Tibetans, were
put to death in various Tibetan cities. Across
China, more than 2,200 people were executed in that 'Strike Hard' campaign.

In the only politically linked execution to be
publicly acknowledged, nomad Lobsang Dondup was
executed in January 2003 in a Tibetan area of
neighbouring Sichuan province for a series of
bomb attacks over the previous four years.
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