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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Six Family Members Arbitrarily Detained and Sentenced Over Their Activism

July 12, 2010

Press Statement
July 9, 2010

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy
(TCHRD) strongly condemns the Chinese
authorities? incomprehensible attack on Karma
Samdrup and several members his family. In a span
of less than one year, six members (three
brothers and three cousins, all male) of a single
family have been arrested, sentenced, and
reportedly tortured?actions which can only be
characterized as official reprisal for their
activism. Four of the six are serving prison or
?re-education through labor? sentences; at this
time the whereabouts and well-being of two others remain unknown.

In pursuing arbitrary, targeted attacks against
the family over the peaceful exercise of their
fundamental human rights, the Chinese government
is in flagrant violation of their obligations
under the Chinese Constitution and the
International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights. Furthermore, the cruel and inhumane
treatment and systematic denial of due process
seen in the cases at issue run afoul of Chinese
Criminal Procedure Law as well numerous
international norms regarding the treatment of
prisoners and the right to a fair trial.

The family?s plight has drawn international
attention as particularly alarming, as the family
was once lauded by the Chinese Communist Party
(CCP) as ideal Tibetans who steered clear of
political matters. The targeted persecutions by
Chinese government officials raises resounding
concerns over a growing trend of severe
punishments for anyone seen as defying their authority.

The family?s trouble started when Jigme
Namgyal(38) and Rinchen Samdrup (44), two
brothers who ran an award-winning environmental
NGO in their home village of Gonjo County, Chamdo
Prefecture, ?Tibetan Autonomous Region? (?TAR?),
accused a local police official of poaching
endangered species. In a flagrant act of official
reprisal, Chinese police imprisoned Jigme and
Rinchen on 7 August 2009. In November, Jigme, who
is disabled, received a sentence of 21-months of
?re-education through labor? (RTL) for ?harming
social stability.? Jigme?s offense was illegal
collection of information about the environment,
which he allegedly shared with the ?Dalai
clique.? China?s RTL system has been widely
criticized as contrary to numerous international
norms because accused persons are sentenced
without any trial, due process, or legal defense.
Human Rights experts characterized the charges
against Jigme Namgyal as a cause of potential
embarrassment to the local authorities rather
than a threat to national security.

On 3 January 2010, Chime?s older brother Karma
Samdrup, a prominent businessman and
award-winning philanthropist known as the ?King
of Heavenly Beads,? was imprisoned on trumped up
charges of grave-robbing. Karma?s arrest occurred
shortly after he spoke out about his brothers?
cases after visiting them in prison and hearing
about their horrific mistreatment at the hands of
Chinese authorities. The charges against Karma
stem from his purchase of artifacts in Xinjiang
in 1998 ?charges promptly dropped by Chinese
authorities due to lack of evidence and the fact
that Karma had a license to deal in such items.
The re-initiation of charges over a decade later
can only be regarded as on official reprisal for
speaking in his brothers defense.

After six months of incarceration, during which
he endured severe beatings and torture by Chinese
authorities, on 24 June 2010 a court in Xinjiang
sentenced Karma to 15 years imprisonment and
deprivation of his political rights for five
years. Dolker Tso, Karma?s wife, estimates he
lost at least 25 kgs while in custody.

Karma?s trial was replete with irregularities and
has been widely criticized by international human
rights observers for violating China?s own
criminal procedure laws. He was denied the right
to meet anyone, including his lawyers, for more
than six months after his arrest. Karma?s only
meeting with his lawyers occurred on the eve of
his trial?a meeting that lasted only 30 minutes,
and was monitored by police officers in the room.
Evidence was altered, a ?mysterious witness?
suddenly appeared on the second day of the trial,
and the judge refused to delve into Mr. Samdrup?s
claims of having been beaten and drugged during
his 6-month period of pre-trial detention. ?The
court completely ignored the facts, trampled on
the legal system and violated Karma?s humanity,?
said Pu Zhiqiang, Karma?s lawyer. The Chinese
language opinion in Karma?s case was made
available within hours of the sentencing?strongly
suggesting that the decision was ?preordained,?
according to a Human Rights Watch observer.

On 3 July 2010, ten days after Karma?s
sentencing, the Chamdo Intermediate People?s
Court sentenced environmentalist Rinchen Samdrup
to five years in prison on charges of ?incitement
to split the country? for posting an article
about the Dalai Lama on his website. Rinchen?s
family members were refused permission to see him
and his lawyer, Xia Jun, had not been able to
meet with him since his first court appearance in January 2010.

Three cousins have also been the target of
official governmental reprisals in recent months.
After organizing a group to petition in Beijing
on Rinchen Samdrup?s behalf, Sonam Choephel was
sentenced to one and a half years of re-education
through labor. In March 2010, Rinchen Dorje, a
Buddhist monk, was arrested on vague and
unspecified charges while meditating in a cave as
part his hermit vows. At the time of this
writing, Rinchen Dorje?s whereabouts and well-being remain unknown.

On 5 July 2010, the sixth member of the Samdrup
family was arbitrarily deprived of his personal
freedom. Tashi Topgyal, a teacher in his early
thirties, was seized by a dozen Chinese security
personnel from a home in Lhasa, where he had
traveled seeking information on the whereabouts
of Rinchen Dorjee. According to reports, Topgyal
had traced Rinchen to a hospital in Xinjiang.
Chinese Police explained that Rinchen?s burns
were the result of electric prods used on him
during an alleged escape attempt.

Some analysts suggest that persecution of the
Samdrups may be more attributable to local
officials than central authorities in Beijing.
Nevertheless, the TCHRD calls on the Chinese
government to investigate the cases of Karma
Samdrup, Jigme Namgyal, Rinchen Samdrup, Sonam
Cheophel, Rinchen Dorje, and Tashi Topgyal?cases
which apparently fall far short of due process
standards under both Chinese and international
law. The plight of the family illustrates the
hollowness of the Chinese government?s claims of
?remarkable progress in the improvement of its
legal system.? TCHRD calls on the Chinese
government to live up to its policy commitments
regarding the enjoyment of civil and political
rights in its recently unveiled National Human
Rights Action Plan 2009-2010. The Centre deems
these miscarriages of justice as particularly
troubling given China?s new laws regarding the
inadmissibility of evidence with unclear origins
and confessions obtained through torture and
intimidation. These cases call into question the
efficacy of China?s commitment to improve its human rights record.

Tashi Choephel Jamatsang (Mr.)
Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy
Top Floor Narthang Building
Gangchen Kyishong, Dharamsala
H.P. INDIA 176215
Mobile: +91-9418122921

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