Language campaigner could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted for “inciting separatism”
The judicial process for the Tibetan language campaigner Tashi Wangchuk has entered its next phase, with the very real risk that he could stand trial for the crime of “inciting separatism”. A conviction would carry a sentence of up to 15 years.
The New York Times reported earlier this week that police officers are pushing for a trial for Tashi Wangchuk, having completed an investigation requested by the prosecutor.
The charge he faces is believed to be related to his contact with journalists from the New York Times. The New York Times has reported on Tashi Wangchuk's campaigning work, which aimed to ensure that Tibetan language was taught all across Tibet. Despite the charge of "inciting splittism", Tashi Wangchuk had taken care not to make any comments regarding the occupation of Tibet and had even praised Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Having received the results of the police investigation, the prosecutor will determine whether or not Tashi Wangchuk should stand trial. There is a period of up to 90 days for the prosecutor to make this decision. If Tashi Wangchuk were to go to trial, China's 90 percent conviction rate means that he is likely to be imprisoned.
The campaign continues
Tashi Wangchuk, a businessman from Yushu County in central Tibet, has been in detention since January 2016. He was arrested one month after conducting interviews with the New York Times and appearing in a nine-minute documentary on the newspaper’s website.
The documentary followed Tashi Wangchuk to Beijing, where he was attempting to file a lawsuit against officials in Yushu County. Tashi Wangchuk had become concerned that his niece and other Tibetan children would not reach fluency in their native language following the forced cancellation of Tibetan classes in a local monastery.
Free Tibet continues to work on Tashi Wangchuk’s case through contacts with government officials and through a public campaign. So far 2,000 supporters have taken action and written to their Foreign Ministers. The UK Foreign Office, the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the US Department of State have all committed to raising Tashi Wangchuk’s case with the Chinese authorities.
Several foreign ministers have committed to raising Tashi Wangchuk's case, but more pressure on China is needed. If you have not already done so, please write to your foreign minister.