Thousands support Tashi Wangchuk

Tashi Wangchuk, arrested language campaigner 2016
Tashi Wangchuk

26th April 2016

UK and US take up case after contacts from Free Tibet

Free Tibet has today submitted a 2,120 signature petition to the governor of Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, demanding the release of jailed language campaigner, Tashi Wangchuk. The petition's signatures were obtained in just two weeks from Tibet supporters across the world.

The US State Department responded to our urgent letter to confirm that it is following his case. At a meeting yesterday, the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office told us that it has added Tashi Wangchuk to its list of people of concern and intends to raise his case directly with China in the forthcoming UK-China Human Rights Dialogue. Free Tibet is urging supporters to contact their governments to maintain pressure for action on his case.

Punished for speaking out

Tashi Wangchuk was arrested in January after his peaceful campaign to improve Tibetan language education in his home area was featured in a New York Times article and film. In March, he was charged with separatism, a vaguely-defined offence that allows China to criminalise any activity by Tibetans it considers a threat. If convicted, Tashi Wangchuk could face 15 years in prison.

His arrest followed a major New York Times article about his campaign. International media are normally banned from Tibet and it is very rare that the voices of Tibetans like Tashi Wangchuk are given a platform in this way. Even though Tashi Wangchuk stressed that his campaign was not political and even offered praise to Chinese President Xi Jinping, it is likely that his arrest was a direct result of the article and intended to act as a deterrent to other Tibetans.

Thousands demand justice

Free Tibet's petition to the regional authorities in Tibet said:

Dear Governor

We, the undersigned, call on you to unconditionally release Tashi Wangchuk [[Ch: Zhaxi Wangchu], who was arrested on 27 January 2016 and charged with separatism on 4 March. His last known location was Yushu detention centre.

Tashi Wangchuk was arrested apparently because of his peaceful attempts to improve Tibetan language education, which was featured in a New York Times article and video last November.  He appealed for change through official channels and did not advocate Tibetan independence. In his New York Times interview, he made clear that he was solely concerned with preserving Tibet’s culture and encouraged Chinese officials to aid Tibetans in doing so. He also offered praise to President Xi Jinping.

Tashi Wangchuk’s campaign was to ensure proper implementation of the guarantees offered in Article 4 of the Chinese Constitution which states that "[t]he people of all nationalities have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages, and to preserve or reform their own ways and customs." Article 41 states that "citizens of the People's Republic of China have the right to criticize and make suggestions to any state organ or functionary" and that "no one may suppress such complaints, charges and exposures, or retaliate against the citizens making them".

The New York Times articles have ensured that Tashi Wangchuk's unjust treatment is receiving worldwide attention. In accordance with his universal human right to free expression and his rights under the Chinese constitution, we urge you to drop all charges against Tashi Wangchuk and to immediately and unconditionally release him.

Take action for Tashi Wangchuk

Please write to your Foreign Minister, calling on them to urge the Chinese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Tashi Wangchuk.