Premier Wen must be made to account for more than 1,000 missing Tibetans during UK visit

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Free Tibet launches new campaign: “The Missing 1000”

As Premier Wen arrives in the UK today the fate and whereabouts of more than one thousand Tibetans detained almost a year ago in connection to protests remain unknown, and unaccounted for by the Chinese government.

Premier Wen is the second most powerful leader in the Chinese government: his government has persistently refused to account for the missing Tibetans despite repeated demands for information from bodies such as the United Nations and the American Congressional Executive Committee on China (CECC).

According to reports in the official China Daily, by 21 June 2008 the Chinese authorities had released 3,072 of the 4,434 Tibetans detained by 9 April 2008 following the eruption of protests all over Tibet last March. The Chinese government has failed to provide any further information as to the legal status, medical condition and location of the Tibetans who had not been released as of last June. This lack of information places the missing Tibetans at greatly increased risk of torture which, according to the UN Committee Against Torture as recently as last November, is both “widespread” and “routine” in Chinese and Tibetan detention centres.

Evidence that has emerged from Tibet indicates that detained protesters have been tortured with impunity. The testimony of one monk, Jigme Gyatso, about the abuse he suffered whilst in detention has been posted on Youtube:

“I was beaten continuously for two days with nothing to eat nor a drop of water to drink…..The second time, I was unconscious for six days at the hospital, unable to open my eyes or speak a word……they lied to my family members by telling them that they had not beaten me; they also made me put down my thumbprint… on a document that said I was not tortured.”(1)

A 38 year old woman who was arrested for removing a signboard from a government office last March suffered severe beatings in detention and was covered with bruises when she was released. She was refused medical attention and died one month later as a result of the injuries sustained while in detention.

One reason for the lack of information and clarity on the Tibetan detainees still unaccounted for by the Chinese government is the ongoing refusal by the Chinese government to allow journalists and human rights monitoring agencies into large areas of Tibet. The Chinese government has also created a climate of extreme fear in Tibet in an attempt to deter Tibetans from contacting NGOs or journalists outside Tibet with information. One Tibetan healthworker, Wangdu, who did try and pass on information to contacts outside Tibet was recently charged with “espionage” and sentenced to life imprisonment. Many other “show trials” have passed sentences of disproportionate severity as the Chinese government attempts to send out a chilling message that Tibetans who pass information to the outside world will face severe consequences.

Free Tibet protests this weekend (for a full schedule of protests see note 3 below) will therefore hold Premier Wen Jiabao to account for the ongoing refusal of the Chinese government to supply information on the whereabouts of more than one thousand Tibetans. Free Tibet is also demanding that the Chinese government MUST:

Allow an independent inquiry into the events of March and April 2008
Provide a full list of names and locations of all Tibetans still in detention after last year’s protests.
Allow immediate and unrestricted access to journalists and human rights monitoring agencies to all parts of Tibet including the Tibetan Autonomous Prefectures.

Ends

For further information and comment:

Matt Whitticase, External Communications: +44 (0)20 7324 4605 (o) / +44 (0)7515 788456 (m)

Stephanie Brigden, Director: +44 (0)20 7324 4605 (o) / +44 (0)7530 528264

Notes to Editor:

(1) Jigme Gyatso’s testimony is available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?vGZLIKmInP24 . The YouTube posting is taken from a video interview Jigme gave to Voice of America (VOA). The posting is in Tibetan but an English translation of Jigme’s account has now been posted on the blog of the well-known Tibetan poet, Woeser: http://woeser.middle-way.net/2008/09/blog-post_7346.html.

(2) Further information on Free Tibet’s campaign “The Missing 1000” is available at: http://www.freetibet.org/campaigns/missing-1000

(3) Sunday 1 February

London

11am-1pm: Chinese Embassy

Chinese Embassy Address: 49-51 Portland Place London W1B 1JL

6pm – 10.30pm: Natural History Museum

Dinner organised by the China -Britain Business Council in honour of Premier Wen Jiabao who will deliver the keynote speech.

Protest: opposite main entrance, on Cromwell Road.

Natural History Museum
Address: Cromwell Road
London
SW7 5BD
Nearest tube: South Kensington

Map: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit-us/getting-here/index.html

Monday 2 February

London

8am- 10.30am Downing Street

Wen Jiabao is holding talks with Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Address: Downing Street
London
SW1A 2AA
Nearest tube: Westminster

Protest is opposite Downing Street, at Richmond Terrace.

Cambridge

2pm - 5pm West Road Concert Hall

His talk starts: 3pm. Wen Jiabao will give the prestigious Rede Lecture.

Address: West Road Concert Hall
11 West Rd
Cambridge
CB3 9DP

Venue information: http://www.westroad.org/contact/find_us.html

For further information: Matt Whitticase: +44 (0)20 7324 4605 / +44 (0)7515 788456
Or e-mail matt@freetibet.org