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Tibetan writer sentenced to three years maintains his innocence

tibettimes-31The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) has received conflicting information on the recent sentencing of Tibetan writer, intellectual and blogger Druklo (pen-name: Shokjang) in Thunding (Ch: Tongren) County in Malho (Ch: Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province.

Exile Tibetan sources claim that Shokjang, 30, has been sentenced to three years in prison by a court in Thunding County, while other sources contacted by TCHRD maintain that the court has merely issued a verbal order that Shokjang be sentenced to three years, and that the actual sentencing order has not been issued yet.

Exile Tibetan sources last week reported that a court in Thunding County sentenced Shokjang to three years in prison on 17 February. Available information indicates that no due process of law was followed and a judge at the intermediate court arbitrarily passed the sentencing order. Shokjang was reportedly sentenced for inciting ethnic hatred during the 2008 uprising, maintaining secret contacts with ‘splittists’ living abroad, and publishing numerous online writings that harmed social stability. He was also given a 10-day ultimatum to sign a document stating his acceptance of the court’s verdict. Shokjang has categorically rejected the charges and requested to appeal the verdict. He was, however, allowed to meet with his four-year old son named Rawang Gawa (‘Freedom Lover’) for about four minutes. On 15 February, Shokjang’s family received a notice from the court informing them that Shokjang’s trial would take place on 17 February. Following the notice, a group of about 40 Tibetans including the writer’s family, relatives and friends arrived in Rebkong area. It is not known if they were allowed to observe to the trial or whether any trial took place at all.

photo0001Information from other sources reveal that Shokjang was merely informed that he would be sentenced to three years, but no relevant document was issued to his family to officially confirm the sentencing. A county-level court had reportedly informed Shokjang that he would be sentenced to between three to five years. But Shokjang refused to accept the order, which prompted the court to appeal to the provincial level court. The provincial court further passed down its decision that the writer be sentenced to three years. However, Shokjang again refused to accept the decision passed by the provincial court.

Sources said that Shokjang continues to maintain his innocence, stating that he has committed no crimes and that there was no evidence to prove the charges levelled against him. Calling the charges baseless and against the law, Shokjang has accused the authorities of forcibly and secretly detaining him for about nine months, restricting his movement, and attempting to sentence him without evidence.

Shokjang was arbitrarily detained on 19 March 2015 in Rebkong by Chinese security forces. He remained in secret detention for months and his family was not informed about his whereabouts. In December 2015, his family was allowed for the first time to bring him food and fresh clothing, but later that also stopped. After remaining in secret detention for about 11 months, Shokjang was ordered sentenced to three years in prison.

On 16 March 2015, two days before his arbitrary detention, Shokjang had shared the following information on his WeChat account: “Gun-toting soldiers have surrounded Rebkong. They are frisking the Tibetans. Is this meant to protect public security? Or is this a deliberate ploy to provoke the people? If this is how they create the so-called social stability, how extremely terrifying this act is!”

Through his writings, Shokjang merely shared what was really happening in his homeland, thus letting the world know about the pain and suffering borne by fellow Tibetans. Thus the charges levelled against him are baseless and his sentencing has no basis in Chinese or International Law, both of which allow for an individual to think and express freely through peaceful means.

shokjangShokjang was born in 1986 and brought up in Gengya Village of Labrang (Ch: Xiahe) County in Gannan (Ch: Kanlho) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province, in the Tibetan province of Amdo. His real name is Druklo (‘Year of the Dragon’). His step-father’s name is Tadrin and his mother’s name is Lhamo Kyi. Before his detention, he lived with his wife and four-year-old son Rawang Gawa. He is a graduate of North West Nationalities’ University in Lanzhou. He had been detained earlier, from his university, along with his college mate Tashi Rabten (pen-name: Theurang) on 6 April 2015. After a month of rigorous interrogation in secret detention, he was released. But Theurang was sentenecd to four years and released in 2014 after the completion of his term. Upon his graduation, Shokjang was barred from participating in the convocation ceremony. He remained under close surveillance and had to face numerous hardships, including finding employment, induced by the authorities. He had translated into Tibetan writings of Chinese democracy activists such as Wang Lixiong and Yu Jie. A poet, lyricist, short story writer and essayist, Shokjang is the author of four books: ‘The Courageous Path’, ‘The Might of the Pen’, ‘For Liberty, I Have No Regrets’ and ‘Rangdrol’s Courage’, – the last one was dedicated to the late poet, short-story writer and scholar Dondrub Gyal. The Chinese authorities have banned ‘The Courageous Path’.

On 15 November 2015, to celebrate the Day of the Imprisoned Writers, the Amnesty International Canada in conjunction with the Quebecoi Centre of PEN International and UNEQ (Quebec Writers Union) highlighted the persecution of Shokjang at the launch of a campaign called ‘Livres comme l’Air’ (‘Books as the Air’ or a pun in French meaning ‘Free as the Air’). The campaign twins 10 Canadian writers with 10 jailed or harassed writers, journalists or bloggers around the world. As a gesture of solidarity, each of the 10 Canadian writers has dedicated one of their books to a jailed writer, journalist or blogger. Canadian writer Louis-Philippe Hébert has dedicated his book ‘Marie Réparatrice’ to Shokjang. On behalf of Shokjang, TCHRD has received a copy of the book through Amnesty International Canada. The book includes a handwritten note of solidarity to Shokjang from author Louis-Philippe Hébert.

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