19/11/2019

China denies family access to two Labrang monks serving lengthy prison sentences

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A TV grab shows Tsultrim Gyatso inside the court during the trial on 21 May 2009
A TV grab shows Tsultrim Gyatso inside the court during the trial on 21 May 2009

Two Tibetans who were earlier sentenced on 21 May 2009 by the Kanlho (Ch: Gannan) Intermediate People’s Court to life and another to 15 years’ imprisonment terms were denied access to family members since their detention for more than a year, according to information received by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD).

Tsultrim Gyatso, a 37-year-old from Yigchung Thang Village in Labrang (Ch: Xiahe) County, and Thabkhay Gyatso, 34, from Sangkhog Township in Labrang County were detained for their participation in the protests that took place in Labrang on 14 and 15 May 2008. Both Tsultrim and Thabkhay are monks of Labrang Monastery in Sangchu County, Gannan “Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture” (‘TAP’) Gansu Province. Tsultrim Gyatso immediately left Sangchu County after the demonstration to avoid arrest but was eventually tracked down and arrested by Drugchu County Public Security Bureau (PSB) personnel on 22 May 2008. There is no clear information on Thabkhay Gyatso’s place and date of detention.

On 21 May 2009, the Gannan Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Tsultrim Gyatso to life imprisonment whereas Thabkhay Gyatso was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment term on charges of ‘separatism’.

According to sources, both Tsultrim and Thabkhay were not only denied access to their family members but also their family members were not informed about the trial. Family members of both monks are known to be very worried about their well being as they have not seen their sons for more than a year, sources told TCHRD.

It is highly condemnable that like many other detainees in Tibet, both Tsultrim and Thabkhay were completely denied access to their family members. Under such circumstances it is highly doubtful whether the defendants ever received anything remotely resembling international standards for fair trial such as adequate legal representation of their choice. According to the latest information, Thabkhay Gyatso who is known to be suffering from severe appendicitis is recovering in Tsoe Government hospital after successful minor surgery. No family members were allowed to meet him in the hospital.

TCHRD calls on the Chinese authorities to allow immediate access to their family members and to ensure in all circumstances to respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms of the two in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international human rights instruments that People’s Republic of China is a state party.