Investigate death of Tibetan man detained for opposing China’s forced political education

Chinese authorities must immediately conduct independent and impartial investigation into the death of Mr Norsang, a father of six, who died under mysterious circumstances more than a week after his detention in Tachen Township in Shak Rongpo area, Nagchu (Ch: Naqu) City, Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), in the Tibetan province of Kham.

A credible investigation is imperative to determine the truth behind Mr Norsang’s untimely death. “Chinese authorities must account for any violation of the right to life, the most basic of human rights, and impose punitive sanctions on offending officers,” said Tsering Tsomo, executive director of TCHRD. “In addition to providing adequate compensation to the victim’s family, other necessary measures must be adopted to prevent future violations of the right to life of Tibetan detainees.”

Mr Norsang had been forcibly taken to the township Public Security Bureau (PSB) detention center in September 2019. He had been detained along with five other Tibetans for opposing the forced political education campaign organised by local Chinese authorities to ensure that the Chinese party-state’s 70th founding anniversary celebrations went ahead without any opposition.

The five other Tibetans identified as Tsegyal, Yangphel, Dudhul Lhagye, Shewang Namgyal, and Sither Wangyal were released in less than a week. Mr Norsang’s whereabouts had remained unknown to the outside world owing to the prevailing restrictions on all forms of communication in the region.

Sources informed TCHRD that Mr Norsang was likely subjected to severe beatings and torture, which eventually led to his death. To cover up the extrajudicial killing, local PSB authorities claimed that Mr Norsang, overburdened by unpaid loans, had committed suicide by jumping off the bridge over the local Shakchu river.

However, local Tibetan sources told TCHRD that Mr Norsang’s economic situation was stable and he had no pending loans in his name. They believe that local police officers had beaten him to death and then fabricated the suicide theory to avoid taking responsibility for his death.

In early October 2019, soon after his death, a group of local PSB officers conducted a thorough search of his home for several days. The forcible search of the house caused further distress to his bereaved widow, who underwent a nervous breakdown at the news of her husband’s death. She was also heavily pregnant at the time with their sixth child.

Norsang’s family members had not seen him since his detention because the local police had refused their plea to visit him or deliver food and other necessities. Instead the family members received threats that if they continued with such requests, Mr Norsang would be given a heavier sentence.

The detention of Mr Norsang, which eventually led to his death, was arbitrary with no legal basis. It violated his right to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and dissent without interference by government authorities.

Mr Norsang is a resident of Sabah village in Tachen Township. Son of Mr Sonam Wanga and Mrs Gangchung, he was known for his firm determination and consistent refusal to give in to Chinese political propaganda, which
requires local Tibetans to put up a show of living in freedom and happiness, hang up the portraits of Chinese leaders or hoist Chinese national flags. He openly asserted his unflinching devotion to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and pride in a distinct Tibetan national identity.

As of May 2021, residents of Mr Norsang’s hometown have been put through targeted interrogations by Chinese authorities to detect possible connections with the so-called ‘foreign agents’. Those suspected of such
connections are subjected to a thorough search of their homes and mobile devices, along with other forceful measures. Local authorities have threatened them with grave consequences if they were found to be in
contact with ‘separatists’. Anyone showing any hint of resistance is singled out and detained.

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