A Chinese court has given heavy prison terms to six Tibetans “for their roles in an October self-immolation case,” reported the Chinese government-owned news agency Xinhua on 31 January.
On 23 October 2012, a Tibetan farmer, Dorjee Rinchen, 58, died after setting his body on fire in protest against Chinese rule at Gyugya market on the main street of Sangchu county, which was located near a Chinese military camp. After the self-immolation protest, his body was taken to his home village Zayu in Sangchu. This was done to protect him from getting into the hands of Chinese officers. His family members were able to conduct necessary rites and rituals after his death. Security officers even tried to stop the Labrang monks from going to Dorjee Rinchen’s home for prayers.
On 31 January, the Sangchu (Ch: Xiahe) County People’s Court in Kanlho (Ch: Gannan) Prefecture, Gansu Province, sentenced Pema Dhondup to 12 years with two years’ deprivation of political rights; Kelsang Gyatso to 11 years with one year deprivation of political rights; Pema Tso to eight years; Lhamo Dhondup to seven years; Dugkar Kyap to four years and Yangmo Kyi to three years.
The Xinhua report however did not say whether the defendants were given the right to choose their own lawyers. It simply said, “Tibetan translators were provided for the trial. During the court hearing, the six defendants and their attorneys, and the prosecutors, all expressed their opinion.”
There is also the perennial question of how the confessions were extracted from the accused or if due legal process was followed to convict them.