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TCHRD submits list of Chinese party secretaries for sanctions under Global Magnitsky Act

December 17, 2020

The Honorable Michael R. Pompeo 

Secretary of State 

U.S. Department of State 

2201 C Street NW 

Washington, DC 20520 

Dear Mr. Secretary:

We would like to thank the government of the United States of America for enforcing the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act (2018) and announcing targeted sanctions on some of the Chinese officials responsible for denying access to Tibet to Americans in July 2020. The United States’ commitment to “support meaningful autonomy for Tibetans, respect for their fundamental and unalienable human rights, and the preservation of their unique religious, cultural, and linguistic identity” will bring greater freedom and human rights in Tibet.

During the same month, sanctions were imposed under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act on one Chinese government entity and four current or former government officials including the former Party Secretary of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) Chen Quanguo in connection with serious rights abuses against ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have bolstered the hopes and morale of individuals and organisations around the world with the reassurance that the United States is seriously committed to addressing human rights violations and corruption in concrete terms at the global level.

The Global Magnitsky Act strongly attests to the admirable and principled action taken by the United States and provides an opportunity for the United States to lead the international community in protecting human rights advocates and activists. The United States has been a global leader in imposing targeted sanctions on Russian officials for human rights abuses and the situation in Ukraine. We feel reassured that the United States is committed to applying those same protections to Tibet and the rest of the world.

The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) has been one of the strongest advocates for the Global Magnitsky Act, calling on the US government and other like-minded States to impose targeted sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for human rights abuses and crimes against humanity in Tibet. In our 2013 report, ‘Ending Impunity: Crimes Against Humanity in Tibet’[1], we recommended that the international community imposed travel bans and froze the assets of Chinese officials that committed crimes against humanity, including torture and murder, in Tibet. 

Based on the current international legal system, the report presented fresh insights and evidence on Chinese authorities engaging not just in human rights violations but also acts of ‘crimes against humanity’ such as extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary detention in a widespread and systematic manner in Tibet. The human rights abuses and ‘crimes against humanity’ have only escalated since the report was released. 

Last November, Tsering Tso, a Tibetan woman known for her courage and conviction in exercising human rights to call for “democracy and rule of law” in Tibet was subjected to 10-day detention without due process and judicial review for two of her WeChat posts that the officers viewed were related to the “stability maintenance” policy [2]. Tsering Tso was forcibly detained from her Xining home on the night of 12 November by 10 officers and taken to the Trikha (Chinese: Guide) County detention centre. Tsering Tso recently told Radio Free Asia that she had long been under surveillance partly because she is an alumnus of the “International Visitor Leadership Program”, a professional exchange program initiated by the US State Department. On her return from the US, she had been blacklisted as “an individual who require special attention”.

In August 2020, a Tibetan mother of two named Lhamo died [3] of torture in police custody about two months after her detention in Driru County, Nagchu City, TAR. Her cousin Tenzin Tharpa was also detained around same time and remains in prolonged pretrial detention on vague charges. Tharpa has been charged of helping local Tibetans including his cousin Lhamo send money to relatives in India. During a search conducted at Lhamo’s home, local police found pictures and videos of the Dalai Lama. Again in June 2020, a popular Tibetan singer, Lhundrub Drakpa, was sentenced to six years in prison for performing a song that criticised repressive government policies in Driru [4].

These few examples of murder, torture and illegal detention of people exercising their human rights demonstrate that there are multiple commissions of underlying criminal offenses for ‘crimes against humanity’. All of these offenses are carried out in the furtherance of the Chinese state’s ‘stability maintenance’ policy, which is established at the highest level of the government, as explained in the “Ending Impunity: Crimes Against Humanity in Tibet’” report.

We urge you to sanction the Chinese government officials as per the list attached to the annexure for engaging in gross human rights abuses and ‘crimes against humanity’ in Tibet. The Chinese party secretaries named in this list are criminally responsible for the murder, torture and arbitrary detention of Tibetans and therefore should be banned from the United States and have their financial assets in the United States frozen. 

Sincerely,

Tsering Tsomo

Executive Director

Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy

cc: 

US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Terner Mnuchin

US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues Robert A. Destro

US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback

Annexure

List of Party Secretaries Responsible for crimes against humanity in Tibet

The list of Chinese government officials recommended for sanctions focusses on mid-level government officials who have governed Tibetan areas in different time periods when they engaged in gross human rights violations. This approach is effective because mid-level officials are more susceptible to international pressure than high level officials. The career of mid-level government officials depend on international cooperation as such when they visit as Chinese government delegation to foreign countries trying to attract investment from foreign corporations or promoting the Chinese government’s propaganda. For many party secretaries, the position is necessary to further advance their career. Most members of the Party’s supreme decision-making body have previously been a party secretary at the provincial level. Former Chinese president Hu Jintao was the party secretary of TAR from 1988 to 1992. 

The party secretaries are criminally responsible for human rights violations even if they were not physically present at the scene of the crimes. People can be responsible for crimes they commit jointly with others or through another person. [5] Especially for crimes against humanity which can require the creation of a policy (which in China’s case is the “stability maintenance policy”) and its implementation, there will be multiple perpetrators. For instance, in November 2014, Ngawang Monlam (aka Bachen Gyewa), the head of Ushung village in Sentsa Township in Driru County, was removed from his post, arrested and then killed on the orders of the secretary of the Driru County Party Committee. The party secretaries are also responsible for not doing anything to prevent or punish the commission of crimes against humanity. 

This list contains information on seven Chinese party officials who have served as party secretaries in Tibetan areas where mass atrocities and human rights abuses have been reported during different time periods. 

  1. Zhang Qingli (张庆)

 Zhang Qingli was the Party Secretary of TAR from 2005 to 2011. Throughout his tenure, Zhang oversaw torture and murder as crimes against humanity in TAR. He oversaw the murder of unarmed protesters by security forces including Lhakpa Tsering and Jinpa during the 2008 protests that marked the largest series of protests against Chinese rule in Tibet since 1959. He was also responsible for the policies of harsh repression that resulted in the torture and death of Dawa. The murder of Lhakpa Tsering, Jinpa, and Dawa were in furtherance of a policy of repression in Tibet and the particularly brutal response to the 2008 protest that caused the murder and torture of hundreds of people. These cases of murder and torture are attributable to Zhang Qingli if he knew of the plan and he knowingly made an essential contribution in furtherance of the plan or if as the commander he knew of the conduct of his subordinates and did not prevent or punish the commission of the crimes. They are responsible for the conduct of their subordinates if they fail to properly exercise control and the party secretaries knew or should have known that crimes were being committed and did not take all necessary and reasonable measures to prevent and punish the commission of the crimes.

As the highest ranking official in their region or province, the party secretaries have a legal duty to prevent and punish the commission of any crimes. Failure to exercise this authority is a breach of their legal duty and entails responsibility for their commission. The party secretaries in charge of Tibetan areas have not prevented or punished the commission of crimes against humanity. In fact, in some cases they have done just the opposite and punished officials who are too lenient. [6] In other cases they have specifically endorsed their commission. [7]

Zhang Qingli had also been a member of the Standing Committee of the Party Committee of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and commander of Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps from 1999 to 2004, as well as deputy Party Secretary of XUAR from 2004 to 2005. He was the Acting Secretary of the TAR Party Committee from 2005 to 2006 and the TAR Party Secretary from 2006 to 2011. In 2013, he was promoted as the Vice Chairman and Secretary-General of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. He is now the Vice Chairman and Deputy Secretary of the Party Leadership Group of the 13th CPPCC National Committee.

2. Wu Yingjie (吴英杰)

Wu Yingjie has been the Party Secretary of the TAR and First Secretary of TAR Party Military Region since August 2016. Wu Yingjie’s ascension to the top post in TAR coincided with the intensification of hard-line policy in Tibet owing to his predecessor Chen Quanguo’s ironhanded approach to building a police state in TAR as well as the overall deterioration in human rights situation under president Xi Jinping.

In March 2019, Wu Yingjie defended the decision to bar foreigners from visiting Tibet from January 30 to April 1 calling it “normal annual closure period” [8]. The annual travel ban to TAR was extended by two weeks that year forcing travellers to postpone their plans andforeign diplomats included in the temporary blacklist and banned from entering. The prolonged sealing of Tibetan borders during sensitive political anniversaries allows Chinese authorities to block information on its brutal crackdown on Tibetan activists and hide the large scale arbitrary detention, torture and extrajudicial killings in TAR. 

In August 2020, Wu Yingjie called on the party officials to win the “tough battle against separatism” and “profoundly expose and criticize the reactionary nature” of the Dalai Lama and his supporters at a meeting of the TAR Party Committee’s National Security Committee [9]. Wu said there should be a “clear-cut stand to eliminate the negative influence of the 14th Dalai Lama’s use of religion, and guide the religious believers to treat religion rationally, downplay the negative influence of religion, and live a happy life for this lifetime.”

Again on a visit to Chamdo in October 2020, Wu Yingjie, Wu called for eradicating all influence of the Dalai Lama from Tibetan Buddhism inside Tibet “so that the believing masses distinguish religious devotion from everyday life, distinguish religious devotion from separatist sabotage, distinguish religious devotion from the 14th Dalai, and distinguish religious devotion from enjoying their present happy life” [10]. Possession of the Dalai Lama’s image has been banned in TAR since 1996 [11].

The defamation campaign against the Dalai Lama has been a party policy since 1994 when PRC’s president and party general secretary Jiang Zemin insisted that “the Dalai clique” is a “factor of instability” at the “Third Tibet Work Forum” in 1994. [12] Chinese authorities consider Tibetan nationalism as a snake, and the Dalai Lama as the “serpent’s head,” and have been using a propaganda slogan that, “to kill a serpent, one must cut off its head”.

3. Penpa Tashi (边巴扎西)

 Penpa Tashi has spent a major part of his party career in Nagchu, which includes a four-year tenure as the party secretary of Nagchu Prefecture from January 2008 to January 2013. He was also the first secretary of the Party Committee of the Nagchu Military Subdistrict from January 2012 to January 2013.

As a party member since 1985, he had also been the director of the Seventh Bureau of the Central United Front Work Department in 2017, where he had worked from 2005.

Since May 2017, he has been a standing committee member of the TAR party committee; minister of TAR propaganda department; and secretary of the party internet working committee. For a year, he had been the vice chairman of TAR from January to December 2013. As the party secretary of Nagchu Prefecture, he was responsible for commissioning the crime of human rights violations in the region. 

4. Dothok (多托)

 Dothok has been deputy secretary and deputy director of the Party Leadership Group of the Standing Committee of the TAR People’s Congress since January 2017. 

On January 30, 2018, the First Session of the Eleventh TAR People’s Congress appointted Dothok as the deputy director of the Standing Committee of the TAR People’s Congress.

He is a veteran party official on Nagchu having spent more than a decade as the party chief of Nagchu City from December 2012 to February 2014, a period marked by one of the most widespread crackdown on human rights including also ‘crimes against humanity’ in Nagchu Prefecture. 

In 2014, he was promoted as a member of the Standing Committee of the TAR Party Committee and deputy secretary of the Party Leadership Group of the Standing Committee of the TAR People’s Congress.

He began his party career in 1982 as a cadre in the Nagchu economic planning committee and later as deputy secretary of Sog County; party secretary of Amdo County; Secretary of the Party Leadership Group of the Planning and Economic Committee of Nagchu; secretary of the Party Leadership Group and deputy secretary of the Nagchu Planning Committee.

5. Sangye Tashi (松吉扎西)

 Sangye Tashi is a former party secretary of Nagchu City who has spent significant years of his career in Nagchu working as Nagchu City’s deputy party secretary (2014-2016) and party secretary (2016 – 2020).

On January 21, 2020, the TAR party committee announced the removal of Sangye Tashi from all his posts. 

On June 9, 2020, the Standing Committee of the TAR People’s Congress also announced that Sangye Tashi submitted his resignation as a representative of the 11th TAR People’s Congress, which said Sangye Tashi’s was relieved of his duties in accordance Article 49 of the “Law of the People’s Republic of China on the National People’s Congress and Local People’s Congress Representatives”.

6. Ao Liuquan (敖刘全)

 Ao Liuquan has been the party secretary of Nagchu City from January 2020. He was the deputy party secretary of Nagchu City from April 2018 to January 2020 as well as the deputy party secretary of Nagchu Prefecture from January 2016 to April 2018. He had spent majority of his postings in Chamdo Prefecture, where local officials are notorious for their harsh and brutal approach to ‘stability maintenance’ in the Tibetan region.  . 

His elevation in the rank and file of the party in Nagchu Prefecture has been marked by intensification of violent crackdowns in in Driru and Sog (Chinese: Suo) counties. Local authorities in Nagchu have issued repressive directives that have been enforced to fine and imprison local Tibetans for contacting relatives and friends living abroad. Numerous acts of mass atrocity such as torture, arbitrary detention and murder have been carried out in the furtherance of the Chinese state’s “stability maintenance policy”.

7. Chen Gang (陈刚)

 Chen Gang was expressly deputed to quell the protests among local Tibetans in November 2013 in Driru County. As the party secretary of Driru and later as a standing committee member of Nagchu prefectural party committee, he oversaw the human rights abuses committed in Driru and elsewhere in the prefecture.

Chen Gang began his career in the state-owned resource extraction industry serving as a hydraulic technician in Zogang County, Chamdo Prefecture. From April 2005 to September 2008, he was the deputy party secretary of Jomda (Chinese: Jiangda) County as well as the deputy director of Jomda County Yulong Copper Mine Management Committee. From 2008 to 2013, he was the deputy director of the Land and Resources Bureau of Chamdo Prefecture in addition to holding the post of party chief of Markham County.

Endnotes

[1] TCHRD welcomes introduction of targeted sanctions bill for violators of human rights, February 2015, available at: https://tchrd.org/tchrd-welcomes-introduction-of-targeted-sanctions-bill-for-violators-of-human-rights/

[2] China: Stop harassing and detaining Tibetan civil society leaders, December 2020, available at: https://tchrd.org/china-stop-harassing-and-detaining-tibetan-civil-society-leaders/

[3] China: Tibetan Woman Dies in Custody, October 2020, available at: https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/10/29/china-tibetan-woman-dies-custody

[4] China: Release Tibetan singer Lhundrub Drakpa from arbitrary detention, October 2020, available at: https://tchrd.org/china-release-tibetan-singer-lhundrub-drakpa-from-arbitrary-detention/

[5] Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Article 25(3)(a)

[6] China Demotes 6 Tibetan Officials in TAR,” TCHRD, May 2012, available at: https://tchrd.org/china-demotes-6-tibetan-officials-in-tar/ 

[7] Weakness of the Oppressor: Leaked document exposes psychological traumas faced by Chinese armed police in Tibet,” TCHRD, May 2013, available at: https://tchrd.org/weakness-of-the-oppressed-leaked-document-exposes-psychological-traumas-faced-by-chinese-armed-police-in-tibet/ 

[8] China extends ban on foreigners in Tibet as uprising feted, Sang Jieja

Updated: March 19, 2019

Ucanews, https://www.ucanews.com/news/china-extends-ban-on-foreigners-in-tibet-as-uprising-feted/84717#

[9] Communist Party leader urges struggle against Dalai Lama

By International Campaign for Tibet, August 27, 2020

[10] Chinese Authorities Aim to ‘Liberate’ Tibetan Believers, Sophie Richardson

October 22, 2020. https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/10/22/chinese-authorities-aim-liberate-tibetan-believers

[11] Forbidden Image The 1996 Chinese Ban of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama’s Image, Sarah Getzelman (Ohio State University), Case Western Reserve University, Greater China (Winter 2008),  https://case.edu/affil/tibet/documents/Forbidden_Image_The_1996_Chinese_Ban_of.pdf

[12] Dissenting Voices 2010: Targeting the Intellectuals, Writers and Cultural Figures, Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, https://www.scribd.com/document/159903237/Dissenting-Voices-2010-Targeting-the-Intellectuals-Writers-and-Cultural-Figures