Tibetan writer Dhi Lhaden sentenced to four years in prison

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) condemns the unjust sentencing of Tibetan writer Lhaden (Pen-name: Dhi Lhaden) to four years in prison and calls on the Chinese authorities to end all restrictions on free speech and dissent in Tibet.

The sentencing is a reprisal for Mr Lhaden’s peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression including authoring books and essays criticising Chinese policies and advocating for freedom, human rights, and democracy.

He was convicted for “disrupting social order”, one of the most common criminal charges used by the Chinese party-state to silence human rights advocates. The charge of “disrupting social order’ is a catchall term employed by the party-state to silence dissent and preserve the culture of censorship. The frequent use of this vague legal provision negates various other domestic legal provisions on freedom of expression in the Chinese Constitution and other laws and regulations.

Lhaden was sentenced recently on an unknown date at a secret trial which his family and relatives were not allowed to attend. Last December, Chinese authorities had informed his family about the upcoming trial. None of his family members has seen him since his detention.

The trial was held after more than two years of Mr Lhaden’s incommunicado detention in June 2019 in Chengdu city. TCHRD is concerned about Mr Lhaden’s health and wellbeing although Chinese authorities have not made available any information on his condition. In the Chinese criminal justice system, Tibetan political detainees are routinely subjected to torture and other inhumane means the worst form of which occurs during the pretrial detention period.

In his book Tungol Trimtug, Lhaden wrote, “What really destroys peace and stability are not acts that resist the whims of tyrants, but those that appease them. As long as the citizens remain like slaves by acquiescing to the tyrants’ demands, there shall be more violation of fundamental rights”. The book, translated into English by TCHRD as The Art of Passive Resistance, was reportedly used by the authorities to charge him of the so-called crime of “disrupting social order”.

China’s Human Rights Action Plan (2021-2025), published last September, claimed that the “state will enforce full judicial accountability, modernize China’s judicial system and capacity, and guarantee the right to a fair trial so that equity and justice are served in every judicial case”.

TCHRD urges Chinese authorities to release Lhaden immediately without any conditions and reveal information on his current health and wellbeing. Chinese authorities must guarantee Lhaden’s physical and psychological integrity and provide him timely and proper medical care.

Lhaden is a former monk, intellectual, and writer born in 1971 at Dida Village in Pema (Ch: Baima) County, Golok (Ch: Guoluo) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province, in the Tibetan province of Amdo. Popularly known as Dhi Lhaden, his ordained name as a monk was Thubten Lobsang Lhundup. At the age of 13, he became a monk at his local monastery, and at 15, he joined the Larung Gar Buddhist Institute in Serta (Ch: Seda) County, Kardze (Ch: Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province. At 27, he travelled to Lhasa to pursue further studies at the Drepung and Sera monasteries but had to cut his studies short. Since 2008, he has visited various places in Tibet to experience and record the observations of fellow Tibetans. His first book titled Tsesok Le Trun Pe Kecha (‘Words Uttered with Life at Risk’) was published by TCHRD in March 2011. The book was released to coincide with the third anniversary of the 2008 Mass Uprising in Tibet and the 16th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. His second book, originally titled Tungol Trimtug (‘Resistance through Cooperation with Law’) was translated and published as “The Art of Passive Resistance” on 29 June 2015.

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