DHARAMSHALA: As Tashi Wangchuk, a Tibetan language rights advocate, is set to go on trial today for allegedly ‘inciting separatism’, CTA President Dr Lobsang Sangay expressed his concern and urged Chinese authorities to uphold constitutional rights while pronouncing the sentence.
“Tashi Wangchuk has on his own volition advocated for a constitutionally guaranteed right, that of bi-lingual education for Tibetans and ethnic minorities. His trial and sentencing will determine largely whether the Chinese Government is committed to upholding the internationally recognised laws and domestically accepted rule of law in China,” Dr Lobsang Sangay, President of the Central Tibetan Administration said.
Tashi Wangchuk was detained on 27 January 2016 after appearing in a New York Times video in which he advocated for the rights of Tibetans to learn and study their mother tongue. He was formally charged with “inciting separatism” in March 2016 despite his stance that he doesn’t seek to separate Tibet from China.
The trial is set to take place at Yushu Intermediate People’s Court in Qinghai Province. If declared guilty, Tashi Wangchuk could face up to 15 years in prison.
It is reported that a number of foreign diplomatic representatives in Beijing will travel to Yushu to witness the hearing.
As an advocate for Tibetan culture, Tashi Wangchuk has maintained a blog writing about greater autonomy for Tibetans within China and has been vocal about language education. He has called for schools in Tibet to adopt a true system of bilingual education so that Tibetan children can become fluent in their mother language. None of his writings have called for Tibetan independence.
He has also said that the dearth of effective Tibetan language education, and the fact that the language is not used in government offices, violates the Chinese Constitution, which guarantees cultural autonomy for Tibetan and other ethnic regions.
Since his detention in 2016, Tashi Wangchuk’s case has attracted the attention of numerous international rights groups and agencies such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, PEN America and International Campaign for Tibet. These groups have repeatedly called on China to drop the charges and release him.