Chinese authorities should immediately drop the politically motivated case against a Tibetan shopkeeper who has publicly supported education in the Tibetan language, Human Rights Watch said Jan. 15. A trial is expected to take place soon.
Tashi Wangchuk, 31, was detained on Jan. 27, 2016, after appearing in a New York Times video in which he advocated for the rights of Tibetans to learn and study in their mother tongue. Although he told the paper explicitly that he was not calling for Tibetan independence, he was charged in March 2016 with “inciting separatism,” and faces up to 15 years in prison.
In September, prosecutors sent his case for trial by a criminal court in Yushu prefecture, Qinghai, but in December, they unusually asked the court to send the case back to them for further investigation. The re-investigation concluded by Jan. 4, and the case has now been returned to the court for trial.
“Tashi Wangchuk has joined the ranks of those prosecuted in China by simply calling for rights to be respected and the law to be upheld,” said Sophie Richardson, the rights group’s China director. “Cultural rights, which include the right to use one’s own language, are protected under both the Chinese Constitution and international human rights law.”