Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. There were no reports that officials investigated or punished those responsible for such killings that had previously taken place.
Authorities in Tibetan areas continued to detain Tibetans arbitrarily for indefinite periods.
The whereabouts of the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the second-most prominent figure after the Dalai Lama in Tibetan Buddhism’s Gelug school, remained unknown. Neither he nor his parents have been seen since Chinese authorities took them away in 1995 when he was six years old.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
According to credible sources, police and prison authorities employed torture and degrading treatment in dealing with some detainees and prisoners. There were reports during the year that Chinese officials severely beat some Tibetans who were incarcerated or otherwise in custody. In the past, such beatings have led to death.
On January 25, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported that in December 2016, police detained Khedrup, a Tibetan doctor from Machu (in Chinese: Maqu) county of Gannan TAP in Gansu Province. Police suspected that he sent photos and video clips of Tibetan Tashi Rabten’s self-immolation to international media. The report noted that police interrogated, tortured, beat, and applied other forms of mistreatment to Khedrup during his detention, which lasted more than one month.
On March 22, TibetanReview.net reported that public security officials and local police severely beat and tortured approximately 10 relatives of Tibetan farmer Pema Gyaltsen (or Pegyal) of Nyagrong (Chinese: Xinlong) county, Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi) TAP, Sichuan Province after they inquired about Pegyal’s conditions following his self-immolation on March 18. After beating them, police forced these relatives to stand the entire night, resulting in acute pain in their legs and spinal cords. Authorities released them only when officials of their townships provided letters vouching for their future good conduct.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions were harsh and potentially life threatening due to physical abuse and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care.
There were reports of recently released prisoners permanently disabled or in extremely poor health because of the harsh treatment they endured in prison (see Political Prisoners and Detainees subsection below). Former prisoners reported being isolated in small cells for months at a time and deprived of sleep, sunlight, and adequate food. According to individuals who completed their prison terms during the year, prisoners rarely received medical care except in cases of serious illness. There were many cases of detained and imprisoned persons being denied visitors. According to local contacts, authorities detained Thewo Kunchok Nyima, a well-known monk scholar of Drepung Monastery, in 2008 for acting as the “ring leader” and the main instigator of protests in Lhasa. Kunchok Nyima has reportedly been serving a 20-year sentence, but the government has not granted his family permission to visit him in prison. His whereabouts remained unknown.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
Arbitrary arrest and detention was a problem. Public security agencies are required by law to notify the relatives or employer of a detained person within 24 hours of their detention, but they often failed to do so when Tibetans and others were detained for political reasons. With a detention warrant, public security officers may legally detain persons throughout the PRC for up to 37 days without formally arresting or charging them. Following the 37-day period, public security officers must either formally arrest or release the detainee. Security officials frequently violated these requirements. It was unclear how many Tibetan detainees the authorities held under forms of detention not subject to judicial review.
According to the India-based Tibet Post International, in January Chinese security officers in Serta County, Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi) TAP of Sichuan Province arrested Sonam Tashi, a Tibetan man in his twenties, after he publicly advocated for freedom in Tibet and called for His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet. Tashi’s whereabouts and health conditions remained unknown following his arrest.
On March 21, Phayul.com reported that Dukpe, a Tibetan mother of two from Ngaba’s Raru Township, was arrested for shouting slogans such as “Long live the Dalai Lama” and “Freedom in Tibet.” Her whereabouts and health conditions remained unknown.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Legal safeguards for detained or imprisoned Tibetans were inadequate in both design and implementation. Prisoners in China have the right to request a meeting with a government-appointed attorney, but many Tibetan defendants, particularly political defendants, did not have access to legal representation. In cases that authorities claimed involved “endangering state security” or “separatism,” trials often were cursory and closed. Local sources noted that trials were predominantly conducted in Mandarin, with government interpreters providing language services for Tibetan defendants who did not speak Mandarin. Court decisions, proclamations, and other judicial documents, however, were generally not published in Tibetan.
In its annual work report, the TAR High People’s Court stated its top political tasks as firmly fighting against separatism, cracking down on the followers of “the 14th Dalai (Lama) clique,” and maintaining social stability by, among other things, sentencing those who instigated protests, promoted separatism, and supported “foreign hostile forces.” The report also stated the court prioritized “political direction,” which included absolute loyalty to the core party leadership.
In May the TAR Justice Department announced its decision to hire Chinese judicial personnel from outside the TAR. Among the requirements for new employees are loyalty to the CCP leadership and a willingness to combat separatism in the region.
Security forces routinely subjected political prisoners and detainees known as “special criminal detainees” to “political re-education” sessions.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
An unknown number of Tibetans were detained, arrested, and sentenced because of their political or religious activity. Authorities held many prisoners in extrajudicial detention centers and never allowed them to appear in public court.
Based on information available from the political prisoner database of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, as of October 1, there were 507 Tibetan political prisoners known to be detained or imprisoned, most of them in Tibetan areas. Observers believed the actual number of Tibetan political prisoners and detainees to be much higher, but the lack of access to prisoners and prisons, as well as the dearth of reliable official statistics, made a precise determination difficult. An unknown number of persons continued to be held in detention centers rather than prisons. In the 143 cases for which there was available information on sentencing, sentences ranged from two years’ to life imprisonment. Of the 143 persons, involved in those cases, 68 were monks, nuns, or Tibetan Buddhist reincarnate teachers.
Tibetan exiles and other observers believed Chinese authorities released Tibetan political prisoners in poor health to avoid deaths in custody. On May 1, authorities released Jampal, a Tibetan man from Machu County of the Tibetan area in Gansu Province, after he served eight years of his 13-year sentence for leading a protest in front of government offices in 2008. Many speculated that authorities granted him early release due to his poor physical condition. While in prison, he was reportedly tortured and suffered head and leg injuries, which negatively affected his ability to walk.
According to several local contacts, Jigme Gyatso, a monk of Labrang Monastery in Gansu Province, was released from prison in October 2016 due to poor health. He reportedly received permission to travel freely within China to receive medical treatment for the severe torture and beatings that he endured during his imprisonment.
Five Tibetans are thought to have self-immolated during the year, including one Tibetan Buddhist monk and three laypersons. There have been 145 such immolations since 2009, with the number per year decreasing from 83 reports of self-immolations in 2012, to seven in 2015, and three in 2016. Local contacts reported the decline in reported self-immolations was due to tightened security by authorities, the collective punishment of self-immolators’ relatives and associates, and the Dalai Lama’s public plea to his followers to find other ways to protest Chinese government repression. Chinese officials in some Tibetan areas withheld public benefits from the family members of self-immolators and ordered friends and monastic personnel to refrain from participating in religious burial rites or mourning activities for self-immolators. According to an April 15 RFA report, security officials detained at least five Tibetans, three of whom were severely beaten, for possessing the mobile phone of Wangchuk Tseten, a Tibetan man who reportedly self-immolated in Nyagrong (Chinese: Xinlong) county, Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi) TAP, Sichuan Province on April 15.
Self-immolators reportedly viewed their acts as protests against the government’s political and religious oppression. The Supreme People’s Court, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, and the Ministry of Public Security’s joint 2012 Opinion on Handling Cases of Self-immolation in Tibetan Areas According to the Law criminalized various activities associated with self-immolation, including “organizing, plotting, inciting, compelling, luring, instigating, or helping others to commit self-immolation,” each of which may be prosecuted as “intentional homicide.”
Authorities in Gannan TAP in Gansu Province imposed restrictions on the family of Chagdor Kyab, a 16-year-old student who self-immolated on May 2 in the Bora Township to protest against “Beijing’s rule in Tibetan areas.” He called for Tibetan freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet. Authorities prevented Chogdar’s family from holding prayer services and blocked visits by relatives and friends. In June local contacts reported that authorities ordered Chogdar’s family to receive “political education training” and threatened to discontinue the family’s public benefits should they defy the orders.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
Since 2015 the TAR has strengthened the punishment of Communist Party members who follow the Dalai Lama, secretly harbor religious beliefs, make pilgrimages to India, or send their children to study with Tibetans in exile. Authorities continued to monitor private correspondence and search private homes and businesses for photographs of the Dalai Lama and other politically forbidden items. Police examined the cell phones of TAR residents to search for “reactionary music” from India and photographs of the Dalai Lama. Authorities also questioned and detained some individuals who disseminated writings and photographs over the internet.
Since November 2016 the TAR CCP has strictly implemented a real-name user identification system for landline telephones, mobile phones, and the internet. It has also launched attacks and specialized campaigns to counter and ferret out “Tibetan independence” and promote the proliferation of party media into every home to oppose those who support the Dalai Lama.
The “grid system” (also known as the “double-linked household system”) continued. The grid system involves grouping households and establishments so that they can watch each other for societal issues and report transgressions to the government. While this allows for greater provision of social services to those who need them, it also allows for easier crackdowns on “extremists” and “splittists.”
In August the Central Tibet Administration in India reported that Jampa Choegyal from Drakyab County, Chamdo Prefecture of the TAR, was arbitrarily detained, interrogated, and subjected to beatings for contact with his relative in India via his mobile phone.
According to reports, Gendun, a Tibetan man from Sershul County in the Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi) TAP of Sichuan Province was detained and severely beaten for storing photos of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the banned Tibetan national flag in his WeChat account.