China Admits First Death Caused by Security Forces
By Joseph Catapano
May 1, 2008 | Printer Friendly
Chinese authorities have made their first admission regarding the death of Tibetans at the hands of government security forces. Tibetan exile groups claim that the Chinese have killed over 200 in crackdowns in the region that has seen violence since shortly after a peaceful protest began on March 10 by Buddhist monks, marking the anniversary of the failed Tibetan uprising.
The New York Times cites an official report from China’s Xinhua News Agency saying that a gunfight on Monday in Qinghai Province, an area of rural northwest China, left a police officer and a Tibetan dead. The gunfight was apparently sparked when the police tried to arrest a man who they said led a group of herders seeking to incite a riot.
This disclosure comes just two days after a Chinese court convicted 30 people at a one- day trial in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. Charges ranged from arson, robbery, interruption of law enforcement, and theft. Three individuals were sentenced to life in prison, one for inciting others to commit arson and looting stores and vehicles during riots in Lingzhou, one other was given life for joining mobs in the burning of vehicles, vandalism to police stations, and assault on firefighters.
The fairness of the trials has been questioned by outside governments and non-governmental organizations.
“Guilty or innocent, these Tibetans are entitled to a fair trial,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “Instead, they were tried on secret evidence behind closed doors and without the benefit of a meaningful defense by lawyers they’d chosen.”
“We don’t think that anyone should break the law, but we also believe in freedom of expression and assembly,” said White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino.
These types of speedy trials have been common in China since the 1980s. Called “Strike Hard” campaigns, these trials are intended to speed up prosecutions for crimes considered a threat to social stability.
“The party has a long tradition of carrying out speeded up trials with minimum forms of process for defendants whenever it wants to send a strong message to local people,” said Robbie Barnett, an expert in modern Tibet at Columbia University.
Reports from the US-based advocacy group International Campaign for Tibet are claiming that Chinese authorities have swept through Tibetan monasteries and arrested 160 monks in an effort to quash pro-Tibetan independence sentiment. Tibet and neighboring areas have been closed to Western news media, and no independent verification of these crackdowns has been reported thus far.
AP: China Sentences 30 People—Some to Life—Over Tibet Riots
The New York Times: First Tibetan Death in Unrest Reported by China