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ACTION: Husband of self-immolator sentenced to death PDF Print E-mail
[23 August 2013] A Tibetan nomad, Dolma Gyab, has been sentenced to death for the alleged murder of his wife, who self-immolated on 13 March in Ngaba, eastern Tibet. It is feared torture may have been used to extract a confession from the accused and the verdict influenced by political circumstances. This is the second death sentence to be handed to a Tibetan in relation to a self-immolation, and indicates the Chinese government is continuing its hard-line stance against self-immolation protests.

Take Action  I  Background  I  Concerns  I  Related cases & information

Please write to the Chinese Ambassador in the UK, and call on the Chinese government to:

immediately suspend the death sentence of Dolma Gyab and review the case in an open and transparent manner.
to allow Dolma Gyab the due process of law, including the right to appeal his sentence and the right to choose his own lawyer for the appeal.
to clarify what evidence was used to convict Dolma Gyab, other than his confession which it is feared was obtained through torture.
to ensure that Dolma Gyab is not tortured or mistreated whilst in detention and is allowed visits from his family and independent observers such as foreign diplomats.

In the UK write to:.
Name: Ambassador Liu Xiaoming

Address: Embassy of the Peoples Republic of China
49-51 Portland Place
London W1B 1JL
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
Note: The Embassy occasionally disables this email address (so your email is returned). If that is the case please try This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it and/or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .
If these fail please write a letter.

Outside the UK: check the Chinese government's webpage listing embassies for contact details of your nearest ambassador and embassy.

If you receive a reply please send a copy to Tibet Society - email This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or post to Tibet Society, Unit 9, 139 Fonthill Road, London N4 3HF.

Note: Tibet Society has informed the Foreign Office of this case and our concerns and asked they make urgent enquiries to their Chinese counterparts. In addition, Tibet Society has asked that a representative from the British Embassy in Beijing or Consulate in Chonqing visits Dolma Gyab to ensure that he not being mistreated and has access to his lawyer and family.

Dolma GyabOn 15 August, the Intermediate People's Court in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba), Amdo (incorporated into China's Sichuan province), sentenced Dolma Gyab (pictured right), 32, to death for the murder of his wife Kunchok Wangmo. According to Xinhua, China's state news agency, "The court found that at 11pm on March 11, Drolma Gya [sic] choked his 29-year-old wife Kunchok Wangmo to death with a scarf in their apartment in Zoige County following an argument over his drinking."

Xinhua's report stated that Dolma Gyab had confessed to his crime and that the trial lasted just three hours. It also noted Dolma Gyab as saying he would appeal the verdict at the Sichuan Provincial Higher People's Court.

According to Chinese law the case must be reviewed by a higher court. If the death sentence is upheld Dolma Gyab is likely to be executed shortly afterwards.

Original reports by Tibetan exile organisations stated that Kunchok Wangmo self-immolated at about midnight on 13 March in Dzoge (Ch: Ruanggui) county, Ngaba prefecture, the day before Xi Jinpings appointment as President of the People's Republic of China.

Local Tibetans reported that Kunchok Wangmo died at the scene and her body was taken away and cremated by Chinese authorities. Her ashes were returned the following day to her family. According to local sources quoted by Radio Free Asia, Dolma Kyab was arrested on 14 March after he refused to comply with police orders to blame the self-immolation on family problems.

On 20 March, Xinhua published an article on their Chinese language site claiming that prior to Kunchok Wangmo's death, the couple had argued over Dolma Kyab's supposed gambling, marital relations and other issues.

Further details of the incident and subsequent arrest have not been available due to the Chinese government's strict control of information from Tibet and the regular blocking of communication channels in Tibetan regions.

Further reading: RFA I Xinhua I ICT I TCHRD I Phayul

Concerns over Dolma Gyab's case
Given Dolma Gyab's refusal to comply with police actions immediately following his wife's death, it is possible that Dolma may have been tortured in order to extract a confession to the alleged crime. Torture is commonly used in politically-motivated cases in Tibet and China, as has been acknowledged by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture.

It is not clear what other evidence was presented at the trial; it is probable that Dolma's confession was the only evidence used.

It is not known whether due legal processes were carried out. Although Dolma Gyab was reported to have a lawyer, it is not known whether the lawyer was of his own choosing or if they were allowed to communicate before the trial in order to build a defence.

Chinese officials took Kunckok Wangmo's body away from the scene of the self-immolation and cremated it, returning the ashes to her family the following day. As well as not allowing for traditional Tibetan funeral rituals, the hasty cremation means it is unlikely an autopsy was carried out to determine the cause of death.

The Chinese government has attempted to discredit other Tibetan self-immolators by alleging that their actions were due to family arguments resulting from drinking or gambling addictions, or even due to mental illness. (See cases below.)

The Chinese authorities have targeted the families of self-immolators, as part of their crackdown against self-immolation protests. Bribes have been offered in return for remaining silent or stating that the self-immolation was not politically motivated. Collective punishments have been introduced, including the loss of all government aid and benefits for families of self-immolators. Detentions of family members have also been common, with at least one case of a family member being imprisoned. (See cases below.)

This is the second case of a Tibetan sentenced to death in relation to a self-immolation. The first was Lobsang Kunchok, who was sentenced to death with a two-year suspension on 31 January 2013. It is feared that Lobsang was tortured in order to extract the confession used to convict him at his trial. (See details below.)

The state's version of events over the death of Kunchok Wangmo contradicts the versions reported by local Tibetans, including the date of the incident.

Kunchok Wangmo's death came on the eve of Xi Jinpings appointment as President of China. The timing makes this self-immolation highly sensitive and given many self-immolators have been critical of the Chinese government, it is possible the local authorities attempted to cover up this particular incident.

Related cases and information

1. Lobsang Kunchok death sentence
On 31 January 2013, the Intermediate People's Court in Ngaba found Lobsang Kunchok guilty of "intentional homicide" and passing on information to foreign sources. Lobsang, a 40 year-old monk from Kirti monastery, was a given a death sentence suspended for two years. Lobsang's nephew, Lobsang Tsering was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment at the the same trial.

The authorities claimed that the two men had "incited and coerced eight people to self-immolate, resulting in three deaths". It is feared that torture was used to extract confessions. It is not known if any other evidence was presented at the trial. Lobsang Kunchok was the first Tibetan to be given a death sentence on the charge of "intentional homicide", which was introduced by the Chinese government in December 2012.

Following the trial, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said, "We hope through the sentencing of these cases, the international community will be able to clearly see the evil and malicious methods used by the Dalai clique in the self-immolations and condemn their crimes."

Further reading: Tibet Society

2. Bribes and punishments
 "Increasingly pervasive and punitive security measures in response to protests have exacerbated the situation in Tibetan areas of China." (Human Rights Watch, 29 November 2012)

In November 2012, the Chinese authorities in Malho (Ch: Huangnan) prefecture announced collective punishments for those associated with self-immolators. Families and villages of self-immolators would lose all government aid and benefits, whilst monasteries were threatened with closure. Similar punishments have been introduced in other Tibetan areas. Collective punishments are contrary to international human rights law.

Chinese authorities have publicly offered cash rewards for those "exposing crimes" related to self-immolations. Family members have also been offered financial incentives to state that self-immolations were not politically motivated.

Further reading: Tibet Society

3. Dolkar Tso
On 7 August 2012, Dolkar Tso died after self-immolating at Tsoe Gaden Choeling monastery in Tsoe (Ch: Hezuo), Kanlho (Ch: Gannan) prefecture, Amdo (now incorporated into China's Gansu province). During her protest Dolkar shouted slogans for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet and there is no freedom in Tibet.

The Chinese authorities confirmed the self-immolation but announced that her protest was "over conflicts between her and her families". According to Phayul, Dolkar Tso's husband, Dhonhue, was detained after refusing to accept a bribe in exchange for blaming his wife's death on family problems. Dhonhue's current condition and whereabouts are not known.

Further reading: Tibet Society (self-immolation)Phayul (detention)

4. Sangay Gyatso
Sangay Gyatso died on 6 October 2012 after setting fire to himself at Dokar monastery located near Tsoe. During his protest he called for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet and for religious and language rights. According to Phayul, his family were offered a bribe of one million yuan (100,000) to sign a document stating that Sangay's protest was not against China's rule over Tibet.

Further reading: Tibet Society (self-immolation)Phayul (bribe)

5. Yarphel
On 1 March 2013, Yarphel, a 42 year-old monk, was sentenced to 15 months in prison. The charges related to Yarphel's participation in a funeral procession  where he carried the ashes of his nephew, self-immolator Dorjee Lhundup. The self-immolation took place on 4 November 2012 during which Dorjee shouted slogans for the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet and for freedom for Tibet. Several thousand Tibetans attended the funeral.

Further reading: Tibet Society (self-immolation) I TCHRD (sentence)

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