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Jailed Tibetan blogger appeals sentence with assertive letter PDF Print E-mail
[7 April 2016] Shokjang, who was sentenced to three years imprisonment in February on charges of inciting separatism, has written an eloquent and strongly-worded appeal to the Chinese authorities. In his letter, the Tibetan author and blogger not only expressed his innocence but provided remarkable detail of how his actions did not relate to separatism and were actually guaranteed under the Chinese constitution.

Take Action | Read letter in full | Background


Shokjang[7 April 2016] Shokjang (pen name for popular Tibetan blogger and intellectual Druklo) was sentenced on 17 February 2016 to three years' imprisonment by the Mahlo People's Court in Rebkong (Chinese: Tongren), Malho (Ch: Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Amdo (now part of China's Qinghai province). Having been originally detained in March 2015, Shokjang was charged with "inciting separatism" for writing articles critical of Chinese policies in Tibet, sharing allegedly sensitive news and having banned material on his phone.

On 24 February, Shokjang handwrote a 12-page letter (pictured below), appealing his sentence. The letter, which has since been
circulated widely on Chinese social media, has only recently reached Tibetan exiles. The letter has been translated and published in full by International Campaign for Tibet.

Shokjang letterIn his letter, Shokjang appeals to the Higher People's Court to "look for the objective truth in his case. Defending his actions, Shokjang writes, If one talks about instigating separatism, I have not written even a word of separatism, much less instigated it. If I write about an incident in which I suffered harm, and that becomes an unfounded accusation against me, and I write an appeal to the court about the incident, that does not make me a separatist."

Shokjang also expresses his peaceful approach to the current situation in Tibet, saying, I do not want to see any more of such tragic bloodshed. I will never fight to secure my own happiness through shedding the blood of others.

He questions how someone can be considered a "perpetrator of separatism" simply for writing views on cultural and religious issues. He adds, "Doesnt it contradict the core socialist values of 'freedom, democracy, equality, transparency, upholding law...' etc. being propagated by President Xi Jinping and others? Wont this apparent deliberate dereliction of the decisions of the top leadership be ridiculed by nations from the four corners of the world? Wont future generations be ashamed?"

The letter also provides further details of the alleged evidence brought against Shokjang during his trial. Shokjang says the main points which the court condemned as inciting the splitting of the nation were:

Posting an essay on the freedom of religious belief on the internet;
Writing an account of the events when Chinese security searched his hotel room at gunpoint;
Reproducing a section from fellow Tibetan Shokdung's book "The Division of Heaven and Earth" on the internet;
Sharing an internal news report that the Chinese government were planning to hold talks with the Dalai Lama;
Sharing a video clip of Chinese police beating people in the street;
Storing copies of six books, including "Sky Burial: The Destiny of Tibet" by Wang Lixiong, on his phone.

Shokjang refutes the allegation of "inciting to split the nation" with a nuanced argument of each of the points. He refers to the Chinese Constitution, citing the rights which it 'enshrines and protects' including the rights to freedom of religious belief and freedom of expression.

He also states, ... as a Tibetan intellectual, I have to be concerned for the precious lives of my own kin... I never want to be a person without regard for the lives of his brothers and sisters. Come to that, I would do the same for our Chinese brothers and sisters.

Shokjang concludes his letter saying, "Finally, I am a citizen of the Peoples Republic of China, my right to free expression and right to compose writings about my experiences are provided for by the constitution, but on account of my lack of familiarity with the law, I apologise if I have not expressed myself well, verbally and in written. Most of all, with my old mother and siblings looking at me with constant tears in their eyes, and my wife and children waiting for me every second, I await a proper decision as swiftly as possible from the Higher Court."

Since December 2015, Shokjang has only been allowed to see his family once, very briefly at the conclusion of the trial. According to Phayul, until the end of last year, his family had been allowed to visit and take food and clothing, but for unknown reasons the authorities stopped such visits.

Further reading: ICT | Phayul | TCHRD

Take Action | Background & examples of Shokjang's writings


Shokjang's letter in full
(Translated into English by International Campaign for Tibet.)

APPEAL

To the Qinghai Higher Peoples Court


My name is Drukar Gyal, or Druklo in short, and my pen-name is Shokjang. I come from Khagya village in Gengya area of Sangchu (Chinese: Xiahe) county, Kanlho [Gannan] prefecture. [1] On March 19, 2015, I was detained by Rebkong (Chinese: Tongren) [2] county Public Security, and held in the detention centre there from the 20th. On May 5, the formal announcement of my arrest came. On July 21, the Malho (Chinese: Huangnan) Prefecture Intermediate Peoples Court convened; I presented the defence that my actions were not illegal, and the courts deliberation was postponed for over seven months, until the second session on February 17 2016, which announced a sentence of three years imprisonment with two years suspension of political rights.

As I myself cannot accept this judgement, I have written this appeal to the provincial Higher Peoples Court, cherishing the hope of justice being done.

The Malho Peoples Court has condemned the matters I wrote about as inciting the splitting of the nation. The main points are (i) A composition about the freedom of religious belief posted on the internet; (ii) A written account of the events of March 16 (2015), when police and soldiers came to search my hotel room at gunpoint; [3] (iii) Reproducing a short section from the book The Division of Heaven and Earth on the internet; [4] (iv) Sharing a news report that the Chinese government would hold talks with His Holiness the Dalai Lama on matters unrelated to Tibetan independence; (v) Reproducing on the internet an internal video clip of Chinese police beating ordinary Chinese people in the street; (vi) Having copies of six books, including Sky Burial by Wang Lixiong, on my phone. [5]

Concerning the first four points, while I presented the case for my defence earlier, the present sentencing document rules that my arguments citing the constitution and so on are without foundation.

If even the provisions of the Chinese constitution are not valid arguments, I find the basis for the Intermediate Peoples Courts decision hard to understand. With the merest of hopes, I am restating my case that my actions were not illegal, along with an unreserved statement of my position, and request that you the provincial Higher Peoples Court give it full consideration.

1. Freedom of religious belief is an important right of citizens defined by the constitution. On the basis of this constitutional right, my composition expressed my view of the restrictions imposed by armed soldiers on the occasion of the flower offering ceremony at Kumbum monastery, [6] and addressed my readers on awareness of the right to religious belief. Any citizen has the right to comment on developments in society according to legally guaranteed rights, while conveying awareness of the law to others is a responsibility. I have only exercised my right and responsibility according to the constitution, and made no mention of separatism etc. as they allege.

With regard to the overall relationship between religion and politics, I clearly wrote that I was expressing my opinions on the outcome of politics dictating to religion and the outcome of religious rights dictating politics; the former [is discussed] in the present composition, and the latter is still unwritten.

To put it straight, this was basically just a short piece that has nothing to do with a serious political allegation like splitting the nation. The Malho Intermediate Peoples Court cited a fragment of what I wrote, this is not just trampling on the Tibetan peoples right to freedom of religious belief, but on the right of the Chinese people as a whole to religious freedom, to accuse me of having a separatist attitude. If knowledgeable people were to examine this, would they not find it laughable? Not only did I not make even the slightest reference to separatism, my statement posits no distinction between the Chinese and Tibetan peoples. Their talk of separatism does not establish what is being separated from what.

At that time, the situation at the Kumbum Flower Offering ceremony [Monlam Chenmo, marked by a massive presence of armed troops] was widely discussed on the internet, with lots of devotees giving their opinions one after another, as you well know. After seeing these things, I simply wrote down what I thought, and the photos inserted in my text were entirely borrowed from others, none of them were taken by me. As someone staying in Labrang, my camera lens cannot reach Kumbum monastery, as any ordinary person would understand.

Further, straightforwardly writing down my view of the situation at that time is my right to written expression, a right enshrined in and protected by the constitution. If such situations in the cultural sphere turn into serious political issues, issues of national separatism, does that make visitors from both nationalities who post photos and other observations on the situation at Kumbum monastery on the internet into perpetrators of separatism? By this logic, only a minority of the general public would not be considered as separatists or instigators of separatism. Wont such extreme suspicion make for an authoritarian stranglehold? Doesnt it contradict the core socialist values of freedom, democracy, equality, transparency, upholding law etc. being propagated by President Xi Jinping and others? Wont this apparent deliberate dereliction of the decisions of the top leadership be ridiculed by nations from the four corners of the world? Wont future generations be ashamed? I request the Higher Peoples Court to review this carefully.

2. On the evening of March 16 (2015) I was in a hotel in Rebkong [Tongren]. Late at night, two people wearing police uniform and army uniform and carrying guns came inside saying they needed to search the place. When I asked them to show some documentary proof, they pointed their guns at me and loudly intimidated me. That was the first time I have experienced the terror of facing the barrel of a gun pointed at me. Such unspeakable, unimaginable intimidation embittered me towards the Rebkong security [forces]. Confronted with those, whether policemen or gangsters I knew not, I wrote that [account of events] in the hope of getting the protection of the security authorities and the public.

In case those searching me at gunpoint that night really were police and army personnel, is it not illegal to conduct a search without a warrant? The injured party here is myself, and the proper object of the courts protection is me. In case they were gangsters, I am even more so the injured party, and the one due to be protected by the court. However, quite unbelievably, the court instead accused me not only of inciting separatism, but of fabrication, saying Results of police investigation confirm the use of fabrication and incitement to cause unrest [quoted in Chinese]. As to whether my account is fabricated, take another look at the CCTV footage from that day, and it can be clearly seen.

The term instigatory is a mystery. If one talks about instigating separatism, I have not written even a word of separatism, much less instigated it. If I write about an incident in which I suffered harm, and that becomes an unfounded accusation against me, and I write an appeal to the court about the incident, that does not make me a separatist. Helplessly subject to a punishment that makes your flesh creep the more you think about it, I appeal to the Higher Peoples Court to look for the objective truth.

3. The short extract from The Division of Heaven and Earth [a major contemporary work by the Tibetan author Shokdung] was copied by someone else and posted on the internet. In the course of my involvement with it, I wrote: Look at this again and again, and think about it again and again there. The reason for that is that I do not want to see any more of such tragic bloodshed. I will never fight to secure my own happiness through shedding the blood of others. China is a vast country with 56 different nationalities, and Tibetans are one of the largest minorities. I am a Chinese citizen, and as a Tibetan intellectual, I have to be concerned for the precious lives of my own kin. If doing so is called instigating separatism, nothing is more laughable. I might joyfully and voluntarily serve my sentence, but I never want to be a person without regard for the lives of his brothers and sisters. Come to that, I would do the same for our Chinese brothers and sisters.

4. The news about the Chinese government talking with the Dalai Lama was an internal thing. I shared it from my friends Weibo [Chinese social media] page. It is extraordinary that even sharing a piece of internal news can be illegal. Such negotiations have taken place in the past, and a few years ago some representatives of the Tibetan government [in exile] [7] came to China to hold discussions. But the Malho Prefecture Peoples Court does not seem to understand that this has nothing to do with state secrets and suchlike. Otherwise, there is no basis for such a decision. According to the Malho Prefecture Peoples Courts way of making judgements, not just I but the Chinese government has committed a serious crime, and internal news channels should just be closed. I appeal to the Higher Peoples Court to show some understanding.

5. The video clip is of a real life incident somewhere in the mainland. It got a very high number of hits. I also shared it from a Chinese friends Weibo. The oppressed Chinese public sympathised with the suffering of the victims. As I said earlier, I would do the same for our Chinese brothers and sisters. This has nothing whatever to do with so-called separatism, neither can it be construed as illegal. Without even looking into the content of this video clip, the Malho Prefecture Intermediate Peoples Court declared it to be Tibet-related, and landed the weighty accusation of instigating separatism on my little head, a weight I can hardly bear. I await exoneration by the Provincial Higher Peoples Court.

6. It is true that I have read books like Wang Lixiongs Sky Burial, but I have not quoted a word from such books, and certainly not passed them on to others. If Sky Burial is a book that should not even be read, it is excellent that its author has been shown such leniency by the law. Such application of the law has all my respect. Writers like him should be cherished by the nation and the people. And yet, showing leniency to an author and then punishing his readers under which point of law this is sanctioned, I really do not know. If my grasp of the law is too poor, I do apologise, but otherwise, I appeal to the Higher Peoples Court to clearly distinguish such One Country, Two Systems practices.

There are further implications: for my friends even to say that they had seen the previous three posts on my Weibo page is counted as prime evidence of law-breaking. If even setting eyes on these things is going to be considered illegal, then not only all my writings, but everything down to the birds and the bees could be too. Which intelligent person can accept charges based on evidence ridiculed by people but tolerated by dogs?

Another thing I dont understand is that they took away my iPhone5S, because they retrieved those posts through the phone. But if they had found those writings in my house, would they also confiscate the house and its contents?

They may be like an old mouth used to eating, and an old hand used to taking, [8] but I dont have that many benefactors, and trust that you, the Provincial Court, will not blow an ill wind into a poor mans tsampa bag. [9]

Finally, I am a citizen of the Peoples Republic of China, my right to free expression and right to compose writings about my experiences are provided for by the constitution, but on account of my lack of familiarity with the law, I apologise if I have not expressed myself well, verbally and in written. Most of all, with my old mother and siblings looking at me with constant tears in their eyes, and my wife and children waiting for me every second, I await a proper decision as swiftly as possible from the Higher Court.

Druklo, also known as Shokjang
February 24, 2016

Footnotes (from ICT):
[1] Gansu Province

[2] In Qinghai Province

[3] On 16 March 2015, Druklo had written an article on his blog about the 56th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, describing the increased police patrols on the streets of Tongren County (Rebkong).

[4] The Division of Heaven and Earth is a book written by Tibetan writer Tagyal (penname: Shokdung) about the protests in 2008. It was an underground bestseller and the author was imprisoned for six months. It is to be published this year in English translation by the UK-based publisher Hurst (see p 6 of the publishers catalogue:
https://issuu.com/hurstpublishers/docs/nbc_summer-autumn_2016/1?e=3050992/34585984)

[5] A prominent Chinese writer who lives in Beijing with his wife Tsering Woeser. Sky Burial: The Destiny of Tibet, was published in 1998 by Mirror Books Publishing.

[6] A reference to the Monlam Chenmo, an auspicious and significant festival, marked every year by flower offerings and images of deities made with butter in different colors. Traditionally held each year at around the time of the closing days of Tibetan New Year (Losar), a feature of recent years has been the convergence of massed ranks of armed troops as thousands of Tibetan devotees seek to mark the festival. This has been particularly noticeable at Kumbum monastery in Qinghai. Images and report, see ICT report, Thousands of Tibetan pilgrims face troops at religious ceremonies in eastern Tibet, https://www.savetibet.org/thousands-of-tibetan-pilgrims-face-troops-at-religious-ceremonies-in-eastern-tibet/

[7] Referring to the Dalai Lamas envoys dialogue with Chinese officials.

[8] With this colloquial phrase, Shokjang is appealing to the higher authorities by implying that the local authorities have done in this case what they have always done without thinking about the implications of the case.

[9] This metaphor conveys an impression of the author as vulnerable to the ill wind of the Chinese state; tsampa is a traditional Tibetan food, roasted barley, which often symbolizes Tibetan identity, and its grains can be easily scattered and removed by strong winds.



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