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China: Tibetan Prisoners' Health in Jeopardy

(New York, May 13, 2003) The Chinese government should immediately release two Tibetan prisoners whose medical conditions are deteriorating sharply, Human Rights Watch urged today. The New York-based monitoring organization also called on the Chinese government to release information about the men's whereabouts, the charges against them, and their current medical condition.

" Tserang Dondrup should have been released long ago, and be receiving the care he needs to survive. There is reason to fear that his current medical state is largely the result of prison conditions and of torture at the time of his arrest. "
Brad Adams, executive director of the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch  
  

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The two prisoners are Tserang Dondrup, a layman also known as Jortse, and Tashi Phuntsog, a monk. They were seized over a year ago in connection with the case of a locally renowned monk, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, who is under a death sentence with a two-year reprieve for "incitement to separatism" and crimes related to his alleged role in a series of bombings in Sichuan province. Another man, Lobsang Dondrup, was executed in January 2003 on the same charges. No evidence connecting the men to the crimes has been made public.  
 
Tserang's condition has seriously deteriorated since his imprisonment, and there are grave concerns that he will not survive his sentence, believed to be somewhere between five and seven years. He is said to be having serious trouble seeing and has lost movement and flexibility in his legs. Tserang is in his late sixties or early seventies and was in good health at the time he was detained.  
 
"Tserang Dondrup should have been released long ago, and be receiving the care he needs to survive," said Brad Adams, executive director of the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch. "There is reason to fear that his current medical state is largely the result of prison conditions and of torture at the time of his arrest."  
 
Tserang was detained in early May 2002, a month after public security officials in Lithang (in Chinese referred to as Litang) arrested Tenzin Delek and four monks closely associated with him in a raid at Jamyang Choekhorling monastery. Although the current charges against him are unclear, it is known that in 2000, when authorities were preparing to detain Tenzin Delek, Tserang helped forestall the attempt by collecting some 20,000 signatures in support of Tenzin Delek.  
 
Tserang was a village head in the county of Nyagchukha, in Kartse (Chinese: Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan province at the time. Since his detention, he has been held at the Nyagchukha (Chinese: Yajiang) Detention Center. Ordinarily he would have been moved after sentencing, but it has been reported that the prison to which he was assigned refused to accept him because of his medical condition.  
 
Tashi Phuntsog, who reportedly received a seven-year sentence, may also be in fragile health. At the time of the raid, he was being treated for tuberculosis at a hospital in nearby Nyagchukha. Two weeks later, police officers took him directly from the hospital into detention. There is no information available about his current condition, the date of sentencing, the charges, or where he is imprisoned.  
 
"If he was sick enough to need hospitalization before his arrest, he is unlikely to be getting the care he needs in detention," Adams said.  
 
Chinese authorities have admitted that the ill-treatment of prisoners persists throughout China. Official secrecy surrounding arrests, incommunicado detention, closed trials, and the use of evidence obtained through forced confessions contributes to the use of torture and arbitrary legal proceedings.  
 
In Kartse, local authorities detained at least four men suspected of leaking information about the arrests, the trials, or the execution of Lobsang Dondrup. Three others served one-year reeducation through labor sentences for allegedly inciting "splittism," China's term for advocacy of Tibetan independence.  
 
"It is time for Beijing to end its systematic repression of Tibetan activists and popular religious personalities," said Adams. "The government should come clean about all of its Tibetan prisoners, the charges against them, the locations of their detention, and their medical conditions."
 

 
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