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17may20101Dharamshala: In November, 2009, the Chinese government executed 4 Tibetans, two men, one woman and a fourth unidentified person, for allegedly "starting fatal fires" during the uprising in March 2008.With the world mulling over a moratorium on the death penalty, the Chinese government continues to exercise the dread verdict with little or no restraint.

International Law on the Death Penalty

"Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life."

UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

This international convention does not in itself prohibit the death penalty. However, it strongly discourages it. In December 2007 and 2008 the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolutions 62/149 and 63/168. These resolutions call for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.

These resolutions, together with other recently adopted international treaties, establish an international trend toward abolishing the death penalty.

However, the Chinese government continues to execute an indeterminate number of people every year. Amnesty International stated in its 2008 Report on China that death penalty statistics are regarded as a state secret.

"Based on public reports, Amnesty International estimated that at least 470 people were executed and 1,860 people sentenced to death during 2007, although the true figures were believed to be much higher. Death sentences and executions continued to be imposed for 68 offences, including many non-violent crimes such as corruption and drug-related offences."

The Swedish representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council stated that, 80% of the total executions that were carried out in the world were from China, this was cited by Amnesty international in 2007

The facts unknown

The Chinese state run media (Xinhua) reports that on April 8, 2009 "the two defendants [Lobsang Gyaltsen and Loyak] given the death penalty had committed extremely serious crimes and have to be executed to assuage the people's anger." They and two others, Penkyi and the unidentified fourth person were charged with "starting fatal fires."

Is there any evidence that these crimes, which require criminal intent, were committed? Are there any facts that point to the alleged deaths and damage to property? What are the facts that allegedly tie any deaths or loss of property to these individuals?

News in Tibet is controlled by Xinhua, the Communist Party propaganda agency. Are there any independent reports?

At the very least, China should provide to the international community a copy of any recordings of testimony and evidence presented at the trials and any evidence if any, that might and could have exonerated them.

Seeing is not always believing...

Under international law, anyone accused of a crime has certain fundamental rights. They include a right to a fair trial by an independent body, and the right to legal representation.

China's own constitution gives the accused the right to an open trial, to legal counsel and even states that the courts exercise their power independently. However, the words are applied contrary to their common sense meaning. Once we delve deeper into the double meaning of the Chinese constitution we understand how....

The structure of the legal system prevents a fair and impartial trial. The Communist Party controls the legal system at all levels.

The Communist Party elects the National People's Congress. The People's Congress elects the president of the Supreme Court and the procurator general (prosecutor), as well as other key government officials. And sadly enough also has the power to remove them.

And although the constitution states "The people's courts shall . . . exercise judicial power independently"

It does not however ‘act independently of the Party'. This is the one crucial fact that the western media does not pick up on

The President of the Supreme People's Court stated in October 2007: "The power of the courts to adjudicate independently doesn't mean at all independence from the Party. It is the opposite . . . "

interestingly enough, Wang Shengjun, the President of the Supreme Court, is not a legal professional but a police and party administrator.

Lawyers are not independent either. In a speech in October 2007, the vice-minister of justice said that lawyers "must support the leadership of the Party at all times."

A new Law on Lawyers was passed in 2007 (effective 2008) purporting to give lawyers more rights, it in fact did not do so. The vice minister of justice in October 2007 stated that the party "ruled out greater independence for the legal profession, stressing to the contrary the need to further control the work of lawyers as a way to diffuse social unrest." paranoia anyone??


So little is known about what actually occurred in Tibet - what wrongs, if any, were done and by whom. Whether or not these four individuals committed any criminal wrongs, they were entitled to a fair and impartial trial and independent lawyers of their own choosing. It is very doubtful indeed they had any of these. It is shameful indeed that even after the Beijing Olympics of 2008, when the Chinese government promised to improve its human rights record, the statistics state the exact opposite.

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E-mail: editor@thetibetpost.com