DHARAMSALA, 27 Jan: PEN America has called for the immediate release of Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk on the fourth anniversary of his imprisonment with an open letter addressed to China’s General Secretary Xi Jinping signed by 950 organisations and individuals.
“We are deeply concerned that Tashi’s arrest and trial have been marked by a lack of due process, including the fact that Tashi was reportedly tortured prior to his trial,” read the letter signed by nearly 1,000 writers, linguists, translators, and language rights advocates as they joined PEN America in calling for the release of the Tibetan language advocate.
Tashi Wangchuk was arrested by the Yushu police on 27 Jan 2016, for his activism on Tibetan language rights. The Chinese authorities then held him in pre-trial detention for nearly two years without any access to his family until he was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of ‘inciting separatism’ by a Chinese court after a one-day trial on 22 May 2018.
Activists and rights groups alike have maintained that Tashi Wangchuk’s only crime was that he sought to promote Tibetan language education, which is guaranteed under the Chinese and international law and to use Chinese law to pressure officials to faithfully implement Tibetan language rights in a New York Times documentary.
Similarly, the letter also maintained his innocence and emphasizing that Wangchuk’s peaceful advocacy neither breaches Chinese Constitution and laws, nor the international law and declared that he “committed no cognizable crime.”
“We believe that the right of everyone to learn, teach and develop their native language must be protected. As such, we call upon the government of the People’s Republic of China to release Tashi Wangchuk, and to honour its own domestic and international obligations to uphold ethnic minorities’ rights to learn and develop their own spoken and written languages,” the letter concluded.
PEN America has long led a global campaign for Wangchuk’s release and its president, author Jennifer Egan has said: “The freedom to write is meaningless without the freedom to speak one’s own language, and PEN America vehemently supports linguistic and cultural rights”.
The Tibetan language advocate will be due for release in early 2021 as his prison term will start from the time of his arrest.