Action from Group 22 Newsletter April 2002:
Letter to Director of Tibet Regional Bureau of Justice
PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE
Ngawang Pekar, Tibetan Monk
Group 22 continues to seek the release of prisoner of conscience (POC)
Ngawang Pekar (naw-wan pee-kar), a Tibetan Buddhist monk. Pekar has been
imprisoned since 1989 after being arrested by Chinese authorities for
participating in a peaceful demonstration in the city of Lhasa, Tibet
Autonomous Region, in support of Tibetan independence.
In an encouraging sign, China released another high-profile Tibetan POC
month. In the wake of the release on January 20 of POC Ngawang Choephel,
March 31 POC Jigme Sangpo was released from Drapchi Prison (Tibet Autonomous
Region Prison No. 1) on medical parole nine years ahead of his scheduled
2011 release date. Jigme Sangpo, age 76 and a former elementary school
teacher, was Tibet's longest serving political prisoner whose latest period
of detention began in 1983 when he was given a 15-year sentence for
"spreading counter-revolutionary propaganda" after he put up a wall-poster
calling for Tibetan independence. His sentence was extended by five years
1988 after he shouted "reactionary slogans," and by a further eight years
1991 after he shouted "Free Tibet" during a visit to Drapchi by the Swiss
ambassador to China.
Jigme Sangpo was one of the prisoners whose plight was singled out by US
ambassador to Beijing Clark Randt ahead of President Bush's visit to China
in February. John Kamm, president of the San Francisco-based Duihua
Foundation, stated that the release was likely made "in order to improve
relations with the United States." Kamm further said he had been told that
Chinese authorities began approaching Jigme Sangpo soon after the September
11 terrorist attacks on the US and that "They made the decision that they
wanted to take advantage of the situation to improve relations, specifically
with the United States but more generally as well." While Amnesty
International welcomed the release of Jigme Sangpo and noted that it was
"highly unusual," they urged the Chinese authorities to continue with
further prisoner releases.
Clearly, the Chinese authorities are utilizing POCs as political pawns,
as the highest profile prisoners stand the best chance of being released,
need to continue writing on behalf of Ngawang Pekar in an attempt to raise
his notoriety. This month, we ask that you write to the relatively newly
appointed Director of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Bureau of Justice, MENG
Deli. Below is a sample letter:
I am writing to you out of concern for a prisoner being held in Tibet
Autonomous Region Prison No. 1. The prisoner's name is NGAWANG PEKAR
Ngawang Pekar, a Tibetan monk, was arrested in 1989 for participating in
peaceful demonstration in the city of Lasashi and sentenced to 8 years in
prison. Subsequently, his sentence was increased by an additional 6 years.
Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience and I
concerned that he has been imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of
his universally recognized right to freedom of expression. I am further
deeply concerned about reports that he has been beaten and denied access
medical care since his arrest.
I respectfully urge you to request that Ngawang Pekar's case be reviewed
that he be immediately and unconditionally released in accordance with the
international laws to which China is signatory. I further request that he
allowed access to independent non-governmental agencies so that his current
state of well-being may be determined and made known.
I thank you for your attention to this important matter and would greatly
appreciate any further information that your office may be able to provide.
Address your letter to:
MENG Deli Juzhang
Duodilu, Lasashi 850000
People's Republic of China
Overseas postage for a normal letter is 80 cents, 70 cents for an aerogram.
Should you receive a reply, please notify Group 22. Also, stay tuned for
details about the Memorial Day weekend event that will feature two Tibetan
nuns speaking about their experiences as prisoners in Drapchi Prison!