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Tibetan human rights defender released after 18 years imprisonment in China

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One of the longest serving Tibetan political prisoners was released by the Chinese authorities in October after 18 years and six months of imprisonment. As a party to the UN Convention Against Torture, China must make an effort towards its implementation.

(Bangkok, 1 November 2007)  A leading Tibetan human rights defender, Ngawang Phulchun, was released from the Qushui Prison in China on 21 October after 18 years and 6 months of imprisonment.

Ngawang was arrested in April 1989 and sentenced to 19 years imprisonment for producing political leaflets criticising human rights violations in Tibet by the Chinese authorities.  The leaflets contained information about political unrest in Tibet and listed the people arrested or killed by the Chinese police and military. After being sentenced, Ngawang was transferred to several prisons in Tibet and was subjected several times to torture and ill-treatment by prison officials.

Ngawang was arrested several times in the past for his work exposing human rights violations in Tibet. In 1987, he was arrested and held without charge for four months in the Gutsa Detention Centre after leading a peaceful demonstration demanding respect for human rights, including religious freedom and self-determination for Tibetans. He was released on 22 January 1988 after intense international media attention and pressure on the Chinese government.

Tibetan civil society organisations welcomed the news of his release. In a press statement , the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) stated that Ngawang is said to be frail with deteriorating health, due to torture and inhuman treatment in detention.

TCHRD urged the government of China to implement the International Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which China is a party, ratifying it on 4 October 1988. It also urged the government to implement the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to eradicate torture and "to ensure torture survivors’ right to full with special attention to medical and psychological needs". TCHRD called on the government to release all the Tibetan political prisoners.

For more information, please contact:
Anselmo Lee, Executive Director, The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), +66 (02) 391 8801, [email protected] , or Emerlynne Gil, Programme Manager on Human Rights Defenders, at [email protected] , tel: (66-2) 391-8801 ext 605.