Chinese authorities in Sog County, Nagchu, have sentenced 12 Tibetans for allegedly exploiting and harassing the public through religious influence.
[Posted on TT Tibetan Site 15th January 2020]On Jan. 14, Chinese state media China Daily reported that on Jan. 7, under the nationwide campaign to eliminate organised criminal activities related to ‘black and evil forces’, 12 people were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 9 months to 1 year for alleged exploiting and harassing the people in the village by propagating ‘superstitious ideas and spreading the evil influence of religion’.
Member of Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile Ngawang Tharpa told Tibet Times that due to heightened surveillance and a clampdown on all communication lines, no contact can be made to Sog County, hence the situation on the ground remains unknown. Similarly, a source in Sog County cited a shutdown on communication lines for not being able to make any contact and added that people in Tibet are being extremely cautious about communication outside Tibet fearing persecution.
The Sog County Intermediate People’s Court declared that the 12 were convicted on charges of running a criminal gang that is attempting to use religious influence to interfere in the affairs of local government. The court also said that under the guise of religious instructions, the ‘gang’ exerted negative influence over people by harassing and assaulting them between 2010 to 2018. All 12 have been reported to have given confessions admitting to their crimes and have agreed not to resort to higher courts to appeal their sentencing.
Since last year, the Chinese government has questioned, detained, and imprisoned many Tibetans under the guise of the widespread campaign against ‘organised crime’ and ‘evil forces’ in Tibetan regions such as Tibet Autonomous Region, Sichuan Province and Qinghai Province. The authorities have also distributed government circulars of the anti-gang campaign and forced the local Tibetans to memorise the same against the threat of punishment.
In April last year, the Rebkong County Intermediate People’s Court sentenced 9 local Tibetan activists from Horgyal village in Rebkong County, in the Tibetan province of Amdo to prison terms ranging from 3 to 7 years under the guise of the same Chinese government campaign. The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy and the Habitat International Coalition, in an online campaign, called for the release of the 9 Tibetans, and declared that the Tibetans fighting for their right to protect their lands does not constitute ‘organised crime’ and that they are asserting their fundamental rights.
In June 2019, the Chinese government’s Unit 13 for the ‘clearing away of the black and elimination of evil’( ནག་སེལ་གཤེད་བཅོམ་ལྟ་སྐུལ་མཛུབ་ཁྲིད་ཚོགས་ཆུང་ ༡༣ པ་)visited 107 towns and counties, 57 townships and 61 villages and conducted 224 in-person interrogations and listed down 40 key issues. The committee also investigated 23,000 contentious matters and conducted 540 surveys. More than 1,044 people were also subjected to online surveys.
The Chinese government’s the ‘anti-black and evil crimes’ Inspection Unit 18 (ནག་འཇོམས་ངན་སེལ་ལྟ་སྐུལ་མཛུབ་སྟོན་ཚན་ཆུང་ ༡༨ ) conducted their investigative operations in 9 regions including Qinghai Province’s Tsolho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Tsojang Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Malho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Tsonub Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Yushul Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and Tsoshar Town. According to an announcement made at a government meeting in Xining on June 6, 2019, as per the campaign’s so-called ‘sharp razor’ against organised crime, in Qinghai Province alone, 658 people were arrested and warrants for 333 suspected people were issued.
The ‘anti-black and evil crimes’ was a campaign launched by Xi Jinping from 2019 to 2021 to crack down on clearing away organised crime that was highlighted in a manifesto which stressed four key articles. Official Chinese state media at the time said that the main agenda of the ‘ evil gangs’ is propagating separatism, committing acts of violence, and interfering with the government, and that there will be no leniency for ‘separatists.’ The campaign has been implemented in regions including Lhasa, Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan. An announcement of the anti-gang drive in Lhasa stated that the main motivation of the ‘evil gangs’ is to propagate the ‘Dalai clique’ and support the middle way approach, and also that those who work under the banner of preserving language and the environment are suspect.