Prominent Tibetan language activist and former political prisoner attacked

Tashi Wangchuk was beaten up by masked men in his hotel.
By Lobe Socktsang for RFA Tibetan
2023.08.24
Prominent Tibetan language activist and former political prisoner attacked Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk, shown in this undated photo, was attacked while staying at a hotel in Darlak County, a report from Free Tibet said.
Credit: Provided by RFA listener

Tashi Wangchuk, a prominent Tibetan language advocate and former political prisoner, was attacked by a group of unidentified men in eastern Tibet on the evening of Aug. 19, according to an account he gave to London-based rights group Free Tibet. 

Wangchuk was attacked while staying at a hotel in Darlak County after traveling to the region to raise awareness about the disappearance of the Tibetan language in schools, the report from Free Tibet said. 

Before traveling to his hotel, Wangchuk had filmed a video of himself near Darlak County Nationality Middle School and posted it to the Chinese social media platform Douyin at 7:14 pm.

According to Wangchuk’s account, his hotel room door was forced open at approximately 8 pm by a group of men wearing masks. These men, whom Wangchuk believes followed him from the school to his hotel, beat the activist for about 10 minutes before he called out to the hotel owner to contact the police. 

ENG_TIB_TashiWangchuk_08242023.2.jpg
An exiled Tibetan wearing a mask in the likeness of Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk stands next to a screen projecting a New York Times video during a street protest demanding his release, in Dharamsala, India, Jan. 8, 2018. Credit: Ashwini Bhatia/AP

The assailants forced Wangchuk to erase all the photos and videos he had taken earlier that day from his phone, pointing to the involvement of Chinese police, said Tenzin Nyiwoe, a researcher at Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy. He obtained this information from a source who cannot be named for safety reasons. 

Police arrived on the scene at around 9pm and Wangchuk was taken to the police station for questioning, where he remained until 11:30pm, according to his account on Free Tibet.

Wangchuk said that after leaving the police station, he was rejected by multiple hotels and denied medical care by the Darlak County Hospital, where a doctor claimed that the CT machine was broken. Wangchuk remained on the first floor of the hospital for the rest of the night. 

Wangchuk called the attack “a crime by gangs and illegal acts by government officials who break the law and cover for each other.”

Detained and tortured

Tashi Wangchuk rose to prominence in 2015 through an interview with the New York Times about his efforts to sue local authorities in eastern Tibet after Tibetan language classes were canceled. 

In 2016, Wangchuk was arrested and tortured by Chinese authorities. After being held for two years in pre-trial detention and serving part of a five-year prison sentence, Wangchuk was released in 2021. 

He has since continued to travel around Tibet raising awareness of Chinese authorities’ suppression of the Tibetan language in schools, as well as petitioning government officials to defend and preserve Tibetan language and culture.

Leaders and activists inside and outside Tibet condemned the attack. Many accused Chinese police as the perpetrators.

“It is not unusual for Tibetans and especially those who openly speak out for Tibet to be singled out for greater abuse and harassment by the Chinese government,” said Tenzin Lekshey, Spokesperson for Central Tibetan Administration. “It is very sad that Tashi Wangchuk has to go through this, but this incident is evident that there is no rule of law in the country.”

“China has long been known for threatening and persecuting Tibetan language advocates for simply preserving their cultural identity and most basic rights and we strongly oppose the Chinese government for its rights violations and conditions in Tibet,” Lekshey said.

Translated by Tenzin Dickyi. Edited by Claire McCrea and Malcolm Foster.

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