Profile: Six years for prisoners list

sholpa_dawaIn 1993, Topgyal, together with Sholpa Dawa, decided to do something concrete to make the world aware of the situation in Tibet. They began the task of putting together a list of current and former political prisoners in the Lhasa area. It was the hope of both Tibetans, both elderly men, that they would be able to somehow get the document out of Tibet. Today both men are serving lengthy prison sentences in an unknown Chinese prison somewhere in Tibet.

Topgyal (also known as Tsempo Topgyal – “tsempo” meaning “tailor”), a 58 year old private tailor in Lhasa (other sources describe him as a businessman) was originally from Tsang-do township in Lhundrub County in the “Tibet Autonomous Region”.

In 1993 Topgyal and Sholpa Dawa (or Shol Dawa – profiled in Human Rights Update of November 15, 1996), a 60-year-old Lhasa tailor, reportedly obtained a list of prisoners’ names from two former political prisoners, Dondrup Dorje and Ratoe Dawa. They were said to have been compiling a list of current and released political prisoners to send abroad.

Their activities were not discovered until more than two years later. In August 1995, just before the 30th anniversary of the founding of the “Tibet Autonomous Region”, a group of former activists, including Sholpa Dawa and Dondrup Dorje, were reportedly detained by Chinese authorities who suspected they may disrupt the celebrations. Topgyal’s involvement in the prisoner list was believed to have been uncovered during interrogations of the group.

Topgyal and Sholpa Dawa were tried by the Lhasa Intermediate people’s Court on 8 August 1996. The charge of “counter-revolution”, commonly used against Tibetan independence activists in the past, is to be phased out under new criminal legislation to go into effect on 1 October 1997 in China. Topgyal and Sholpa Dawa were therefore charged with the crime of “endangering state security”.

In the court’s concluding decision, issued as “Lhasa Criminal Court Trial Document No. 48 (1996)”, the three judges ruled; “This court holds that the defendants Xuedawa [Sholpa Dawa] and Duobujie [Topgyal], with the objective of overturning the socialist system and the peoples’ democratic dictatorship, actively accepted a mission specially appointed by foreign enemies, actively gathering various kinds of intelligence about this country within our borders and engaging in criminal activities that endangered state security”.

Topgyal was also found to have written three “reactionary letters” which he had passed on to Sholpa Dawa. The letters “together with the list of prisoners’ names, were stamped with an ox-head stamp of their own manufacture, and were the to be sent abroad as a report to the Dalai Clique”, the court statement said.

Topgyal was sentenced to six years imprisonment while Sholpa Dawa received a nine year sentence. Their current whereabouts are unknown.

Topgyal is due for release in 2002 at the age of 63. Express your concern over his arbitrary detention resulting from his political convictions by writing a letter to China’s Premier, Mr Li Peng, requesting his immediate and unconditional release. Send your letter to TCHRD for forwarding.

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