Tashi Wangchuk, [1] a young Tibetan entrepreneur and language rights advocate who is awaiting trial on charges of “inciting separatism”, [2] has been awarded the ‘Tenzin Delek Rinpoche Medal of Courage’ in recognition of his courage and dedication to promoting Tibetan human rights and justice for the Tibetan people.

The ‘Tenzin Delek Rinpoche Medal of Courage’, an annual award [3], is given to Tibetan human rights defenders who show deep commitment to enhancing the freedom and rights of the Tibetan people at great personal risk. The aim of the award is to provide protection to such individuals through international recognition. The award will be presented on 12 July 2017, marking the 2nd anniversary of the untimely death of Tibetan spiritual leader Tenzin Delek Rinpoche while in Chinese custody. [4] “I am honoured to see the ‘Tenzin Delek Rinpoche Medal of Courage’ awarded to Tashi Wangchuk today and I call for his immediate release”, said Nyima Lhamo, niece of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche. [5] “The Chinese government has a long history of harsh treatment of those who speak out against its failing policies. In 2015 my uncle died after spending over 13 unjust years in Chinese custody despite the fact that we had applied for due medical parole, and today the world is watching how China is disdainfully treating Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo. The comparison of these cases shows just how little China learned from the tragic death of my uncle, and I appeal to the international community to firmly hold China accountable for the treatment of its critics.”

In 2015, Tashi Wangchuk travelled from his hometown in eastern Tibet to Beijing to try to file a lawsuit against local Chinese authorities for denying Tibetans the right to learn in their own language. His quest was featured in a moving New York Times video report and article, ‘Tibetans Fight to Salvage Fading Culture in China‘, [6] in November 2015, in which he said, “My goal is to change things a little bit, to push to preserve some of our nation’s culture… The entire Tibetan ethnic nationality and culture is at risk of disappearing;” Two months later, in January 2016, Tashi was detained by Chinese authorities. In March 2016 he was charged with “inciting separatism,” and faces up to 15 years in prison.

Pema Yoko, Interim Executive Director, Students for a Free Tibet [7] said, “Tashi Wangchuk has shown enormous tenacity in his battle to progress the fundamental rights of the Tibetan people; a tenacity found so threatening by China that despite his actions being entirely within the Chinese Constitution, Tashi languishes in detention, awaiting a “trial” where he could be sentenced to 15 years.”

“The Tibet movement, and other rights groups, are doing everything we can to press for Tashi’s safe and immediate, unconditional release; every day he remains in detention is a day that he is at risk of torture and inhumane treatment at the hands of the Chinese authorities”, said Mandie McKeown, Campaigns Coordinator, International Tibet Network. [8] “We hope by awarding him the Medal of Courage, his innocence will be further highlighted and more pressure will be brought to bear for his urgent release.”

Tashi Wangchuk’s case has been raised by several governments, [9] and by five UN Special Procedures mandate holders, who expressed “serious concern at the arrest, the initial incommunicado detention, and the continued detention of Tashi Wangchuk, as well as his limited right to counsel, the denial of presenting the evidence against him, and the irregularities in the criminal investigation”. [10]

“By honoring Tashi Wangchuk, we pay tribute to his enormous personal courage and dedication to the rights of the Tibetan people. We also pay tribute to the thousands of other Tibetans in or from Tibet who have spent years of their lives unfairly imprisoned or detained for the important role they have played in the struggle for Tibetan freedom”, said Dorjee Tseten, Member of Tibetan Parliament in Exile and SFT Asia Director.

Tashi Wangchuk, who is awaiting trial, will be awarded the ‘Tenzin Delek Rinpoche Medal of Courage’ in absentia at an event held in Washington DC on 12 July 2017. [11] The ‘Medal of Courage’ award is given to further highlight the situation of Tibetan human rights defenders. [12] The Judging Panel is made up of International Tibet Network Steering Committee Members, Geshe Nyima (Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s cousin) and representatives from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International UK.

  1. Background Briefing 2017: Tashi Wangchuk https://docs.google.com/document/d/1V42KWh8A1MxcSYTaJyMP2v1mhZGwa9qHlj7i9ESCnDs/
  2. International Campaign for Tibet, ‘Imprisoned Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk faces false ‘separatism’ charges’, 19 September 2016: https://www.savetibet.org/imprisoned-tibetan-language-advocate-tashi-wangchuk-faces-false-separatism-charges/#1
  3. The ‘Tenzin Delek Rinpoche Medal of Courage’ was first awarded in 2016 to retired medical doctor, Yeshi Choedron (F), who was arrested in March 2008 and accused of providing “intelligence and information harmful to the security and interests of the state” to “the Dalai clique’s security department.” She is serving a 15 year sentence in TAR (Drapchi) Prison. See https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B6q-qWV5wyFQVENZNnJmeHpJeE0
  4. New York Times, ‘Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, Tibetan Religious Leader, Dies in Chinese Custody’, 13 July 2015: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/14/world/asia/tenzin-delek-rinpoche-tibetan-religious-leader-dies-in-chinese-custody.html?_r=0
  5. Nyima Lhamo, herself a human rights defender, escaped Tibet in 2016 with the sole purpose of highlighting the torture and untimely death of her uncle, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, while in Chinese custody. Nyima Lhamo, and numerous rights groups, continue to call for an independent investigation into Tenzin Delek’s death. In January 2017 five UN Special Procedure mandate holders jointly issued an urgent communication to China concerning the detention and surveillance of Nyima Lhamo and her mother and the “unexplained circumstances” of his death in Chinese custody –  https://tibetnetwork.org/un-expert-communication-released-about-tashi-wangchuk-tenzin-delek/
    Nyima Lhamo is currently in the US to appear at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing about freedom of religion in Tibet – https://humanrightscommission.house.gov/events/hearings/tibet-freedom-religion
  6. New York Times, ‘Tibetans Fight to Salvage Fading Culture in China‘, 28 November 2015: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/29/world/asia/china-tibet-language-education.html?_r=1
  7. Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) is a chapter-based network of young people working in solidarity with the Tibetan people in their struggle for freedom and independence. https://www.studentsforafreetibet.org/
  8. International Tibet Network is a global coalition of over 180 Tibet-related organisations working to end the human rights violations in Tibet and restore the Tibetan people’s right under international law. www.TibetNetwork.org
  9. EU Beijing Delegation Statement: https://www.gov.uk/government/world-location-news/eu-delegation-to-china-statement-on-international-human-rights-day and US Beijing Embassy Statement: http://beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/mobile/ambassador-human-rights-day-statement-2016.html  
  10. Communication by UN Special Rapporteurs covering a range of mandates including on torture, human rights defenders, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, cultural and minority rights and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=22981.
  11. Tibet Watch, ‘An interview with Nyima Lhamo”, http://www.tibetwatch.org/uploads/2/4/3/4/24348968/an_interview_with_nyima_lhamo.pdf
  12. For more information about the ‘Tenzin Delek Rinpoche Medal of Courage’ event ceremony please call Pema Yoko on +1 646 266 0382
  13. Nominees for the 2017 ‘Tenzin Delek Rinpoche Medal of Courage’ are Tashi Wangchuk, Runggye Adak and Shokjang. See https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XIDlw8fx6FdnS9NamfurIRKa7rBmDVjR8baPjQ_ftPY