Lhadon Tethong, Director of the Tibet Action Institute and one of the most prominent faces of Tibetan freedom activism, has this to say about the news of the Spanish court’s decision to indict former Chinese President Hu Jintao:
I think maybe people don’t understand the significance of the news from Spain today…The fact that Hu Jintao was indicted on charges of genocide and other crimes by the Spanish court today is HUGELY significant. This is one of only times in history that a world leader has ever been indicted for genocide.
Hu Jintao woke up today and was told: because of your record in Tibet, you are now indicted by a court in Spain and if you travel to Europe or anywhere with an extradition agreement with Spain, you may be at risk of being arrested.
Not only that, but the decision to even move ahead with this case is history-making. An independent and neutral international court has reviewed the evidence and said that they believe there is enough evidence to charge Hu Jintao with this crime AND recognize Tibet as a country under international law.
Of course, there is no guarantee that Hu Jintao will end up in jail but legally, it is a possibility AND this represents an incredible ratcheting up of pressure on him and all Chinese leaders that their actions and behavior in Tibet could have serious consequence on them one day!
We can not underestimate the potential or power of this event.
Spain’s top criminal court has decided to hear a case brought by Tibetan rights activists who allege that China’s former President Hu Jintao committed genocide in Tibet.
Judges ruled that they were competent to handle the case because one of the activists, Tibetan monk Thubten Wangchen, is a Spanish citizen.
Hu Jintao was the Communist Party leader in Tibet in 1988-1992, when Chinese troops quelled mass protests.
China imposed martial law in Tibet.
The remote mountainous territory is an autonomous region ruled by Beijing.
In their lawsuit against Hu Jintao the Madrid-based Tibetan Support Committee allege that as Communist leader in the region he was ultimately responsible for actions “aimed at eliminating the uniqueness and existence of Tibet as a country, imposing martial law, carrying out forced deportations, mass sterilisation campaigns, torture of dissidents”.
The Spanish legal system recognises the universal justice principle, under which genocide suspects can be put on trial outside their home country. But for Spain to hold the trial there is a requirement that at least one victim of alleged genocide must be a Spanish citizen.
Beijing claims a centuries-old sovereignty over Tibet, but many Tibetans remain loyal to the exiled Buddhist spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. He is seen by his followers as a living god, but by China as a separatist threat.
Genocide, the gravest crime against humanity, is understood to mean actions aimed at the mass extermination of a whole group of people.
The shooting occurred on Sunday in Biru county, as villagers demanded police free a man who led separate protests in September, the reports said.
There had been clashes in September after Tibetans refused to fly China’s flag outside their homes, reports said.
Tibet is governed as an autonomous region in China.
However, rights groups have accused China of religious and political repression - something denied by the Chinese authorities.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said that she was unaware of the reports, and declined to comment further, Reuters news agency said.
A policeman at the public security bureau in Tibet’s Biru county also told AFP news agency that there was “no protest, no one injured”.
Foreign media are only allowed to enter Tibet at the invitation of the Chinese government. These visits are rare and tightly controlled, making it almost impossible to independently verify reports.
One of China’s creepier policies in the Tibetan Autonomous Region is a 2011 initiative known as the “nine haves.” Some of the nine are about development (“to have roads, to have water, to have electricity”), but one is less about helping Tibetans and more about entrenching Beijing’s control in a region that doesn’t seem to want it: “to have a national flag.” Every house and monastery building would be required to fly the crimson, five-starred flag of China. (Monasteries are also required to display portraits of Chinese leaders.) It was to be a show of submission to Chinese rule and a continuation of Tibet’s slow cultural dilution.
The rural Tibetan county of Driru, though, has defied the rule, with villagers refusing to fly the flag. On Sept. 27, Chinese authorities responded by sending in “thousands” of Chinese troops to force up the flags, according to Tibetan exile outlets and Radio Free Asia, a U.S. government-backed outlet that’s among the few foreign media organizations regularly reporting on Tibet. Now, a week later, Chinese flags are still not flying.
Some Tibetans initially clashed with the troops when they arrived, precipitating a tight security clampdown. “Groups of seven paramilitary policemen have been stationed at each house and are watching the Tibetans,” an unnamed Tibetan local told Radio Free Asia. “Villagers are not being allowed to tend to their animals, and any Tibetan found loitering in the town is being taken away.”
Earlier in the week, hundreds of Tibetans reportedly gathered in the Driru county seat, a village called Mowa, to protest on behalf of the civilians who had been taken away by the Chinese troops. It’s estimated that 40 locals have been taken.
The most significant moment may have been on Tuesday, Oct. 1. That was China’s National Day, the equivalent of America’s July 4, a major national holiday – and one in which the flag is particularly important. It seems likely that the troops had arrived to ensure that all Chinese flags would fly in Tibet by the National Day. They didn’t – andphotos of Driru, taken clandestinely by locals, make it appear as akin to a military occupation.
Tibetans in Driru have held a number of protests against Chinese rule. In August 2012, demonstrations against Chinese mining expansion there ended when a Chinese troops shot and killed one of the protesters. Locals held more anti-mining protests in May.
The nature of China’s rule has changed dramatically over the past four decades, easing with remarkable speed from the indoctrination and totalitarianism of Mao Zedong’s era to the market reforms and flexible civil rights of today. But these sorts of stories from Tibet – portraits of political leaders required to be displayed in monasteries, national flags forced up over the homes of villagers – are a reminder that some of the old habits still remain.