China Jails 17 for Tibet Protests

April 29, 2008 Updated: April 29, 2008

BEIJING—A Chinese court jailed 17 people for terms ranging from three years to life on Tuesday for their roles in the Tibet protests, which triggered anti-China protests ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

Lhasa Intermediate People's Court announced the verdicts at an “open trial” attended by more than 200 people, including Buddhist monks, medical workers and “masses from all walks of life”, state television said.

It was the first batch of sentences announced since the March 14 protests and a Chinese crackdown that led to protests and disruption of the global Olympic torch relay, most notably in London, Paris and San Francisco.

Soi'nam Norbu, a driver with a Lhasa real estate company, and Basang, a monk, were sentenced to life, the Communist party mouthpiece, Xinhua quoted the court as saying.

It said Soi'nam Norbu, born in 1988, was part of mobs which burnt vehicles in a square near the Johkang Monastery, smashed police stations and fire engines with stones, and assaulted firemen.

“He was convicted of arson and disrupting public services,” the court said in a press release.

Basang, a monk from Doilungdeqen County in Lhasa, led 10 people–including five monks–to destroy the local government office, smash or burn down 11 shops, steal valuables and attack policemen, the court said.”

For full coverage please see Repression in Tibet

Pro-Tibet activists say the charges are false and that there is no rule of law in China.

Some Western politicians have urged world leaders to boycott the opening ceremony of the Olympics, a sentiment echoed by a Nobel Peace laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.

The European Parliament has also urged EU leaders to stay away from the opening ceremony unless China starts talks with the Dalai Lama.

Seemingly bowing to international pressure, Beijing said last Friday that it would hold talks with envoys of the spiritual leader.

When asked about progress, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said she had few details.

“As far as I know, issues relating to dialogue and contact are still to be discussed,” she said.