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China: UN experts seek clarification about nine imprisoned Tibetan human rights defenders

10 August 2023

GENEVA (10 August 2023) – The Chinese government must provide information about nine Tibetan environmental human rights defenders serving prison sentences of up to 11 years, UN experts said today. 

Between 2010 and 2019, nine Tibetan human rights defenders were imprisoned in the course of their peaceful work to protect the area’s fragile environment.

“The lack of information provided by Chinese authorities could be seen as a deliberate attempt to make the world forget about these human rights defenders as they spend year after year in isolation,” the UN experts said. “Their families have been kept in the dark about their fate,” they said.

The imprisoned environmental human rights defenders – Anya Sengdra, Dorjee Daktal, Kelsang Choklang, Dhongye, Rinchen Namdol, Tsultrim Gonpo, Jangchup Ngodup, Sogru Abhu and Namesy – were arrested after they protested against illegal mining activities at the sacred mountains and exposed the hunting of endangered species in Qinghai Province, Sichuan Province and the Tibetan Autonomous Province.

“There is very little information available about the circumstances of their detention, trial and sentencing, but with cases where we do have sufficient information, we know these activists were sentenced to between seven and 11 years in prison,” experts said.

They said it was unclear how many of the human rights defenders had received access to legal counsel during their detention or whether any have access to medical care in prison.

The length of sentences handed down in six of the cases – namely against Dhongye, Rinchen Namdol, Tsultrim Gonpo, Jangchup Ngodup, Sogru Abhu and Namsey – have not been made public by the Chinese government. It remains unclear where the activists are being held and in what conditions they are serving their sentences.

“We urge the Chinese government to provide details on why and where they are being held and their health conditions, provide them with adequate medical care and permit their families access to visit them,” the experts said.

Since the human rights defenders were sentenced, the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment was recognised at the international level by the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.

“If China is committed to tackle the impacts of climate change, it should refrain from persecuting environmental human rights defenders and release all nine immediately,” the experts said.

The UN experts have been in contact with the Government of the People’s Republic of China regarding the issue.


Ms. Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association ; Mr. David Boyd, Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment

The Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page - China

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