Actions to Release Ngawang Choephel!
A Poem Written By Anne Weiss
Ngawang Choephel, a Tibetan ethnomusicologist and former Fulbright scholar, was sentenced to 18 years in prison on trumped up spy charges. China accused Ngawang Choephel of being sent by the "Dalai clique with financial support of a certain foreign country," an obvious reference to the United States.
Ngawang was not sent to Tibet - he went as an extention of his scholarly pursuits and on his own. He had no funding from any country to return to Tibet -- he raised his own travel funds from individual friends and colleagues.
August 10, 1998 (update just recieved via the Web)
Dear friends of Ngawang Choephel,
As we near the third year of Ngawang's detention, I write to update you about the developments in his case. The most significant piece of news comes from the Tibetan Information Network's (TIN) update of Ngawang's situation dated July 16, 1998. The update confirms that Ngawang is being held north of Shigatse in Nyari detention center. TIN reports that in early May 1998, Chinese authorities broke their 32 month silence on Ngawang's whereabouts when they informed a delegation of European Union ambassadors that Ngawang remains in Shigatse where he was arrested. Both the U.S. State Department and a former prisoner of the same detention center, who now lives in India, verify this news.
Nyari detention center, in a remote valley 15 kilometers north of Shigatse, is a highly unusual place for Ngawang to be detained. In Tibet, virtually all convicted prisoners with long sentences are sent to Drapchi prison in Lhasa. Ngawang's continued detention at Nyari after his sentencing violates Chinese protocol, whereby prisoners are sent from detention to prison upon sentencing. Detention centers in Tibet are used primarily to extract information from prisoners, usually through torture, prior to trial and sentencing. Ngawang is most likely being held in the longer term "administrative detention" area, and according to TIN, he is still awaiting a ruling on his appeal. The treatment in the long term holding area of Nyari is reported to be harsh.
Sadly, based on the report of the former inmate who was released in 1997 and now lives in exile, Ngawang has not escaped harsh treatment. In his words: When I used to see him [in the Shigatse detention centre], Ngawang Choephel looked weak and dazed. He was not like the other prisoners, who look mentally alert. Ngawang was interrogated in secret. Generally prisoners are tortured during their interrogation, but I cannot say if he was tortured or not. I encourage all reading this to see the full TIN update on the internet at www.tibetinfo.net, look under "News Updates."
On the diplomatic front, Ngawang's case continues to gain strength. In March of this year, I personally briefed Greg Craig, Special Coordinator for Tibet in the U.S. State Department, on the details of Ngawang's case. As a member of Secretary of State Albright's delegation to China in early May, Mr. Craig pressed for information on Ngawang's situation. Members of the National Security Council were also along to engage in negotiations for the Presidential summit later in June. According to Mr. Craig's office, Ngawang's case entered the summit negotiations "at a working level."
Tibetan issues figured prominently during the President's Beijing summit in late June, and Ngawang's case was a priority for John Shattuck, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights. A June 22 Reuters article from Beijing asserted that should the Chinese release a prisoner as a gesture of goodwill, "one Tibetan candidate for release may be Ngawang Choephel." The State Department, however, has no post-summit news about Ngawang beyond verifying his location.
Thankfully, Sonam Dickey, Ngawang's mother, has moved from her lean-to on the street in New Delhi to Delek Hospital in Dharamsala for T.B. treatment. On June 3, 1998, The San Jose Mercury News ran and article, which I have enclosed, featuring an interview with Sonam. The Free Tibet Campaign in London and the International Campaign for Tibet are currently thinking of hosting Sonam for a visit to London and Washington, D.C.
The Tibetan Freedom Concert, this year in Washington D.C., once again focused on Ngawang and other prisoners. At the concert, Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) gathered tens of thousands of signed Ngawang-action-postcards destined for the White House. SFT plans to deliver the postcards on September 15, 1998, the third anniversary of Ngawang's imprisonment.
On August 13, Neal Dessouky and Charles Fulford set out to hike the John Muir Trail in Northern California as a fundraising effort. The money they raise will go toward Ngawang's campaign, refugee relief, and Tibetan schools in Tibet. I have included their letter for your interest.
I thank each of you for your vigilant effort on behalf of
We must remain active by continuing to
communicate with Congress and the Administration; please write,
call or e-mail to express your outrage at
the Chinese government's continued mistreatment of Ngawang. The
Capitol switchboard, (202) 224-3121
can provide most federal telephone numbers within Washington,
Jon Barlow (see addresses below)
The Honerable Mr. Legqog
Chairman Xizang Autonomous Regional People's Government
People's Republic of China.
President of the People's Republic of China
c/o Embassy of People's
Republic of China
2300 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20008
Premier Zhu Ronji
c/o Embassy of People's
Republic of China
2300 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20008
The Honorable Albert Gore
Vice President of the United States
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500
and/or your congressional representatives:
The House of Representatives
You may choose to cc:
email@example.com (Sect. of State)
Another Sample Letter
and the Chinese Ambassador to the United States:
His Excellency Li Daoyu
Ambassador to the United States
Embassy of the Peoples Republic of China
2300 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
tel. (202) 328-2500
Thank you for your assistance with this urgent campaign!
URGENT APPEAL CASE Update of February 22, 1996 Update from Human Rights Desk, Feb.29,1996 February 7, 1996 We have just received news of the arrest of Ngawang Choephel, a Tibetan music teacher. Background Information Ngawang Choephel aged 30, was a resident of Mundgod Tibetan Settlement, Camp No. 2 in South India. He taught music at the Central School for Tibetans in Mundgod settlement. Previously he had studied Tibetan music and dance at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts in Dharamsala. In August 1993, Ngawang Choephel went to America for further studies and returned in May 1994. In July/August 1995, he went to Tibet. However, nothing was heard of him after that. Arrest According to our source in Tibet, Ngawang Choephel was arrested in Shigatse in July/August 1995 and is being detained by the Chinese authorities. He was reportedly arrested for taking some pictures. Ngawang Choephel's whereabouts are not known. Ngawang Choephel's mother, Sonam Dekyi is deeply concerned about her son's disappearance and relative safety.
To: The Honorable Albert Gore
Vice President of the United States
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Vice President Al Gore,
Ngawang Choephel, a Congressionally funded Fulbright Scholar, is scheduled to spend another 18 years in prison for trying to preserve the cultural heritage of Tibet. His plight is just one example of the Chinese government's continual disregard of human rights. By financially and politically sanctioning China's behavior, the U.S. government is becoming an accomplice to these atrocities. Please take a strong stand for the people of Tibet and China by making your trip to China contingent upon Ngawang's release, and take every opportunity you can to influence the improvement of China's human rights record.
Respectfully, ______________________, U. S. Citizen
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Representative's or Senator's Name:
I am writing to ask for your help in securing the release of Ngawang Choephel, a Tibetan who is currently being detained in Tibet.
According to information from the International Campaign for Tibet and Amnesty International, Ngawang Choephel was a Tibetan Fulbright Scholar who studied ethnomusicology at Middlebury College in Vermont during 1992-1993. After raising funds in the U.S., he returned to Tibet, his homeland, in the summer of 1995 to make an amateur documentary video about traditional Tibetan music and dance. Mr. Choephel was last seen in a prison in Shigatse around October 1995 by a Tibetan businessman, Dorji Rinchen, who was also detained there, but has since been released and is currently in India.
Prior to his arrest, Ngawang Choephel sent his footage to Kathmandu, Nepal. The International Campaign for Tibet obtained the 16 hours of footage, which provides a photographic record of the weeks leading up to his arrest. It shows that he was engaged solely in the cultural documentation of the oral tradition of Tibetan music.
Ngawang Choephel has not been charged by Chinese authorities with any recognizable offense. In light of the fact that he has been detained for his peaceful, non-violent activities, I urge you to contact Secretary of State Warren Christopher and ask that the U.S. press the Chinese government for the immediate release of Ngawang Choephel. I also ask that you contact the Chinese Ambassador to the U.S., Li Daoyu, directly and request that they provide an account of Ngawang Choephel's whereabouts in Tibet and that they release him unconditionally.
This case exemplifies the worsening human rights conditions in Tibet which I am very concerned about. I urge you to use every opportunity to speak out on this issue and to vote for measures which support the people of Tibet.
I look forward to hearing from you as to actions taken on behalf of Ngawang Choephel. Thank you very much for your help in this matter.
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500
Ngawang Choephel, a Tibetan refugee, Middlebury College Fulbright Scholar, musician, and ethnomusicologist has been sentenced to 18 years in prison by the Chinese government occupying Tibet. There to make an amateur video documentary of traditional Tibetan music and dance- a skill he learned studying ethnomusicology through his Fulbright scholarship- Ngawang was falsely tried for espionage and given this terrible sentencing the day after Christmas. His trial was more than a year after his "disappearance" by Chinese authorities, during which time it was likely that he was also starved and tortured.
Despite the fact that Ngawang was visiting Tibet to do something everyone should have the basic right to do-preserve their culture- and despite outcry from thousands and thousands of people, and despite efforts made by many legislators, such as Patrick Leahy, James Jeffords and Bernie Sanders, among others, Ngawang is paying a terrible price for being a person of integrity, ability, and courage.
An additional tragedy, the Chinese are also refusing to let Ngawang's seriously ill mother visit him before her impending death.
I have been very disturbed by both Ngawang's fate and by it's indication of the continuing and atrocious human rights abuses being conducted daily by the Chinese government. I am equally disturbed by the United States official position on China, and for the lack of outcry on my government's behalf for Ngawang's hugely unjust sentencing and it's indications of China's disdain for justice and international laws.
Please do not let Ngawang suffer this terrible injustice, and send China a clear message about the United States' position on human rights abuses by calling on Al Gore to condition his upcoming trip to China on Ngawng's release. I also urge you to revoke any status conferred on the Chinese government until their human rights abuses demonstrably cease.
Release Ngawang Choephel, Fulbright Scholar
Send to: Secretary of State, Madeline Albright
U.S. Dept. of State,Washington, D.C. 20520
Ngawang Choephel was awarded a Congressionally funded Fulbright scholarship to study ethnomusicology at Middlebury College in 1993. He returned to Tibet in 1995 to make an amateur video about traditional Tibetan song and dance. In December of 1996, a year and a half after being "disappeared" by Chinese authorities, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison on false charges of espionage.
We, the undersigned, protest China's wrongful imprisonment of Ngawang Choephel. We strongly urge the U.S. government to take every action possible to ensure Ngawang's immediate and unconditional release. His imprisonment for preserving the traditions of Tibetan people is a flagrant disregard of human rights.
I heard you gave a concert in the prison.
I heard the Chinese broke your bones,
I heard you were dead. I heard you were naked
you and the five hundred other Tibetans. There have been
at least five thousand letters sent, like strange folded doves
from every corner of our piece of the continent.
We try to be more or less comfortable, knowing your mother
is insane with anguish. We try to be good, hate
no-one, think of you singing your bones
back together. It is what you have always done,
collecting the bones of your ancestors: the bones that know
which dance to dance in spring, and which song to sing at the well,
and which song will bring you luck.
>From here in America I am singing a song of rapture
for your mother's ears alone: your face at her bedside, your face
a mirror of hers, only adored to infinity.
It's the one song you taught me, remember? This one that stuck in my American
bones. This one that says a million letters and your mother's love
will open the prison of even the Chinese prime minister's fist.
Anne Weiss 10/28/96
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A letter from Ngawang Choephel's mother June 15/97
Letter Sent to Anne Weiss 3/6/97 from India, received from Ngawang Choephel's
mother June 15/97 (copied).
Ngawang is a Tibetan musician, ethnomusicologist, Middlebury College Fulbright Scholar and close friend imprisoned for documenting Tibetan music and culture. Anne Weiss's response and action sheet also enclosed.
Please distribute and act!
From: Ngawang Chophel's mother, Sonam Dickey.
For: The Supporters and helpers of Ngawang Choephel, imprisoned by the Chinese, and All who take interest in knowing Ngawang's case.
With my hands cupped in prayer position, I, Sonam Dickey, mother of Ngawang Choephel who is termed for 18 years imprisonment by the Chinese governemt, expressing you from the core of my heart that the work and effort you all had put for freeing my son before he was termed for 18 years prisonment was very much remembered and moved to me.
But after the Chinese had given their term for prisoning him for a duration of 18 years, I feel that the work and effort of yours have been loosened instead of making it hard and emergency. I request you all to help and support my son for his release, like the way you all done for Gadun Rinchen between the years of 1993-94. I have waited so far in the hope that you all will get success in releasing him like Gadun Rinchen.
If you all can't do much now in helping his case please (dare) to tell me directly. So that I prove to the world that my son has done no fault. He was imprisoned by the Chinese without any fault. I beg all your support to reach to the office of United Nations Organization so that I can prove my son (darelessness) by poisoning myself.
I was even told by the International Campaign for Tibet during Dec. 1996 that they can free my son in 1997 and they can promised it. I too can hope that they will really do it and I am still looking forward for it.
I heard that there was a discussion made between the Australia and USA regarding my son's case. Please kindly let me know what was it. Being his mother, please do this generosity of informing me of every details of what was going on regarding him.
I request to all the supporters and helpers to not accept the terms and duration declared by the Chinese on my son's case. If you all can't help accepting the terms made by them, then as they pointed my son as spy and imprisoned because of it, I can prove that he is not a spy and haven't done any fault for I can drink poison in front of United Nations Organization.
My happiness and life was lost since the separation of my son and I always spent a sleepless night. Being separate from him I don't feel staying in this four wall of my house and so, I roam all the day.
I had gone to Bylekuppe, other Tibetan settlement in South India to beg money to visit the Chinese embassy in Delhi, the Capitol of India. The money which is left by my son are all finished now for his searching and making contacts by letter and visiting offices in India and Nepal for his reason. And its OK I can live by begging donation.
Lastly, my last request is please take into consider this letter and make it
an effort for what it was meaned. This much.
A lost and broken hearted mother
Camp No. 2
House NO. 30
Anne's Reply June 18/97
I received your last letter three days ago and read with sadness and understanding all of your frustration and pain about Ngawang. It must be terrible to feel as you do. I know how much Ngawang loves and respects you, and how much he is thinking of you from prison and wishing you were not suffering.
Even though you are in so much pain, I beg you to protest Ngawang's imprisonment without hurting yourself. I support your idea of protesting in front of the United Nations, but if you poison yourself Ngawang will not have his mother out in the world to help him, or to return home to. I'm sure that knowing you are alive keeps his spirit strong and determined to be free. You have to know that your prayers are reaching him and helping him in prison.
I know that it must seem like no one is doing enough to help Ngawang, because he is not free. But I want to let you know that everyone here is still working for his freedom. Every week I perform music in front of hundreds of people and have them write letters, send postcards, sign petitions, and contact their representative. In New York City there was a huge protest last month, and Ngawang was one of the people talked about the most. There was also a concert in New York of some of the most famous musicians in the United States, and they had everyone (hundreds of thousands of people) who came to the concert write letters. The United States Senate passed a resolution protesting Ngawang's imprisonment and declaring that he was innocent. Amnesty International decided to focus on Ngawang to help him get international support. The International Campaign for Tibet is also working very hard. So many people have not forgotten you or Ngawang! The Chinese government is very stubborn and very cruel, but we will fight them until Ngawang is free.
Today I met with the President of the Tibetan Association here in Portland, Oregon. We had a meeting because of your letter, to talk about what more we could do to pressure China and free Ngawang. We decided to organize another big event to get more people involved in Ngawang's case, and to get the issue back in the newspapers and in the front of the minds of our local politicians. I will work very hard to get as many people there as possible, and I will do everything in my power to influence the Chinese government and my government, and I will ask other to do the same.
If you can think of anything else I can or should do, let me know.
I do not have much money, but I would like to send you some to help you visit the Chinese embassy and other places you need to go. What is a safe way to send money to India?
Praying for Ngawang's release and for your happiness, Anne Weiss
U.S. Position on China
Contact Clinton and Gore (White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave,Wash. D.C. 20500; 202-456-2461; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com) and stress that the U.S should take a strong stand against China's human rights abuses by revoking preferred nation status. Emphasize that further public relations with China should be contingent on Ngawang's release.
Boycott Chinese Products and tell your representatives why you are doing so.
Contact Your Representatives: (sample letter on reverse side) U.S House of Reps/ U.S Senate, Wash. D.C. 20510. If you don't know who your reps are, call 202-244-3121 and give your zip code.
Musicians Take It On The Road...music supporters can too! Bonnie Raitt, Natalie Merchant, Alanis Morisette, the Beastie Boys (!!?!) and several other famous musicians have written to the White House on Ngawang's behalf; Dar Williams is promoting Ngawang's case by keeping updated info on her web site, and by talking about Ngawang at concerts... Music Lovers Arise! Take petitions and postcards with you on the road (or to friend's houses!) put Ngawang's info on your web site; educate others about Ngawang and the price he's paying for doing what we do freely every day. Show the video about Ngawang which includes footage he filmed in Tibet before his imprisonment.
For more information and organizing materials, contact the International Campaign for Tibet at #202-785-1515;
email ICT@peacenet.org; internet http//www.peacenet.org/ICT. Also contact
your local Amnesty International Chapter.
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Oregon Residents Opportunity to help Ngawang Choephel
Hi Music Pals,
By now you all probably know about my courageous friend Ngawang Choephel, (pronounced Nawong Chopel) who has been suffering imprisonment for over two years in Chinese- occupied Tibet. Ngawang was in Tibet in order to try to make a amateur video documentary about traditional Tibetan music and dance and as a Tibetan refugee was imprisoned and then was dissapeared for a year before his trial, in which he was sentenced to 18 years. His charge, despite proof to the contrary, was "espionage on the part of the Dalai Lama clique, funded by the US". Since his sentencing, Ngawang was re-dissapeared-- China has refused to disclose his wherabouts, his condition, whether in fact he is still alive, and has refused his mother and any other family member visitation or information about his well being.
Governer Kitzhaber's visit, despite it's focus, gives us an important opportunity to reopen the issue of Ngawang''s imprisonment and access to information about him. I hope anyone receving this note will feel moved to contact Kitzhaber's office, keeping in mind that if Ngawang is alive and well, it is almost certain that public pressure is the only protection and hope of freedom that he, and others suffering from Chinese governmental oppression in Tibet, has. Any action you can take is very important. It may be useful to mention to Kitzhaber and or Kitzhaber's staff that Ngawang was a recipient of a US Fulbright Scholarship to study ethnomusicology at Middlebury College, an ivy league school in Vermont. When dissapeared in Tibet, he was using his US training as an ethnomusicologist in order to preserve Tibetan traditional performing arts. He was not there on a political mission, but as a Fulbright scholar doing the work of cultural preservation.
Here is the news release on the upcoming China trip. Thanks you for
for caring, and for helping. If you have any questions, feel free to
me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Best to you, Anne Weiss:
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State of Oregon
JOHN A. KITZHABER
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 10, 1998
Contact: Katy Coba
GOVERNOR ANNOUNCES CHINA TRIP
Governor Kitzhaber will take his first trip as governor to the People's Republic of China this month, as the head of an 11-member trade delegation from Oregon. While there, Kitzhaber will meet with political and economic leaders and promote business opportunities for Oregon companies. The governor, who is leaving for Asia on Thursday, February 26, will focus on increasing the trade links between the two countries, especially in the agriculture and high tech industries. He will also meet with airline representatives to discuss a direct China route from Portland.
The trade mission's specific destinations in China are Beijing, Shanghai, Fuzhou (the state capital of Oregon's sister state, Fujian), Ghangzhou and Hong Kong. Following the China visit, the governor and the delegation will spend several days in Japan before heading home on Tuesday, March 10.
"There are clearly opportunities for Oregon to do business with China, and that's what this trip is about," said Kitzhaber. "Pacific Rim markets -- including China -- are a big part of our economy, and we want to maintain and expand that trading base."
The state's delegation to China includes
representatives from agriculture, timber, technology,
banking and food products companies. Port of Portland and
state economic development staff will also accompany the
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