Penkyi of Norbu village, Dogra township in Sakya country was just 21 years old when she was imprisoned and found guilty by the Chinese courts. She received a two year suspended death sentence for her alleged role in the Tibetan demonstrations of 2009; under Chinese law this is most often commuted to life imprisonment, however she remains in great peril due to the squalor conditions and threat of torture in prisons.
In April this year, it was confirmed that Penkyi alongside three others, Lobsang Gyaltsen, Loyak and another unnamed individual had been found guilty by the Chinese courts. The four were accused of starting fires during the demonstrations that lead to the fatalities of six individuals.
Gyaltsen and Loyak were both sentenced to death without reprieve. At the time, this was the first report of death sentences to be issued and carried out following the demonstrations – the largest show of protest for Tibetan freedom for years.
It is unclear if any of the prisoners were advised of their rights or given access to legal representation and the court system in China is notorious for being highly politicised. Although proceedings take place in open court, foreign journals have always been denied access to Tibet and there has yet to be an independent report on how independent and fair the system is.
Regardless, according to Chinese law, any appeal can be lodged within ten days from the sentencing, and again in open court, however following the protests, an increasing amount of trials have been done behind closed doors.
According to a report by the Congressional – Executive Commission on China, at least 670 Tibetans were jailed in 2009 for activities such as protesting and leaking information. This number is only an estimate, and not officially confirmed by the Chinese goverment; we can only estimate the total amount of Tibetans held captive to be greater.
In the aftermath of the demonstrations, the Chinese government have increased security in Tibet, imposing greater and stricter laws against the Tibetan people’s rights and freedoms. His Holiness the Dalai Lama voiced a great concern regarding the impartiality of Chinese courts, he said: “all these sentences are politically motivated, so we have great reservations. The PRC as a whole is without rule of law, no independent judiciary. Everything is controlled by the party.”
TWA demands that the Chinese Government release information on the status of Penkyi and for her to be given an independent and fair trial.