News / Asia

Spanish Court Seeks Arrest of Former Chinese Leaders in Tibet Case

FILE - Buddhist monk Thubten Wangchen (3rd R) and participants walk with Tibetan flags and images of Mahatma Gandhi during their march for "peace and non-violence" from Plaza d'Espanya [Spain Circus] to the Montjuich castle in Barcelona, Oct. 2, 2010.
FILE - Buddhist monk Thubten Wangchen (3rd R) and participants walk with Tibetan flags and images of Mahatma Gandhi during their march for "peace and non-violence" from Plaza d'Espanya [Spain Circus] to the Montjuich castle in Barcelona, Oct. 2, 2010.
Spain's National Court has ordered arrest warrants for former Chinese President Jiang Zemin and four other officials on suspicion of involvement in alleged genocide in Tibet.

VOA obtained a copy of the ruling of the Madrid-based court from one of the plaintiffs on Tuesday.  The document, issued a day earlier, called for the arrest of former Chinese President Jiang and the other officials to enable authorities to question them about the genocide allegations.

The plaintiff that provided the document is the Tibet Support Committee (Comite de Apoyo Al Tibet), a Spanish group that advocates for the rights of Tibetans in China.

China had no immediate comment on the Spanish court's action. The court indicted another former Chinese president, Hu Jintao, in connection with the genocide case on October 9. That move prompted China's foreign ministry to denounce what it called an attempt to "interfere" in Beijing's "internal affairs."

The Tibet Support Committee filed suit against the former Chinese leaders in Spain because the European country enables its courts to prosecute alleged war crimes and genocide committed anywhere, provided the victims include Spanish citizens. One of the co-plaintiffs is a Tibetan Buddhist monk with Spanish citizenship, Thubten Wangchen.

Tibet Support Committee head Alan Cantos told VOA another reason his group is seeking prosecutions in Spain is that Chinese officials cannot be tried at the International Criminal Court. China has refused to ratify the Rome Statute that established the Netherlands-based court in 2002.

Speaking by phone from Madrid, Cantos said the five former Chinese leaders sought by the Spanish court will have to be careful about their movements.

"They stand accused of very serious crimes. And in a way, they are jailed in their own country, as they risk arrest if they leave their country. So, the impunity they enjoyed until now is seriously hindered by the accusations and by the orders of international arrest," said Cantos.

The other Chinese officials named in the arrest order include former prime minister Li Peng, former security chief Qiao Shi, former Communist Party official Chen Kuiyan and former family planning minister Pen Pelyun.

Spain's policy of granting universal jurisdiction to courts in war crimes and genocide cases allowed a Spanish judge to pursue charges against the late former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet. British authorities detained the former autocratic ruler in London in 1998 in connection with that case, but later released him on medical grounds.

In a commentary published Monday, Tokyo-based online magazine The Diplomat said most Spanish universal jurisdiction cases have not led to convictions of foreign suspects.  

The magazine said it is "virtually unthinkable" that China's indicted leaders will be extradited and forced to defend themselves before a Spanish court.

Cantos said his group's legal campaign against the former officials is about more than just a desire to see them in prison.

"The law is a long process from the moment you denounce the crimes, let the witnesses and experts unfold the truth and tell their story. All of that is part of justice and part of accountability. So in that respect, I think the signal sent by these cases is very significant, even though it may not end up in the classical movie theme of trial, verdict and jail," he said.

One notable success for Spain's universal jurisdiction system was the conviction of former Argentinean naval officer Adolfo Scilingo in 2005 for crimes against humanity. After he traveled to Spain voluntarily, a Spanish court sentenced Scilingo to hundreds of years in prison for complicity in throwing 30 people to their deaths from planes when Argentina was under military rule from 1976 to 1983, a period known as the "dirty war."

Cantos said Spain's National Court issued a second document on Monday, formally notifying former Chinese President Hu of the October indictment and requesting information about the leader's actions in Tibet.  The court has not said whether it seeks Hu's arrest.

The former president served as Communist Party chief of the Tibetan Autonomous Region from 1988 to 1992 and later as Chinese head of state from 2003 to 2013.

The region has been under the control of the Chinese Communist government in Beijing since 1950.

Many Tibetans accuse the Chinese government of repressing their religion and culture. China says Tibetans enjoy religious freedom and benefit from better living standards linked to Chinese investment in underdeveloped Tibetan regions.

The Tibet Support Committee welcomed the latest moves by the Spanish court as a hopeful sign for what it called "Tibetan victims of [Chinese] occupation and repression."  It said the action also is good for the "health of the Spanish judicial system and the separation of powers in our democracy."

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Video Protests Continue in Ferguson, Spread to Other US Cities

Missouri officials say deployment of more than 2,000 National Guard soldiers helps curb second night of rampant arson and looting in Midwestern town More

Video Ebola, Crackdown on Illegals Hit Business in Guangzhou

Chinese city has largest community of Africans in Asia More

Video Legendary Lebanese Actress, Singer Sabah Dies at 87

Music and film diva, affectionately called 'Sabbouha' by millions of her fans, performed at Carnegie Hall in New York, Royal Albert Hall in London, Olympia in Paris, Sydney Opera House in Sydney More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid