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

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora