Help Free Fulbright Scholar, Ngawang Choephel

Below is a letter from the director of the International Campaign for Tibet:

Ngawang Choephel has been sentenced to 18 years in prison! He does not deserve to be there. Your help is urgently needed to mobilize public pressure to secure his release.

Ngawang's case is unique: never before has a Tibetan returned to Tibet from the U.S. and been imprisoned for such a long period of time. And never before has a Tibetan prisoner of conscience left behind a photographic record of the weeks leading up to his arrest.

Ngawang's case is unique: never before has a Tibetan returned to Tibet from the U.S. and been imprisoned for such a long period of time. And never before has a Tibetan prisoner of conscience left behind a photographic record of the weeks leading up to his arrest. Ngawang was a Fulbright scholar who studied at Middlebury College and returned to Tibet to make an amateur video tape about traditional Tibetan song and dance. As a precaution, he periodically sent completed footage to Kathmandu. The International Campaign for Tibet obtained the footage, which amounted to 16 hours of spectacular scenes of traditional song and dance. Of those 16 hours, there was not a single scene indicating that Ngawang was involved in any political activity whatsoever - his extensive photographic record shows he was solely engaged in cultural documentation.

Ngawang's friends, acquaintances and professional colleagues in the United States, many of whom were helping him to complete this project, all are convinced that he would not have veered from his ethnomusicology project.

Some of his footage has been incorporated into a moving shot video about Ngawang's trip to Tibet, his arrest and the impact of his disappearance on friends and family. Two talented filmmakers - Robin Garthwait and Dan Griffin - volunteered their time and resources to direct and produce the video, which is now being widely distributed as part of an international campaign to highlight Ngwang's case.

In December of 1997, Ngawang was charged with espionage, sentencable by death!

Letters, appeals and publicity work. By raising our voices for Ngawang, we are also sending a strong message in support of all prisoners of conscience in Tibet.

Thank you for whatever you can do, and please contact us if you have any questions, ideas or leads.

Sincerely,
John Ackerly,
Director of ICT Gendun Rinchen, Former prisoner of conscience


Here's what you can do to help:

Write Letters
Writing personalized letters on Ngawang's behalf is the most immediate and important thing everyone can easily do for Ngawang. URGENT! Click here to send a letter to US Vice President Al Gore concerning Ngawang Cheophel. Letters are needed to:
  1. Your representatives in Congress: write your house representative at U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515, and your Senators at U.S. Senate, Washington, DC 20510. If you don't know who your representatives are, call 202-224-3121 and give your zip code. Ask your representatives to contact the Chinese Ambassador and the U.S. Department of State. You can also write a letter to Chinese officials regarding this issue.
  2. Chinese officials: write Chen Kuiyan, Chinese Communist Party Secretary, TAR Party Committee, Lasashi 850000, Xizang Zizhiqu, CHINA.

Get Ngawang's video from ICT
Be creative in thinking of places the video can be shown. Church meetings, professional association meetings, high school and college classes, Amnesty International meetings and gatherings of any other human rights related groups are all good opportunities. Local cable access channels may work too.

Alert local media
Ngawang's case and the campaign for his release are very press-worthy. The video is an excellent tool to obtain TV and radio coverage. (Broadcast-quality copies of the video are available upon request for TV news usage. Sound-bites from the VHS tapes should be sufficient for radio usage.)
Mobilize Campus Support
  • Ask the president of the college to send a letter to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright urging him to take up Ngawang's case directly with Chinese officials.
  • Join (or form!) a Students for a Free Tibet chapter to get more people involved in Ngawang's campaign and to organize larger events about Tibet. (Contact: John Hocevar, Students for a Free Tibet, at 1-888-SFTIBET or at http://www.tibet.org/SFT.)

Direct Appeals
If you know anyone traveling to China for business or professional reasons, or anyone receiving official Chinese visitors here, ask them to raise the case of Ngawang.