Li Peng

08.05.2016 ( Last modified: 07.06.2016 )
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facts

Li Peng was born on 20 October 1928 in Yibin in China, in the Sichuan province. His father was a martyred revolutionary writer of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) who was executed in 1993 by the Chiang Kai-shek’s Chinese Nationalist Party (GMD). In 1939, he was adopted by Zhou Enlai, emblematic figure of the Chinese Communist Revolution and future Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

In 1941, Li began his studies at an Institute for Natural Science in China, which he continued until 1946, notably studying in Moscow in 1948, before specialising in hydro-electricity. Li joined the ranks of the CCP in 1945. He reached different positions of leadership at the heart of energy businesses, all whilst pursuing his ascent in the CCP.

In 1982, during the 12th National Congress of the CCP, Li joined the central Committee. In 1985 he was appointed in the Politburo and became Secretary of the party, then as a member of the permanent committee of the Politburo in 1987, before he became Prime Minister of the PRC the same year.

Tiananmen Square

On 21 April 1989, protestors gathered in Tiananmen Square to request a stronger struggle against corruption and for the protection of the rights and freedoms granted in the Chinese Constitution. Whilst the government of the former Chinese President, Zhao Ziyang, wanted to achieve a peaceful solution, Li called to return to order by using force. Zhao Ziyang, only had minor support. He was dismissed and placed under house arrest. A martial law was proclamed on 20 May 1989 and the Army invaded Pekin during the night of 3 and 4 June. The clashes between militaries and protestors resulted in several hundred deaths. Following the Tiananmen crise, Li was re-elected to the permanent Politburo committee during the first plenary session of the 15th Central committee of the CCP.

On 28 August 2000, an accusation was filed before Manhattan Federal Court against Li or his alleged participation in the repression of protestors in Tiananmen Square. This judicial action was introduced by four former academic leaders, including Wang Dan and Zhang Liming, the brother of a 21 year old student who was killed during the military assault.

Tibet

A report from the International Commission of Jurists (1997) came to the conclusion that the repression of Tibet started in 1994, when the high-ranked Chinese officials, including Li, chose to adopt a new strategy for the country. This was followed by a greater influx of Chinese migrants to Tibet, tighter controls on religious activities, a strong smear campaign against the Dalaï Lama and his religious and political influence, increased surveillance, political and arbitrary arrests, and widespread suppression of protests.

The practice of torture was common among police stations and in Tibetan prisons. Methods included severe beatings with chains, sticks with protruding nails and iron bars, inflicting shocks using electric prods for cattle on some sensitive parts of the body, suspending them with their arms tied behind their backs and exposing them to frozen water or to freezing temperatures. Also these torture techniques were specifically directed at certain groups of people. Women, in particular the religious ones, were victims of rape with the help of electric prods used for cattle, their chests were also aimed.

Tibetan population growth was regulated and controlled mainly by limiting the number of children families could have, they did this by imposing fines, abortions and forced sterilisations.

On 28 June 2005, the Tibetan Support Committee (Comité de Apoyo al Tibet), the Foundation “House of Tibet” (Fundacion Casa del Tibet) and Thubten Wangchen, a Tibetan in exile, filed a criminal complaint against eight defendants (including Deng Delyun, Chen Kuyian; Hu Jintao; Jiang Zemin; Li Peng; Ren Rong; Yin Fatang; and Qiao Shi,) before the Spanish National Court (Audiencia Nacional) on the basis of the principle of universal jurisdiction for crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, torture and terrorism, committed against Tibetans in the late 1980s and 1990s.

legal procedure

Tiananmen Square:

On 28 August 2000, an accusation was filed before Manhattan Federal Court against Li for his alleged participation in the repression of protestors in Tiananmen Square. This judicial action was introduced by four former academic leaders, including Wang Dan and Zhang Liming, the brother of a 21 year old student who was killed during the military assault.

The accusation accused Li of summary executions, arbitrary detentions, torture and other violations of the Alien Tort Statute, which has been interpreted by the American Courts, since 1980, to allow foreign citizens to appeal Human Rights violations, before the American Courts, for crimes committed outside of the United States.

The admissibility of this accusation was contested, the accused maintains that the summons to the court had not been carried out in accordance with procedure.

In September 2003 the court confirmed the dismissal of the complaint due the fact that Li had not been duly served timely summons to the court and the procedure was as a result dropped.

Tibet:

On 28 June 2005, the Tibetan Support Committee (Comité de Apoyo al Tibet), the Foundation “House of Tibet” (Fundacion Casa del Tibet) and Thubten Wangchen, a Tibetan in exile, filed a criminal complaint against eight defendants (including Deng Delyun, Chen Kuyian; Hu Jintao; Jiang Zemin; Li Peng; Ren Rong; Yin Fatang; and Qiao Shi,) before the Spanish National Court (Audiencia Nacional) on the basis of the principle of universal jurisdiction for crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, torture and terrorism, committed against Tibetans in the late 1980s and 1990s.

On 5 September 2005, this case was closed, due to insufficient links with Spain to justify applying the principle of universal jurisdiction. Following an appeal from the plaintiffs, on 10 January 2006, the Spanish Court of Appeal judged that the accusation filed against Li was admissible on the basis of universal jurisdiction. On 5 June 2006 the first victim testified before the Spanish National Court.

On 30 July 2008, the charges were broadened to include new cases of torture and charges of genocide. On 30 March 2011, war crimes charges were also included to the presentation of charges.

On 9 April 2009, Ismaël Moreno, judge of the Spanish National Court, called the Chinese authorities to open an investigation against Li and the other former Chinese leaders aimed in the complaint as perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and torture in Tibet.

Following a challenge of its competence, on 9 October 2013 the Spanish National Court confirmed its jurisdiction over the case. On 19 November 2013, the Spanish National Court issued an arrest warrant against Chen Kuyian, Deng Delyun, Jiang Zemin, Li Peng and Shi Qiao for their alleged involvement in the genocide in Tibet.

On 10 February 2014 it was confirmed that five arrest warrants were being issued.

However, on 13 March 2014, Spain adopted a new law restricting its universal jurisdiction. From now on the Spanish courts are competent to investigate genocide cases, crimes against humanity and war crimes only in three situations: when the suspect is a Spanish citizen; when the suspect is a foreigner but resides habitually in Spain; or if the suspect is a foreigner, present in Spain and whom Spain will not extradite.  Nevertheless these new conditions for exercising universal jurisdiction by the Spanish courts do not apply to crimes of terrorism or related crimes.

As a result, on 23 June 2014 the Spanish National Court rejected these claims. It was considered that in respect of the new law on universal jurisdiction, the Spanish authorities were not able to investigate or judge the crimes committed in Tibet.

On 18 September 2014, the plaintiff and his co-plaintiffs appealed this decision.

On 22 April 2015, the Spanish Supreme Court confirmed the Spanish High Court’s decision to reject the claims, putting an end to the judicial pursuits against Shi and the other Chinese leaders being questioned.

spotlight

The Li case is part of the eight first complaints filed against former Chinese politicians regarding the crimes committed in Tibet.

context

On 1st October 1949, Mao Tse-tung proclaimed the foundation of the People’s Republic of China. Soon after, the following year, the newly created Republic invaded Tibet.

In 1951, a seventeen point treaty established the sovereignty of China over Tibet. During the following decades several uprisings took place and were brutally repressed by the Chinese authorities.

In March 1959, a Tibetan insurrection was bloodily crushed by the Chinese troops. It was at this time that the Dalai Lama went into exile in India. According to certain sources, this massacre led to the death of some 87 000 Tibetans and to the exile of 80 000 of them to India, Nepal and Bhutan.

At that point, China set up a wide ranging ethnic cleansing policy by imposing the Chinese Communist regime on the Tibetan people: traditional Tibetan social structures were disbanded, religious practice was curtailed and Tibetan Buddhism was oppressed.

According to a Spanish based Tibetan Support Group (Comite de Apoyo al Tibet), a million Tibetans are said to have been assassinated or displaced since 1950 and more than 90% of cultural and religious institutions reportedly destroyed: Tibetan monasteries have been set upon and shrines destroyed. Those who refused to adopt Chinese communist ideology were killed. Chinese farmworkers were transferred to Tibet. Tibetan fiscal policy and social structures were restructured in line with Chinese systems.

Between 1966 and 1969, the Cultural Revolution activated by Mao Tse-tung spread to Tibet, bringing with it its share of destruction and persecution: Tibetan temples were looted and destroyed, and religious adherents were beaten, tortured, raped and killed in public.

The Development Plan for Western China, launched on 17 June 1999, was dubbed the “second invasion of Tibet”. It forced the Tibetan nomads to settle down in urban areas where they were no longer able to make a living through their traditional means of subsistence. Moreover the massive Chinese migration to Tibet driven by the Chinese authorities, transformed these Tibetans into an ethnic minority. The objective of the Chinese policy in Tibet was therefore aimed at assimilating the Tibetans and their ancestral culture into the Chinese social, political and economic model.

In Tibet, even today, there still exists persecution and restriction of religious beliefs and practices. Possession and distribution of images of the Dalai Lama are strictly prohibited and violence against Tibetan monks and nuns take place daily.