A Spanish judge has submitted 48 questions to former Chinese president Hu Jintao, giving him the chance to respond to charges of genocide brought against him by two Tibetan exile groups and a Tibetan high priest with Spanish citizenship.
The charges relate to Hu’s tumultuous tenure as Communist Party secretary of the Tibetan Autonomous Region between 1988 and 1992, which saw the most violent riots since the Dalai Lama’s departure into exile 30 years earlier.
While observers have deemed an actual arrest and trial of Hu, 71, as highly unlikely, the high-profile case has confronted the former state leader with uncomfortable questions.
“Are you aware that as a consequence of the repression by the military and the police, imposed by law for this campaign, 450 Tibetans have been killed, 7,000 wounded, 350 disappeared and more than 3,000 were detained?” judge Ismael Moreno asked the retired leader in one of the queries, according to Spain’s news agency Agencia EFE .
Spain’s National Court gave Interpol arrest warrants for Hu and four other senior Communist Party figures earlier this month on charges of “genocide, torture and crimes against humanity”.
The warrants were issued against former president Jiang Zemin; former premier Li Peng; former security czar Qiao Shi; Chen Kuiyuan, Hu’s successor as Tibet’s party secretary; and Peng Peiyun, former head of the National Population and Family Planning Commission.
Interpol has yet to include their names in its public list of internationally wanted persons. Hua Chunying, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman, has condemned the arrest warrants as a form of interference in China’s domestic affairs and called on the Spanish government to “see through the Dalai group’s attempt to split the country”.
Earlier this month, Spain’s parliament passed a law further limiting the applicability of the law to Spanish citizens or foreign residents in Spain. The law has not yet come into force.
The court also asked Hu whether he allowed security forces to torture to death hundreds of detainees at the Lhasa No. 1 Prison. Other questions include matters not directly related to the crackdown in 1989.
In one question, Hu is asked whether a decision was made at the leadership’s Third Forum on Work in Tibet in 1994 about prosecuting those who met the Dalai Lama as counter-revolutionaries. The forum had set forth government policies in the restive region for the following decade.
The judge also asked whether Hu, as the supreme commander of the People’s Liberation Army for a decade until last year, was aware of the detention and torture of Tibetans caught fleeing to Nepal and India.
The five senior party leaders are unlikely to face a fate similar to Augusto Pinochet, Chile’s military ruler between 1973 and 1990, who spent more than 17 months under house arrest in London after being issued a Spanish arrest warrant for war crimes and genocide. In 2000, Pinochet was allowed to go back to Chile on medical grounds.
Initial charges were brought by two Tibetan support groups in 2006 against president Jiang and premier Li. Tibetan monk Thubten Wangchen, a Spanish citizen, is a co-plaintiff.
A spokesperson for the Spanish embassy in Beijing declined to comment on the case.