Tibetan Political News in Full
- Political prisoner’s early release seen as attempt to avoid detention-related death
April 4, 2013 | Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy
A long-serving Tibetan political prisoner, Dawa Gyaltsen, now about 47, was released two years earlier than the expected date for exhibiting “good behaviour”, according to information received by TCHRD from exile Tibetan sources having local contacts in Tibet.
He was serving an 18-year prison term when he was released sometime last month. The exact release date cannot be ascertained immediately. The former bank accountant was first detained for distributing and pasting Tibetan independence leaflets.
There has been no statement yet from Chinese authorities regarding Dawa Gyaltsen’s release two years before the expected date. However, Tibetan sources say Dawa Gyaltsen (Ch: Dawa Jianzan) is in poor health, with the limp in one of his legs having worsened over the years due to ill-treatment and torture in prison for 17 years.
It is not uncommon in Tibet for Tibetan political prisoners to die shortly after their release. Many Tibetan political prisoners have died at the hands of prison authorities after succumbing to torture-related injuries.
A former prison mate of Dawa Gyaltsen in Chushul (Ch: Qushui) Prison (and who now lives in India) said it is highly probable that he might have been released due to his poor health. “Ten years ago when I was with him in the prison, I always saw him sick and confined to his cell.”
Dawa Gyaltsen’s condition is said to be critical. His wife, with whom he had two children, had apparently left him during his years of incarceration and moved somewhere else, according to a former Tibetan prisoner (name withheld) who was a cellmate of Dawa Gyaltsen in Chushul Prison. Friends and former prison mates in exile are concerned that Dawa Gyaltsen have few surviving family members and relatives left to care of him.
In 1995, Dawa Gyaltsen, along with his younger brother, Nyima Dhondup, a monk at Nagchu Shapten Monastery and two more monks, Mazo and Agya, from the same monastery, were detained for distributing “political documents”. They were arrested on charges of “inciting counter-revolutionary propaganda” by Lhasa Public Security Bureau (PSB) personnel.
Dawa Gyaltsen was labeled as the “ringleader” and in May 1997, sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment. His brother, Nyima Dhondup, was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Mazo and Agya each received eight years’ imprisonment.
Initially, all four of them were held in Drapchi Prison but were transferred in May 1997 to the newly-renovated and expanded Chushul Prison in the outskirts of Lhasa.
Dawa Gyaltsen spent major part of his sentence in Chushul Prison, where incarceration means brutal mistreatment and torture of political prisoners. During his imprisonment, prison authorities particularly targeted Dawa Gyaltsen for extra supervision and surveillance.
During the 2008 uprising in Tibet, Dawa Gyaltsen was kept in solitary confinement for about six months, as were other prisoners such as Dolma Kyap and Tsering Wangchuk in Chushul.
Prior to the sentencing, Dawa Gyatsen was held in Seitru Detention Centre (Lhasa) for 14 months undergoing intense interrogation, beatings and torture. Sources say his 14-month detention was not included in his 18-year sentence. In February 2005, the now-defunct London-based Tibet Information Network reported that Dawa Gyaltsen’s 18-year sentence had been reduced by one year and three months in 2002 and again in 2004, he received nine-month sentence reduction.
In 1997, Tenzin Tsundue, a well-known Tibetan activist and writer in India, met Dawa Gyaltsen, who was then 28, in Seitru Detention Centre. Tsundue was detained in March 1997 for “illegally” entering Tibet. According to Tenzin Tsundue, Dawa Gyaltsen was mistreated by prison authorities, who often deprived him of food, and the daily 15-minute morning break outside prison cells.
In his deposition filed on 3 July 2006 in the Spanish national court[i], Tsundue wrote:
Once he showed me his wrists. There were clear scars of torture- a ring of white scar tissue ran around his wrists. He told me that when he was first arrested he was handcuffed and thrown into a dark room without food for ten days. To keep him alive, the jailors would splash water on him once a day. The handcuffs tightened around his wrists. They ate into his flesh, forming sores, and puss. After 10 days when they unlocked the shackles, the metal rings ripped off skin from his wrist. He said he was not given medical attention and it took many months for the sores to heal.
Tsundue, who was detained for about three months in Seitru, said prisoners were not allowed to speak to each other, and if caught in the act, prison guards beat them up.
Dawa Gyaltsen was born in Shentsa (Ch: Jiali) County in Nagchu (Ch: Naqu) Prefecture in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), in central Tibet.
Dawa Gyaltsen attended primary and middle school in Nagchu Prefecture, later pursuing further education in Beijing, where he specialised in banking and accountancy. After finishing his studies, he worked as a clerk-cum-accountant at a bank in Nagchu. He was married with two children.
[i] Spain hears Tibet lawsuits, upholds universal jurisdiction, http://www.sunday-guardian.com/analysis/spain-hears-tibet-lawsuits-upholds-universal-jurisdiction
- Tibetan Political Activist Freed After 17 Years in Jail
Radio Free Asia | April 2, 2013A popular Tibetan activist has been freed after serving 17 years in prison with hard labor for seeking independence for Tibet and calling for the long life of Tibet’s spirtual leader, the Dalai Lama, according to a Tibetan source.
Jigme Gyatso, 52, a former monk, appeared “very weak” when he returned Monday to his home in Sangchu (in Chinese, Xiahe) county in Gansu province’s Kanlho (Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture after being released from Chusul prison near Tibet’s capital Lhasa on Saturday, the source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
Jigme Gyatso, who was the leader of the Association of Tibetan Freedom Movement, was sentenced in 1996 to 15 years in prison on charges of being a “counter-revolutionary ring leader” and endangering national security.
The Chinese authorities added three more years to his sentence in 2004 for “inciting separatism” when he shouted in prison for the long life of Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India’s Dharamsala hill town.
Jigme Gyatso was due to be released in March 2014.
Many international human rights groups had protested his jailing or campaigned on his behalf, including Amnesty International which designated him a prisoner of conscience after accusing the Chinese authorities of beating and torturing him in prison. He was also hospitalized for a unknown period during his imprisonment.
A year after he was sentenced, he was beaten so badly that he could barely walk afterwards, Amnesty had said in one of its reports.
“After he was released from prison, Jigme Gyatso was ordered to leave for his hometown and reached his hometown on April 1 with a police escort,” the Tibetan source said.
“Those who saw him reported that he was very weak. He was limping and reported having heart problems and high blood pressure. His vision was also weak,” Jigme Gyatso’s friend, Jamyang Tsultrim, who is living in exile in India, told RFA, citing local contacts.
In May 1998, Jigme Gyatso was among a group of prisoners in Lhasa’s Drapchi prison who began shouting pro-Dalai Lama slogans, prompting a violent response from prison staff which resulted in the death of nine inmates, reports had said.
The protest coincided with a European Union delegation’s visit to the prison.
The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture met with Jigme Gyatso during his mission to China in November 2005 and appealed to the Chinese authorities for his release.
Following that, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention stated that his detention was arbitrary and violated his rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
The World Organisation Against Torture, a large coalition of non-governmental organizations fighting against arbitrary detention, torture, extrajudicial executions, and other forms of violence, reported in 2009 that Jigme Gyatso had become “very frail,” suffered from kidney dysfunction, and could “only walk with his back bent.”
Amnesty said in 2011 that he was suspected to be “seriously ill as a result of torture and ill-treatment in custody.”
Reported by Lumbum Tashi for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.
- Dhondup Wangchen’s wife launches campaign for Jigme Gyatso
Filming for Tibet research, collected with the help of Lhamo Tso, clearly indicates that the charges of manslaughter against Tibetan monk Jigme Gyatso (aka “Golog Jigme”) are baseless. Lhamo Tso, an old friend of Jigme Gyatso, is appealing to the US government and governments around the world to request the officials in China to stop the manhunt.
Since the surprising charges against Jigme Gyatso first appeared, Filming for Tibet has tried to shed light on the case and started research into the matter. The findings of this research are as follows:
1. Over the past weeks and months, individual reports appeared on Facebook by Westerners living in China and Tibetans who know Jigme Gyatso that protest against the idea of manslaughter. Filming for Tibet representatives have met with several of these voices in person and have been reassured that the background for the PSB search are baseless and motivated by other, unknown, reasons.
2. There has been a systematic outreach by Filming for Tibet to reliable sources in Tibet who say:
a. There has been no case of manslaughter whatsoever that can be brought in a connection with Jigme Gyatso
b. His whole personality is against violence. It is unthinkable that he could bring harm to any person.
c. Repeatedly, the opinion was voiced that Jigme Gyatso’s political and social activism might be the real reason for the arrest and the harsh statements following his disappearance/flight from the PSB.
- “Remembering the Missing Monk Golog Jigme”
By Tsering Woeser, Tibetan Blogger
A week ago, an unknown person with an Amdo Tibetan dialect phoned me to hurriedly tell me that Golog Jigme had maybe been arrested. At the time, I was just passing Ramoche Temple and saw a few Special Police surrounding two young Tibetans, checking their ID cards. “When?” I asked in a loud voice, but the Chinese pop music coming out of the shop next to me was even louder, I could not hear what the person said and then the connection broke.
I immediately dialled Golog Jigme’s number but just heard the “this phone is switched off” message.
Golog Jigme is a monk from Labrang Monastery and belongs to the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism. His whole name is Jigme Gyatso, he is 43 years old. He was born in Sertar County, in Kandze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province and traditionally, this region was called Golog Sertar, which is close to and belongs to the Golog region, mainly a nomadic area. In the monasteries there are many monks with the same names; for example, Lama Jigme, the deputy director of the Monastery management committee who has been arrested many times and who is now facing his prison sentence, his religious name is also Jigme Gyatso. In order to indicate the differences, each one gets an alternative name. Golog Jigme is Jigme from Golog Sertar.
Golog Jigme was arrested between 2008 and 2009. The main reason was because he helped farmers to appear in the documentary shot by Dhondup Wangchen, “Leaving Fear behind”. It was the first documentary that was filmed by someone from inside Tibet that actually reveals the truth and provides verbal evidence; one of the people interviewed was Golog Jigme’s father who expressed his longing for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, choking with tears. Dhondup Wangchen was sentenced to 6 years in prison for this, accused of “subversion of state power”. Golog Jigme suffered from cruel torture, leaving him with a broken body. Last year when I met him, I witnessed myself how he could not could even walk for his whole body was in pain because of the cold weather.
I do not dare to believe that Golog Jigme has once more been thrown into prison. Last month on the phone, he still asked me if I was safe and sound. In fact, he would always worry about his friends’ safety and well-being, he would never talk much about his own sufferings. He has an optimistic personality, his voice is bright and clear, his round face is always smiling. Meeting him doesn’t actually reveal who he really is, it is impossible to imagine that this courageous person was tortured and nearly died. At the time of the torture his father was so worried that he fell ill and shortly after he was released his father passed away.
Two days ago, I heard different news about Golog Jigme from his friends that suggested inscrutable danger, making people extremely worried.
According to this news, one night in early September, a work unit in Sangchu County, Kanlho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province where Labrang Monastery is situated, sent some men with a bulldozer to raze the ground around Golog Jigme’s residence. They did not say which work unit they belonged to, they only said that the demolition was related to the government’s city construction project. Golog Jigme’s residence was very small, and in the whole of Labrang Monastery, only his place was being demolished. He could only try and save his personal important belongings and, before the arrival of the bulldozer, squeezed into another monk’s residence.
When Golog Jigme was young he left home for this famous Buddhist Monastery, Labrang Monastery and is now considered a senior monk. When his residence was demolished, he went to the monastery management to ask for temporary accommodation but was refused. On September 20, Golog Jigme was invited to a Tibetan family home in Lanzhou to recite and chant Buddhist texts. On 21st, he went to the prefecture level authorities in Tsoe County to take care of the paperwork, he stayed there for one night. The next day, on his way back to Labrang Monastery, he went missing has remained so without news since.
Golog Jigme’s friend said: “They all say that Golog Jigme was probably caught by the police. But this time the reason for it is not clear, maybe it was related to the beginning of the 18th People’s Congress; the demolition of his residence seems to be related to this and makes people extremely worried about his safety.”
In a blogpost titled “The case of Tibetan Senior Monks who were either Tortured or went Missing” I once wrote: Many people, yes, they are all from our culture, they are all respected as the “Sangha”, one of the three precious treasures of Buddhism, they are all our treasured deep maroon; but today, they have, one by one, not only been degraded and hated, but even exterminated by physical bodies. Of course, the one that treats our Rinpoches, our Geshes, our Khenpos, our Lamas and all our monks like this is not an individual person, is not a group of people, it is a government…I beg you to pay attention to their lives that have been persecuted. Their and many other monks’ sufferings are not random cases, they are absolutely not individual cases.”
- Confusion grows around missing Tibetan monk filmmaker
Not unusually, an already confusing situation in Tibet just got worse. Twenty-seven Tibetans have self-immolated in protest against Chinese this month alone, according to Human Rights Watch. That’s almost one a day. Against this chaotic backdrop, Chinese authorities have issued an arrest order for a missing monk who helped film a 2008 documentary about life in Tibet, according to his film company, Filming for Tibet.
CPJ supporters will know that we just honored self-taught Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen with an International Press Freedom Award, recognizing his courage documenting life under Chinese rule with full knowledge that he would face severe repercussions (he is serving a six-year jail term–you can join our petition for his release here). So we’ve been following with concern the latest reports that his assistant on that project, the monk Jigme Gyatso, has been missing, reportedly detained, since September.
Even though four years have passed since the pair made the film, Jigme Gyatso has been under regular police surveillance, and detained repeatedly as a result of his involvement in the project. We announced the award on September 13. Jigme Gyatso disappeared seven days later. We didn’t rule out a possible link.
Imagine our surprise, then, when Filming for Tibet and exile-run Tibetan news outlet Phayulreported today that Chinese authorities are posting and texting a reward for Jigme Gyatso’s apprehension, saying he is wanted for manslaughter. We don’t have details about this alleged crime, and like Filming for Tibet, we’ll be trying to get details from the public security bureau who issued the alert over the next few weeks. Most worryingly of all, we still have no idea where Jigme Gyatso is.
Because we don’t know anything about the possible charges against him, let’s not speculate about the likelihood of a monk who practices non-violence escaping targeted surveillance for long enough to carry out a fatal assault at a time when Tibet is facing the tightest security clampdown in recent memory. Though we should note, for the record, that Tibetan experts say so many individuals have resorted to self-immolation because setting oneself on fire limits the harm to others, while the community’s attempts at mass protest back in 2008 resulted in violence. Also, that journalists covering the Chinese surveillance apparatus known as “Skynet” say Tibetan areas are blanketed with cameras, and security can be mobilized in two minutes to intervene in public acts of self-harm. In this context, an arrest order against any Tibetan with a history of speaking out against Chinese rule should be treated with suspicion.
Let’s concentrate instead on what we do know about Jigme Gyatso. After his initial arrest for making the film, he reported being tortured in Chinese prison. Radio Free Asia has reported he lost consciousness due to beatings, and was prodded in the face with electric batons. Publicizing that led to his re-arrest, according to CPJ research. Twice, authorities have moved him from a monastery where he lived, once in 2009, and again in 2012, when they razed his home, Radio Free Asia reported. This man has undergone unrelenting harassment since he collaborated with Dhondup Wangchen. An arrest order issued against him is a deeply troubling sign. Either he is already in secret detention, and this order is meant as a belated justification. Or, he is really missing–and there is nothing good waiting for him once he is found.
As long as foreign journalists are prevented from independent travel to Tibet, and reporting by Tibetans themselves remains criminalized, there is simply no way to get to the bottom of mysteries like these. And that is untenable. Twenty-seven Tibetans said so this month in the only way they believe they have left: They set themselves on fire, leaving messages calling for the return of the exiled spiritual and political leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama. Self-immolation, too, is now a criminal offense, as is documenting or caring for the body of anyone who does, Human Rights Watch reports. The urgent need to find out what has happened to Jigme Gyatso reflects a broader need to restore freedom of information to Tibetans in order to stop this awful tide of protest by those who contest Chinese rule. This is a story that cannot be suppressed any longer.
Article taken from CPJ’s website.
Madeline Earp is senior researcher for CPJ’s Asia Program. She has studied Mandarin in China and Taiwan, and graduated with a master’s in East Asian studies from Harvard. Follow her on Twitter @cpjasia and Facebook @ CPJ Asia Desk.
- The Impromptu Speech: Runggye Adak The Hero
by Tenzin Jigme, 1 August 2012
Today in 2007 a Tibetan nomad who was attending a famous horse race festival made an impromptu speech that resonated deeply with ordinary Tibetans while rattling the Chinese official nerves at the same time. Not a minute into his speech, he was escorted by a dozen or more security personnel. He was later sentenced to eight years in prison for that act.
It was probably the first time when information flow between Tibet and outside world was fluid because of mobile phone uses. People with direct contact to the area received information as it was happening or soon after, which elevated both the urgency of the situation and people’s emotions.
Flurry of activities were organized to highlight the case, including petition signing, candle light vigil and street protest. At nightly candle light vigils, the resource person, usually a relative, recounted what has happened during the day. Timely and vivid detail of the occurrences made an lasting impact in my mind of Runggye Adak and of his simple yet profound act that I believe led the new Tibetan revolution.
Runggye Adak, a 50-year old Tibetan nomad from Lithang, was attending the annual horse race festival that drew thousands of other Tibetans from across the Tibetan plateau. But he was probably not in a festive mood. From the content of his speech, the one thing he alluded to was the Chinese government’s attempts at distancing Tibetan people and the Dalai Lama. In recent years the patriotic re-education campaign has increased in the monasteries across Tibet where monks and nuns were force to denounce the Dalai Lama.
On that day, he walked up to the stage where there were dignitaries – many of whom where Chinese officials – and started speaking. He said, ‘what do you mean you don’t want to invite His Holiness the Dalai Lama?’ and then proceeded to ask the audience if they want His Holiness to return to Tibet.
It was an impassioned speech. In that instant he become a Tibetan hero. A leader born out of necessary.
Runggye Adak was not a political activist. He was not an educated leader. He was an ordinary Tibetan speaking his mind because there was too much policy and propaganda against Tibetan people’s real wishes. Tibetans want His Holiness the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet. This desire is born from within and is closely intertwined with Tibetan people’s spiritual, cultural and political wishes.
Following his speech there was a mass scale appeal for his release, which later turned into political protest. It was the political event of the year in 2007. In many ways, it inspired the Tibet wide protest in 2008.
Runggye Adak’s action was simple but its effect was enormous. Watch an extract of his speech below…..
- My Tribute to Lobsang Tenzin by Tsering Choedup
Lobsang Tenzin, a courageous born-leader languishing in a Chinese prison since 1988, has continued to fight a lone battle against the might of China’s iron-fist rule in Tibet; today, after nearly quarter of a century in captivity, his body is waning.
In 1988 he was a young, bright Tibetan leader in the prime of his mid twenties. China locked him up in Gutsa Detention Centre accused of the death of a People’s Armed Police (PAP) officer in the aftermath of a protest in Lhasa. He has also been a kept in the notorious Powo Tramo Prison and Drapchi.
With no evidence to prove him guilty, the authority went ahead and slammed him a death sentence with two years reprieve. However, after much international attention and global intervention Lobsang Tenzin received a new lease on life as his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1991. Since then he has been languishing inside prison cell longing for a day when he would eventually come out and feel the air of freedom.
During his decades in prison, Lobsang Tenzin has always stood firm and resolute in his belief for the cause of Tibet. His solidarity with fellow prisoners for maltreatment from officials were equally lauded. On one occasion he organised the first known mass protest in Drapchi prison following the death of fellow prisoner and activist Lhakpa Tsering. He organized a group of 150 prisoners to carry banners and march through the courtyard  of the main prison office demanding transparency in information on the cause of Lhakpa Tsering’s death. On
another occasion he in 1991 he bravely attempted to hand a letter to the then US Ambassador James Lilley who was visiting Drapchi prison. As a result of this action Lobsang and another prisoner were severely tortured, manacled and kept in dark solitary confinement for weeks on a stretch.
He has survived for 23 years under extreme torture at the hands of Chinese prison officers; many of his early-day inmates who have since fled Tibet testified of times when they could no longer endure such atrocities and thought of giving up their lives. No doubt, Lobsang Tenzin is someone who not only withstood the vicious atrocities but also perfected himself in fighting back with equal fervor.
There is no doubt that Lobsang Tenzin is a hero; amongst his fellow prisoners for his display of bravery and courage in leading upfront in confronting Chinese officials, and amongst other Tibetans who thanks him for his brave and undying stand for Tibet.
Recent news of his deteriorating health once again questioned the hope of Lobsang Tenzin being freed alive . We know that he is suffering from diabetes and has severely weakened eyesight and at times blindness. Earlier reports also alert the he developed kidney malfunction and other diseases often found in political prisoners in Tibet, and is suffering psychological trauma. These serious and deadly ailments speak volumes about the atrocities he has faces under Chinese rule.
Lobsang Tenzin is regarded very highly by all the people who have known him. Before his arrest in 1988 he attended Tibet University and, after he was detained he was voted the ‘Best Student of the Year’ on the ground of his “towering figure among the Tibetan students” . The authority of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), realising his popularity, went on a massive propaganda drive; broadcasted his arrest and expulsion from the University through Television, Radio and Newspapers. They even warned all the students at the Tibet University to refrain from indulging in political activities or else they will be met with the same fate as that of Lobsang Tenzin.
The Tibet University has a strong history of political movements with protests calling for the promotion of Tibetan language studies and student uprisings. In 2003 five students of the University formed a clandestine group called “Tibetan Democratic Youth Group and secretively wrote letters to United Nations and political essays .
Lobsang Tenzin is the longest serving prisoner alive in Tibet; he is now 46 years old and has spent over half his life as a political prisoner. On 3rd November 2011 John Kamm, founder and chairman of the San Francisco-based Dui Hua (Dialogue) stated at a congressional hearing in Washington that he had requested China to release Lobsang Tenzin on a medical parole considering his severe health issue .
Due for official release in April 2013 I pray that he is given medical parole NOW and is allowed to be home in the care of his family and friends.
1. Powo Tramo prison, east of Lhasa, is one of the oldest and notorious labour camps known for imprisoning those with lengthy prison terms.
2. Lobsang Tenzin tore his bed sheet in half and wrote, “We mourn the death of Lhakpa Tsering,” and, “We demand improvement to the conditions of political prisoners,” on the two halves.
3. Longest Serving Tibetan Prisoner in Serious Health Condition, 31 August 2011. http://www.tchrd.org/press/2011/pr20110831.html
4. Death Penalty in China, 2005 Special Report, TCHRD publication.
5. Testimony of Dawa Tashi who was expelled from Tibet University. He was expelled, named and shamed before 3000 strong students of the Tibet University.
- Lessons Learned: Remembering Lobsang Dhondup, Taking Action to Free Tenzin Delek
By Lhadon Tethong (first published in January 2011)
I was attending the World Social Forum in Brazil when the Chinese government executed Lobsang Dhondup and sentenced Tenzin Delek Rinpoche to death. I was checking my email in a small cybercafe in Porto Alegre, surrounded by activists from across the globe, when I heard the news. At first, I just sat there. Stunned. Moments later, I couldn’t fight it back, and I wept. Then, I resolved to fight. It was a defining moment for me as a young Tibetan activist.
Up until that moment, I had somehow been convinced that the Chinese wouldn’t go through with it. They hadn’t dared to execute a Tibetan in such an overtly political and high-profile way for nearly 20 years, not to mention the incredible amount of unwanted attention and government pressure the Chinese were facing as a result of the global outcry and campaign in support of the two men. I was sure it was helping. Unfortunately, I was wrong.
On January 26th, 28-year old Lobsang Dhondup was executed, likely with a bullet to the head, and Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s death sentence was upheld, with a two year reprieve. Lobsang’s relatives never got to see his body. Only his ashes were returned to them.
Looking back on that day now, I see how naive I was to think that the Chinese authorities didn’t have the stomach for the fight – that they would somehow be unwilling to risk the negative press and global condemnation – and therefore wouldn’t carry out the sentences. I guess at that time, despite all I knew of their cruelty, all of the horror I had heard about since I was a small child, I had to learn this lesson and never forget it.
Though the Chinese government proved me wrong in my judgment that day, I was neither defeated nor hopeless. In fact, their brutal and heartless treatment of these two innocent Tibetan men only increased my determination to work harder and my conviction in the justice of this fight. And fight we did. In the campaign to stop Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s execution in the years that followed, we did everything we could possibly think of – from street protests and direct actions at Chinese embassies & consulates, to online advocacy campaigns and government lobbying – to gain global public and political support, and to inspire people to take action.
In the end, on January 26, 2005, the Chinese government commuted Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s sentence to life imprisonment for what they said was “good behavior” while in prison. Call it whatever they like, we knew why they did it. And though we were not able to help Lobsang Dhondup, I truly believe we saved Rinpoche’s life. This is the most important lesson.
We can make a difference. We must fight. We might not win every battle, but we must always try.
We did our best for Rinpoche then, and we must do it again now. And never ever give up.
- Kelsang Tsultrim: “All suppressions are suffering and all freedoms happiness”
By Bhuchung D Sonam
In her book ‘Revolution: the Banned Tibetan memories of the Cultural Revolution’, Tibetan author and poet Tsering Woeser writes that the Chinese authorities are carrying out the same policies of the Cultural Revolution but in a different name. This can be seen most prolifically by the fact that Beijing has arrested more Tibetan intellectuals over the last four years than ever before.
Kalsang Tsultim, or Gyitsang Takmik as is his pen name, hails from Labrang Sangchu Dzong in North Eastern Tibet, and is one of the many writers and artists detained in this latest crackdown.
In 2009 he recorded a moving video message calling for the preservation of Tibetan culture and language among other things. After the Chinese authorities accused him of ‘splitting the motherland’, Kelsang Tsultrim went into hiding. He was later arrested on 13 December 2010 and kept in detention for a year during which none of his family members were allowed to visit him or provided information about his whereabouts.
On 30 December 2011, Kelsang’s family was notified by the Chinese authorities that he had received a four-year prison sentence. Again they have not been allowed to see him.
I recently translated Kelsang’s words in which he says, “A Tibetan saying goes “all supressions are suffering and all freedoms happiness.” But how do we talk about the term ‘freedom is happiness’. Freedom to me is the right to preserve my culture, practice my religion and to maintain my Tibetan way of life. It goes without saying that Tibet is nation with its own unique history, way of life, and abundant cultural heritage that goes back over millennia.”; words classed by the Chinese Authorities as being ‘banned contents’.
Kelsang’s arrest and arbitrary sentencing, for simply speaking these words above, highlights Beijing’s systematic policy to stifle and phase out Tibetan culture and language by hammering down on Tibetan creative artists who, undaunted by the risk of these harsh Chinese responses, are using alternative ways to get their messages to the outside world.
The abridged translation of the video text can be read in full at Burning Tibet: ‘I will not close my eyes even in death”
- Courage of a Tibetan monk and his Chinese lawyer by Kate Saunders
There is still no news of the Tibetan scholar monk Jigme Guri, who was detained on 20 August in Tsoe, a Tibetan area of Gansu province, by the Chinese police. Jigme Guri, also known as Labrang Jigme (from the name of his monastery, Labrang), is the first Tibetan inside Tibet to have made a video available on Youtube without withholding his identity, giving a detailed account of his own torture in custody, and expressing his anguish about the Chinese policy against the Dalai Lama.
In the meantime, a Chinese civil rights lawyer who sought to defend Jigme Guri and other Tibetans has spoken publicly about his own torture and interrogation, almost a year after his monk client’s.
Jiang Tianyong is one of China’s lawyers and legal experts facing an increasingly deadly struggle in seeking to protect and defend civil rights through litigation and legal activism. Now, like several of his clients, Jiang Tianyong has faced detention and interrogation himself, as one of dozens of Chinese lawyers, bloggers and activists who “disappeared” as part of a crackdown on dissent in China from February onwards.
Few have spoken publicly about their ordeal, but last week Jiang Tianyong gave a detailed account of his two-month imprisonment. He described how at one point after being kicked and punched, he appealed to his interrogator, saying: “I am a human being, you are a human being. Why are you doing something so inhumane?” Enraged, the man knocked Jiang to the floor and screamed: “You are not a human being!” (This appeared in South China Morning Post, on 14 September).
This article first appeared in The Sunday Guardian” on 25 September. To read the full article view: http://www.sunday-guardian.com/analysis/courage-of-a-tibetan-monk-and-his-chinese-lawyer
To take part in the ‘Where Is Jigme Guri? visual petition visit: http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5380/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=8032
- Tibet’s Heroes; My Heroes by Tenzin Jigme
Any demand for freedom or expression of opposition to the Chinese government is met with the harshest of punishment in Tibet. In years past China executed people for their beliefs, and today thousands are imprisoned and tortured. This group is made up of Tibetans old and young, men and women from various social standings. For Tibetans and free loving people all over the world, they are the Tibetan Heroes.
Despite facing the constant threat of imprisonment, many political prisoners continue to engage in defiant yet non-violent actions against the Chinese regime. This is a testament to their bravery and a confirmation for the rest of us that the Tibetan struggle cannot be tortured away. Moreover, actions of the Tibetan Heroes inspire, courage, and inject activism in the Tibetans to stand up against oppression.
One of the Tibetan Heroes is Labrang Jigme Guri. Jigme Guri was initially arrested in 2008, after which he video recorded his ordeal in prison. In this awe inspiring video, he recounts brutal tortures that nearly left him dead and severe interrogation session that made him further realize the injustice embedded in the system against Tibetans.
He also points out the hypocrisy in Chinese government’s action by saying, “the Chinese leadership says that the goal is to achieve a harmonious society, but at the same time continue to vilify the Dalai Lama, a figure that all Tibetans respect and honor as their spiritual head. How can we begin to feel harmony when our values are denigrated and trodden on?”
Even though Jigme Guri is a constant target of the Chinese security personnel and his movements are being watched at all times, he does not hide from them. He reminds me of the famous Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei, not just because of their similarity in physique but more so because of their unyielding and unrelenting characteristic against oppression.
Jigme was arrested for the fourth time on 20 August 2011. His whereabouts is not known. We all must do our part to ensure Jigme’s freedom by lobbying our democratic representatives to pressure the Chinese government for his unconditional and immediate release.
‘Jigme’ means fearless. In this case, the man justified the name.
Tenzin Jigme is International Coordinator for International Tibet Network
Tenzin Jigme was born in Lhasa and escaped into exile with his family when he was 10 years old. He previously worked in Dharamsala as part of International Campaign for Tibet’s Field Team before joining the International Tibet Network in 2008.