Tibetan Political Prisoner Succumbs to Torture
Dharamsala, 16 December 2003: According to information received by TibetNet, a Tibetan political prisoner died at a hospital in Shigatse after imprisonment by the Chinese authorities,. The prisoner, Tenzin Phuntsok (aka Nenying Kharpa Tenzin Phuntsok) died on the morning of 8 September this year.
Tenzin Phuntsok, aged 64, a native of Khangmar area of Shigatse prefecture in present-day “Tibet Autonomous Region” was arrested on 21 February 2003, over “suspected” political activities, following a raid at his home. Sources confirmed that he succumbed to prison atrocities, including torture that he had been subjected to while his detention at Nyari Prison in Shigatse.
He was a healthy man before his imprisonment and had visited India in 2000, 2001 and 2002 to meet relatives and for pilgrimage to Buddhists sites in the country. Tibetans in Khangmar believe that the main reason for his poor health and sudden hospitalisation was torture and ill-treatment during intensive interrogation sessions at Nyari Prison.
Tenzin Phuntsok, respected by Tibetans in the region, was earlier detained with his father in 1959 for five years at a prison in Gyangtse region, sources in Tibet said. It was also well-known fact amongst Tibetans that during this period he and his family suffered tremendously at the hands of the Chinese authorities.
After his sudden death, Tenzin Phuntsok’s body was handed over to his family. He is survived by his wife Dolkar, eleven children and his mother who is in her eighties. Tenzin Phuntsok was appointed a member of the Khangmar “People’s Political Consultative Conference” by the Chinese authorities.
In a similar development, sources in Tibet report that the president of the Gyangtse “People’s Political Consultative Conference” was also detained following Tenzin Phuntsok’s arrest but was released two months later.
The unfortunate death of Tenzin Phuntsok as a result of torture once again raises concern over China’s commitment to the UN Convention Against Torture to which Beijing is a signatory.
The report about Tenzin Phuntsok’s death emerges months after another Tibetan political prisoner, Nyima Drakpa, who died at his home on 4 October in Tawu area in the “Karze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture” of present-day Sichuan Province.
The continuing reports about the deaths of Tibetan political prisoners as a result of routine torture in Tibet comes despite the expression of concern over the situation by the UN Committee Against Torture. In May 2000 when the Committee was discussing China’s third-periodic report, the Committee spoke “about continuing allegations of serious incidents of torture, especially involving Tibetans and other minorities.’
China has invited the Special Rapporteur on Torture of the UN Commission on Human Rights to make an official visit although no date has been confirmed. If this visit takes place in the coming months, it has to be seen whether the UN human rights expert will be allowed to freely look into the practices of torture in Chinese prisons in Tibet.