Geneva: At the recently concluded Geneva Forum 2018, Golog Jigme, a Tibetan filmmaker, activist and former political prisoner who worked with filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen on the film ‘Leaving Fear Behind,’ shared a witness account of the torture he endured whilst in Chinese prison in Tibet.
Golog Jigme called on UN member states to review China at the UPR. “Please review the human rights situation in China carefully, critically. If the UN fails to make China accountable this time, it failed all humanity.”
Kalden Tsomo, UN Advocacy Officer at Office of Tibet, Geneva provided simultaneous translation. Below is the transcript of his speech.
“Thank you every one for being here today. I thank the organizer of the forum for having me here.
My name is Golog Jigme. I am a human rights advocate, activist and a documentary filmmaker not by chance but by choice to defend the non-violent resistance of the Tibetan people against the repressive Chinese regime. I am also someone who has suffered and experienced torture in Chinese prison.
My friend Dhundup Wangchen and I made a documentary film called “Leaving Fear Behind”.
The reason why we made the documentary film is to expose China’s lies about Tibet and to uncover the truth. China propagates lies that Tibetan culture, language and identity are flourishing. The sad reality is very different. China’s Tibet policies seek to assimilate Tibetan people, annihilate Tibetan culture and destroy Tibet’s environment. Because of my role in the documentary film leaving fear behind, I was arrested thrice.
I was arrested for the first time on 23 March 2008. I was detained for 51 days. While in detention, I was subjected to torture. I was physically tortured. Words will not justify the kind of torture and pain inflicted on me.
Because of the time constraint, I will share with you all the most painful and terrifying moment of my life in prison.
This was when the prison authorities shackled me for the first time on an iron chair. The wristwatch of the one of the prison authorities showed it was 9 PM. I was left tied until the next morning. My body became motionless, senseless and the body temperature dropped down completely.
For the whole night, a bright and heavy torch was placed on the table placed exactly in front of the iron chair. The heat and the light coming from the touch was so strong and powerful that it made me feel as if my whole body was melting and light from the touch was strong that I was unable to open my eyes. Because of the strong and powerful lighting, even today I have an eyesight problem. All the objects look blurry. I was tortured on the iron chair for 8 more times lasting for different duration.
When I was tortured on the iron chair for the 9th time, they put me differently. I was placed to face the back of the chair and my hands were shackled from the backside and was kept hanging from the ceiling, upside down. I was put on the iron chair for at least 6 to 7 hours. When I was put hanging upside down, It felt like all my organs were coming out from my mouth. This kind of torture is, to say the least terrifying, unthinkable and unbearable, both physically and psychologically.
The physical assault all over my body was so unbearable that I was prepared to die instead. Because of which I decided to stay quiet and not respond to any of the queries from the prison authorizes. In utter frustration they burned my mouth not once but three times.
I was forced to denounce my spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama, I was forced to denounce Central Tibetan Administration. I was forced to condemn Tibetan Youth Congress. I was forced to admit and declare that the 2008 Tibetan mass protest in Tibet was a violent act. I was pressured to disclose the names of all Tibetans who participated in our secret interviews conducted for the documentary film and forced me to give the name of all Tibetans who have participated in 2008 protest from Labrang Tashi Kyil, the monastery I belong to. I was threatened with severe consequences if I failed to meet their demands. The Chinese authorities told me that nobody would be there to care me. I was told that if the authorities killed me and dumped my dead body, neither the Dalai Lama nor president of the United States will protect me. I was bullied and humiliated.
I felt that it would be better to die rather than endure humiliation and suffering in prison.
Today when I look back and remember the most painful moment in my life, I can sigh some relief over the fact that I was tortured and suffered a lot all because of my involvement in the cause of Tibet. Despite all the unbearable experiences, I didn’t lose my temperament. I refused to reveal the identity of single Tibetans who have courageously spoken against Chinese oppression in the documentary film.
I was arrested again, for the second time, on 10 April 2009. I was accused for “leaking state secret” to the world.
When I was arrested for the third time, I was accused for instigating self-immolation protest in Tibet. During that time, I had to listen to them lecturing about my disloyalty toward China. I was mentally prepared to spend the rest of my life in prison. However, while in prison I had learned that the Chinese authorities were planning to kill me by prescribing false medication for me.
After learning about their plot to kill me, I decided to escape. Thankfully I managed to escape from prison. I spent 20 months in hiding in mountainous area. I had a very tough time.
While in hiding, I was shocked to learn that the Chinese Government had accused me of committing murder. They even announced a reward of 200,000 RMB for whosoever discloses my whereabouts. My life was under serious threat. Finally, I decided to escape from Tibet.
With lots of difficulties, finally on 18 May 2014, I managed to reach Dharamsala, India where a quarter of the Central Tibetan Administration is based.
The Chinese Government never made such accusation earlier when I was in their custody and never did I ever have intention of killing someone.
I then thought of protesting this false allegation by setting myself on fire either before one of the police stations at Gansu or Sichuan. However after careful consideration, I decided not to proceed with the act: I felt perhaps because they are ashamed of my escape that they had to make such allegations; if I set myself on fire they will only continue to defame me by making such unimaginable allegations. At that point in time I made a commitment; If I manage to be alive, I will dedicate the rest of my life advocating for the rights of the Tibetan people. And this is what promoted my escape into exile and I am happy today I am in the free world, crusading for the rights of Tibetan people and being the voice of conscience for everyone working for freedom and justice around the world.”
The Forum on Human Rights Situation in regions under the PRC, held on November 2, four days ahead of China’s UPR was jointly organized by Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR) and Office of Tibet Geneva.