Tibet’s longest serving political prisoner is released
4 April, 2002 Tanak Jigme Sangpo, Tibet’s longest serving political prisoner, was reportedly released on medical parole on March 31, 2002, after serving more than three decades in prison.
The 76-year-old Sangpo was “released on medical parole and is currently staying with his niece, Pema Chozom a retired teacher, in Lhasa”, said a release by Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT). Chozom had often visited Sangpo when he was in prison.
Tanak Jigme, born in 1926, was first reportedly arrested in 1960 while teaching at the Lhasa Primary School. At the time, he was charged with “corrupting the minds of children with reactionary ideas.” In 1964 he received a second sentence, where he served three years in Sangyip Prison for making comments regarding Chinese repression of Tibetans.
“I welcome this decision by the People’s Republic of China to release the longest-serving political prisoner of Tibet,” said Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, the Kalon Tripa of the Kashag (the highest executive body of the Central Tibetan Administration).
“He represents the indomitable spirit of the Tibetan people and we hope that the Chinese authorities will not re-arrest him if he openly speaks with visitors,” Ackerly added.
“While the release of individual prisoners is vital, if China keeps arresting other Tibetans to be used as bargaining chips, the cycle of human misery in Tibet will remain unchanged,” said Ackerly.
“We plea to the People’s Republic of China to release other Tibetan political prisoners languishing in various prisons and sincerely hope that the Chinese leadership will find the courage, wisdom and vision to solve the Tibetan issue through negotiations”, added Samdhong Rinpoche.
Tibet support groups, human rights organisations, parliamentarians and several governments have vigorously pressed for Tanak Jigme’s release.
The Swiss government and the United States had taken an active interest in the case of Tanak Jigme. In addition to the US State Department, Congressman Tom Lantos was among those who took a lead on Tanak Jigme’s behalf. During his visit to China in January this year, Lantos took up Tanak Jigme’s case with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing and Chinese Vice Premier Li Lanqing.
In a statement upon hearing of Tanak Jigme’s release, Lantos said, “I am grateful that the Chinese released Tanak Jigme Sangpo from captivity on humanitarian grounds, and am relieved that the ailing Tibetan can enjoy his sunset years in freedom.”
“I urge the Chinese to make further progress in releasing political prisoners and restoring the human rights of its citizens,” Congressman Lantos said.
“I take this opportunity to thank every individual, Tibet Support Groups, human rights organisations, parliamentarians, governments who have worked so hard for Tanak Jigme’s release”, said the Kalon Tripa.