NGO Statement Highlights Tibetan Political Prisoners
Geneva, 29 April 2003: As the 59th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) concluded its annual meeting on 25 April, another NGO written
statement was made available amongst the documents.
In this written statement, the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) informs the Commission about the status of several Tibetan political prisoners, despites the release of Ngawang Choephel, Takna Jigme Sangpo and Ngawang Sangdrol.
The entire statement is produced in this final update from Tibet Bureau on
the 59th UN Commission on Human Rights:
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Item 9 of the provisional agenda
QUESTION OF THE VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS IN ANY
PART OF THE WORLD
Written statement submitted by the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR), a non-governmental organization in special
The Secretary-General has received the following written statement which is circulated in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.
1. For the past many years, the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) has repeatedly voiced its concern at the UN Commission on Human Rights regarding the grave and systematic violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Tibet on the part of the Chinese governmental authorities.
In 1995, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) published a report,
“The Question of Tibet and the Rule of Law,” which examined the impact
Chinese policy on human rights in Tibet and the position of Tibet in
international law. The report found that “almost all the rights which
together allow the full and legitimate expression of human personality
appear to be denied to the Tibetans at the present time and, in most cases,
for some time past. On the basis of available evidence, it would seem
difficult to recall a case in which ruthless suppression of man’s essential
dignity has been more systematically and efficiently carried out.” The
following year, the ICJ published, “Tibet and the Chinese People’s Republic:
A Report to the International Commission of Jurists by its Legal Inquiry
Committee on Tibet,” whose findings, in the words of the ICJ
Secretary-General, “constitute a detailed condemnation of Chinese rule in
Tibet.” The report examined the evidence relating to genocide, finding that
“acts of genocide had been committed in Tibet in an attempt to destroy the
Tibetans as a religious group.”
2. In 1997, the ICJ published, “Tibet – Human Rights and the Rule of Law”, a report which documented a new escalation of repression in Tibet characterised by a “re-education” campaign in the monasteries and nunneries,
arrests of leading religious figures and a ban on the public display of
photos of the Dalai Lama. It also examined the increasing threats to aspects
of Tibetan identity and culture through the transfer of Chinese population
into Tibet, the erosion of the Tibetan language and the degradation of Tibet
environment. Tibetans, the report finds, are powerless to halt these threats
because the “autonomy” which they supposedly enjoy is more fictitious than
real. The report concluded that Tibetans are a “people under alien
subjugation,” entitled to but denied the right to self-determination.”
3. Despite this bleak record of wide-spread human rights violations in Tibet, the IFOR welcomes a recent positive sign. During the year 2002, the Chinese authorities released a number of prominent Tibetan political
prisoners and even allowed two of them, Ngawang Choephel and Takna Jigme
Sangpo, to leave Tibet in order to receive urgent medical attention abroad.
In his first public statement issued upon his arrival in the United States
after a total of 37 years in prison, 74-year-old Takna Jigme Sangpo
announced: “My release on medical parole by the Chinese government (I still
have nine years of sentence to complete) and arrival in the United States is
a triumph of peace, justice and human rights. It is the result of many years
of campaign and pressure by Tibet supporters, governments, individuals and
public organizations… outside as well as within Tibet. Above all, it is the
fruit of international support for the fulfilment of the aspirations of His
Holiness the Dalai Lama. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to
everyone… Most importantly, as I begin to enjoy a life of freedom and
happiness, I am concerned about the fate of my former fellow prisoners who
continue to suffer and languish in dark prisons. Therefore, I take this
opportunity to urge strongly for the immediate release of all Tibetan
4. While welcoming this sign of progress, IFOR nevertheless appeals to the international community to remain focused on securing the access to and the release of other Tibetan political prisoners. In this regard, we remind the Commission of the case of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the Eleventh Panchen Lama of Tibet, who together with his parents has been held incommunicado since May 1995. In August 2002, during her last official visit to China as the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Mary Robinson told the world press that she had raised the case of 13-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima with Chinese officials who replied only that the boy was healthy and that his parents wanted him to have privacy. “I urged that perhaps his parents could come forward and at least that there would be some way of verifying the situation which continues to be a very real concern,” Robinson explained. The Chinese authorities did not heed this request nor have they responded positively to other international appeals that an independent body like the Committee on the Rights of the Child be given access to the boy to verify his whereabouts and well-being.
5. Some of the Tibetan political prisoners we wish to highlight in this
Ngawang Phulchung, aged 37, monk of Drepung Monastery, currently serving a prison sentence of 19 years at Drapchi Prison, on the outskirts of Lhasa. He was sentenced on 30 November 1989 for being involved in the distribution of a Tibetan translation of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
Phuntsok Nyidron, aged 33, nun of Michungri Convent, was arrested on 14 October 1989 for taking part in a peaceful demonstration in Lhasa, celebrating the news that the Dalai Lama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and calling for an end to Chinese occupation of Tibet. She was sentenced to 9 years on the charges that she was the “ringleader”. In 1993, whilst in prison, she was involved in an audio-recording incident for which she received an additional sentence of 8 years. With a total sentence of 17 years, she is now the longest serving female political prisoner in Tibet. She is currently being detained at Drapchi Prison.
Chemi Dorje, aged 35, monk of Serwa Monastery in Pashoed, Chamdo in eastern Tibet was arrested on 29 March 1994. He and four of his colleagues (all monks) were sentenced for alleged charges of “counter-revolutionary propaganda.” Chemi Dorjee and two of his colleagues, Lobsang Jinpa and Lobsang Tsegyal, received a sentence of 15 years of imprisonment while two other monks, Jampal Tashi and Lobsang Palden were sentenced to 12 years.
Rinzin Wangyal, aged 55, employee of Lhasa Cement Factory, was arrested in August 1995 and is currently serving a sentence of 20 years in Powo Tramo Prison (aka “Tibet Autonomous Region Prison No. 2”) for alleged involvement in political activity. He had previously been detained from 1966 to 1982 for the alleged organising of an underground political movement in Tibet.
Six Tibetans from Sog County were sentenced to varying prison terms ranging from seven years to life imprisonment for political activities. According to information received by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), based in India, the six Tibetans Sey Khedup (27), Tenzin Choewang (64), Tsering Lhagon (41), Yeshi Tenzin (33), Trakru Yeshi (45) and Gyurmey (29) were arrested in March 2000 in different places on different dates. In mid-December, the detainees were brought for a public trial at Nagchu Intermediate People’s Court. They were accused of supporting activities of the “Dalai splittist clique and carrying out activities endangering state security”. The court produced independence posters, wooden block prints and cassettes containing speeches of the Dalai Lama as evidence of the charges levied on them.
6. Another deplorable and sad dimension of the human rights situation in
Tibet concerns custodial deaths of Tibetan political prisoners in recent
years despite China’s ratification of the Convention Against Torture and the
concern expressed over such deaths in Tibet by the Committee.
Sonam Rinchen, a 29 year-old political prisoner, died in mid-January 2000 in Drapchi Prison. Although the cause of his death is unknown, unconfirmed reports indicate that he had been sick since 1997 and was undergoing treatment. Born in 1973 into the Khangsar family in Gyama town, Meldrogungkar County, Rinchen became actively involved in pro-independence activities after the mass demonstration in Lhasa on 27 September 1987. Rinchen started his political activities in Meldro County, distributing and posting political leaflets. In October 1992, the Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Sonam Rinchen and his colleagues under article 102 of the Criminal Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China. Rinchen, Yeshi and Lhundrup received 15 years” imprisonment and five years
deprivation of political rights. Kunchok Lodoe and Sonam Dorjee received 13
years” imprisonment respectively. All five were transferred to Drapchi
Prison where the four surviving prisoners continue to serve their term.
Sholpa Dawa, a 60-year old tailor from Lhasa City, died at 7 AM on 19 November 2000. He was reportedly taken to a hospital outside Drapchi Prison complex just a few days before his death. The exact cause of his death is not known. His body was apparently not handed over to his family members to perform last rites. Sholpa worked as a construction labourer and later became a private tailor until he was first arrested on 29 September 1981 for allegedly distributing pamphlets on Tibetan independence. He was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and one-year’s deprivation of political rights of which he spent six months in Gutsa Detention Centre and one and a half years in Sangyip Prison. Upon his third arrest, Sholpa and his friend Topgyal were sentenced on 8 August 1996: “After thorough investigation, in the year 1993 to 1994, the accused [Sholpa] Dawa told Dhondup Dorje and Ratoe Dawa to collect a list of all political prisoners who have served and who are also currently serving their prison term. Moreover, in July 1993, the accused Topgyal made three ‘reactionary’ documents and gave them to Sholpa Dawa who handed them over to the Dalai clique.”
28-year-old Tibetan nun Ngawang Lochoe, died in Drapchi Prison on 5 February 2001, just one year prior to completion of her 10-year prison sentence. Ngawang Lochoe was arrested along with five other nuns, all from Nyen Convent, for taking part in a peaceful demonstration in Lhasa on 14 May 1992. They were charged with “instigating counter-revolutionary activities and propaganda” and Lochoe was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment at the age of 19. For seven months before her sentencing, Lochoe and the nuns suffered brutal interrogations and inhumane treatment at the Gutsa Detention Centre. In Drapchi Prison, Lochoe and 13 other nuns were involved in recording songs and messages to their families and friends on a smuggled tape recorder in June 1993. When prison authorities discovered their clandestine activity, the nuns were given additional prison sentences. Lochoe’s sentence was extended by five years, bringing her total sentence to 10 years.
7. On 2 December 2002, a prominent and well-respected Tibetan lama, Trulku
Tenzin Delek (aka Angag Tashi or Ven. Tenzin Delek), and his attendant
Lobsang Dhondup were sentenced to death at a hearing of the Kandze
Intermediate People’s Court in “Kandze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture” in
Sichuan Province. The two Tibetans were charged with alleged involvement in
a bomb blast incident on 3 April in the city’s main square (Tianfu) in
Chengdu in which several people were injured. Another charge leveled against
the two was “engaging in splittist activities.”
Trulku Tenzin Delek (“Trulku,” is an honorific Buddhist title for a
reincarnated lama) is a highly respected senior teacher from Lithang County.
He was taken into custody on the night of April 7, 2002, along with Lobsang
Dhondup and three other attendants and was held incommunicado for eight
months until the day of the trial. In a statement, Samdhong Rinpoche, Prime
Minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, urged the international
community “to intervene in the matter and to ask the Chinese authorities to
halt the implementation of the sentence and to provide these Tibetans a fair
trial, guaranteed by the Chinese Constitution.”
To the shock of the world, the Chinese authorities secretly executed Lobsang
Dhondup on 26 January 2003, ignoring repeated appeals from the international
community, including that from the High Commissioner for Human Rights and
some thematic special procedures of the Commission on Human Rights.
8. The IFOR calls upon the Commission on Human Rights to take the above
facts regarding the continuing deterioration of human rights in Tibet into
consideration when reviewing the situation in China. The Commission should
urge the Chinese authorities to immediately open earnest and substantive
negotiations with His Holiness the Dalai Lama or his representatives to
resolve the long-standing Sino-Tibetan Issue.