Tanak Jigme Sangpo-a profile
4 April, 2002 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.
Tanak Jigme was again sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment in Sangyip Prison for ‘counter-revolutionary’ propaganda in 1970. He had been caught attempting to send a document reporting Chinese atrocities to His Holiness the Dalai Lama via his niece, who was trying to flee Tibet. AT the age of 53 Tanak Jigme was released from prison in 1979 and transferred to the ‘reform-through-labour’ Unit No. 1 in Nyethang, 60 km west of Lhasa.
The Lhasa City Public Security Bureau (PSB) arrested him again on 3 September 1983. According to the 1983 verdict, Tanak Jigme was seen on 12 July 1983 at around 4 pm pasting a ‘personally written’ wall-poster protesting against Chinese authority on the main gate of the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa. Additionally, on 15 July, he was seen wearing a piece of cloth on his chest upon which the words, “self determination for Tibetans” was written. Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court sentenced him on 24 November 1983 to 15 years imprisonment for “spreading and inciting counterrevolutionary propaganda,” and five years deprivation of political rights. His official sentencing papers stated that he “has previously served prison terms on the guilt of counterrevolutionary crimes, but has never seriously reconsidered his past counterrevolutionary crimes.”
While in detainment, on 5 October 1987, 61-year-old Tanak Jigme, in support of the mass demonstrations happening in Lhasa at the time, shouted pro-independence slogans during the time that the prisoners were gathered for their meal. He shouted “Free Tibet”, “PRC fooled the Tibetan people” and “Chinese leave Tibet” reading from a self prepared poster. Consequently, on 1 December 1988, his sentence was increased by another five years for “spreading and inciting counter-revolutionary propaganda”.
On the 6 December 1991 Tanak Jigme made another bold attempt at an individual protest. During an official visit by a Swiss delegation Jigme shouted “Free Tibet” in English, a phrase he had especially learnt for the occasion, and slogans in Chinese and Tibetan, from his cell. The authorities tried to explain away the incident by claiming to the delegates that he was ‘mad’. He was severely beaten and placed in solitary confinement, and suffered the new form of ‘cold cell’ torture. In this the cell is lined with metal sheets designed to lower the cell’s temperature. Permission to put on extra clothing is denied and the average winter temperature in Lhasa is 3.5C below zero and can drop as low as ten below.
Tanak Jigme was subsequently sentenced on 4 April 1992 to a further eight years imprisonment, and an additional three years deprivation of civil and political rights, bringing his sentence to 28 years and by his released on 3 September 2011, he would have spent 41 years in prison.