Press Release: Tibet’s longest-serving prisoner of conscience is free Dharamsala welcomes the Chinese gesture
Dharamsala, 29 March 2003: The Central Tibetan Administration welcomes the Chinese authorities’ permission for Ngawang Sangdrol to fly to the United States for medical treatment. She arrived in Chicago on 28 March.
Commenting on the Chinese government’s gesture, Kalon Tripa, Professor Samdhong Rinpoche, said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“It comes as a positive signal at a time when we are making every effort to create an atmosphere conducive to dialogue for resolving the issue of Tibet.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“When His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s envoys visited Lhasa and Beijing last September, they urged the authorities to heed the international community’s call and allow Ngawang Sangdrol to travel abroad for medical treatment.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Kalon Tripa thanked the governments, parliamentarians, human rights organizations, Tibet Support Groups and many individuals whose enduring campaigns resulted in Ngawang Sangdrol’s freedom. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We are also grateful to the Dui Hua Foundation in San Francisco, whose executive director John Kamm travelled to Lhasa and Beijing, and worked for months on end to persuade the Chinese government to allow Ngawang Sangdrol to receive medical treatment in the United States.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Scheduled for release only in 2013, Ngawang Sangdrol was serving a prison term of 21 years when her failing health and expressions of international concerns compelled the authorities to free her on medical parole in October 2002.
At the time of her arrest, she was the world’s youngest political prisoner. Ngawang Sangdrol was only 11 when she participated in pro-independence demonstrations in Lhasa in 1988. Again, in 1990, she joined a small group of nuns in a protest demonstration at the Norbulingka palace when she was arrested and detained in Gutsa prison for nine months.
Undaunted, she participated in yet another demonstration in 1992, leading to a three-year prison sentence.
In 1993, she and thirteen other nun inmates of Drapchi prison recorded songs, declaring loyalty to their families and Tibet. For this, she had her sentence extended by six years. The singing nuns later came to be known as “Drapchi Nuns”.
In 1996, her sentence was extended by additional eight years for defying the prison authorities and shouting “Free Tibet” slogans.
In May 1998, when the European Union’s delegation visited Drapchi prison, she shouted pro-independence slogans, thus earning four additional years of prison term.
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