The only prison in Tibet acknowledged by the Chinese is the “TAR” prison no. 1, more commonly known as Drapchi Prison, located in Lhasa. Currently there are 253 political prisoners, ranging in age from 15 to 70 and with prison terms ranging from 1 year to 19 years.
The following letter (translated from Tibetan) was, miraculously, able to escape the intense security of Drapchi prison authorities. The prisoners who wrote the letter have risked life-threatening torture and arbitrary sentence extensions by daring to speak out about the prison conditions in Drapchi. Their words are a testimony of the daily suffering of those who continue to struggle for the rights of Tibetan people.
The subject of Human Rights has been widely recognised by the well informed people of this world since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Countries have drafted articles to protect and promote the values of human rights yet some countries continue to disrespect these basic human values.
The UN Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International, Red Cross Organisation, nations, non-governmental organisations and some interested individuals have earnestly appealed for the United Nations to oversee the brutal suppression of one country by another. Nevertheless the UN has not been able to take strict measures to protect the ongoing human rights violations.
We want to single out the fact that the Chinese have pretended to respect human rights in China and Tibet before international representatives. Being signatories to this declaration, China continues to violate the basic and fundamental freedoms of the Tibetan people. They greedily entered through our eastern border in 1949 and finally occupied Tibet by force in 1959.
Since the Chinese occupation of Tibet, the land and the people of Tibet has been destroyed; His Holiness the Dalai Lama, to whom the Tibetan people take refuge for this and the next lives has been compelled to leave his country and his people. There were unaccountable cases of Tibetans slaughtered or injured, and families torn apart. These facts are clearly known to the world.
During the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese imprisoned many learned Buddhist nuns and monks, destroyed large numbers of monasteries, burned all religious texts and scriptures, sterilised Tibetan women and carried out countless brutal actions aimed at eliminating the religion and culture of the Tibetan people.
Under the Chinese policy of “liberalisation”, the monks were allowed to stay in the monasteries but were deprived of the study of religious texts. Chinese authorities claim that there is religious freedom in Tibet, but basic requirements for admission to monasteries and nunneries have been intensified. Even when monks are allowed admission to the monasteries, they are forced to work on renovating monasteries destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. The Chinese take away all the money donated to the monasteries by local people.
In order to indoctrinate young Tibetans the Chinese do not give them the opportunity to study Tibetan language and the unique culture related to Tibetan Buddhism, described by the Chinese as “blind faith” and “backward”. Chinese constantly urge the people to be firm and stable in communist beliefs.
In addition, all the natural resources from various parts of Tibet are being exploited and taken to China. Shameful and demoralising activities are being encouraged inside Tibet.
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and on behalf of the six million Tibetans, His Holiness the Dalai Lama described the critical condition of the Tibetan people before the United Nations and to many other nations including the United States and requested urgent action. In 1987 in particular His Holiness the Dalai Lama proposed a five-point peace plan with the hope of beginning peaceful negotiations with China. The Chinese government rejected this proposal and condemned His Holiness. This is unbearable to us and we are unable to remain silent.
Since 1959 and the brutal occupation and colonisation of the Chinese regime, the Tibetan people have been roused to call for their freedom and demonstrate against the brutal Chinese suppression. This resulted in the death of 1.2 million Tibetans and the ongoing imprisonment of Tibetans still today. However the truth will last forever.
From 27 September 1987,Tibetan people once again staged a peaceful demonstration against China. Led by monks and nuns, hundreds of Tibetans joined the uprising to demonstrate their opposition to Chinese rule in Tibet. In the clamp-down of successive demonstrations, the Chinese army opened fire,killing and critically wounding many on the spot and imprisoning thousands of unarmed demonstrators. The Chinese authorities forced the detainees to confess under harsh interrogation.
In Tibet torture is the only method of interrogating. In prison, cruel and degrading methods of torture are inflicted to extract confessions. These include: deprivation of food, water, and air; confinement in a freeze room; setting guard dogs onto prisoners and the use of electric cattle prods.
In some cases prisoners are charged as ‘criminals’ and administrative detention is imposed by local authorities without supervision by an independent judiciary. The legal procedure established by the Chinese authorities is regarded as the highest authority, thus the Tibetan people have no right to appeal before the court.
After imprisonment, political prisoners are detained incommunicado. They are kept under strict vigilance by special guards sent by the Chinese authorities and there are limits placed on their visitation rights. Only a single member of a political prisoner’s family is allowed to visit once a month, while the other prisoners have no limit on their visitation rights. Political prisoners are frequently prohibited from receiving rations provided by their relatives, while other prisoners have no restrictions on such rations.
Political prisoners have no bed, instead they must use rubbish cloths as their bed. Political prisoners are forced to eat rotten and contaminated food and no one has the right to appeal for their good health. On political grounds prisoners are required to denounce from their heart His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Tibetan freedom, and to pledge their love for the Communist Party. At the same time, prisoners must accept the Chinese laws and regulations upon prisoners, renounce what they have done in the past and agree to accept the laws in the future.
If the prisoners refuse to accept these principles, they are subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment using all torture instruments: beating with iron rods, sticks, iron padlocks and cuffing of hands and feet for many days without any food. This resulted in the death of Sangay Tenphel1.
The Chinese do not take any responsibility upon themselves for sick prisoners. Even if sick inmates are taken for consultation, only outdated medicines and equipment are used. It was as a result of this that Lhakpa Tsering2 and Kelsang Thutop 3 died in prison.
Political prisoners are regularly subjected to forced blood extraction and intensive exercises. Political prisoners are also compelled to praise whatever the jailer or prison guards say. Even when the guard makes a false statement we are forced to praise the communist values and ideologies. Nonetheless we are united and never listen to these statements. That is why we are severely beaten and deprived of food, water and sleep.
It is very hard to write the whole story in detail. If we complain about the maltreatment in the prison to the relevant offices, they not only ignore the complaint but also our prison sentences are greatly extended. We are kept under strict surveillance and brutal suppression. In this way the prison guards are promoted and rewards are presented to them by the higher authorities.
In the “Tibet Daily” newspaper it was stated that, during an official meeting, the Public Security Bureau and the Judicial Office of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) decided to award those guards who had worked hard in disciplining the political prisoners with the extra facilities.
Now we have 253 political prisoners in Drapchi Prison, ranging in age from 15 to 70 and with prison terms ranging from 1 year to 19 years. The present condition in Tibet is critical and more restrictions are being imposed. We are especially susceptible to the above mentioned atrocities which are directly inflicted upon us. Therefore we appeal to people of the world who love and support truth, peace, democracy and human rights.
From all political prisoners of Drapchi Prison.
10th March 1997
19-year-old monk, lay name Gonpo Dorjee, died on 6 May 1996, from torture-related injuries.
died in Drapchi prison on 15 December 1990.
49-year-old monk from Drepung monastery, died in Drapchi prison on 1 July 1996.