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Independence: “A Daylight dream”

When Chinese officials enter your monastery, snatch away your freedom to practise your religious faith, replace your spiritual lessons with communist ideology and finally scorn your dreams of national independence, it is difficult to do nothing. When the Chinese work-team proclaimed: “Tibet’s independence is a daylight dream and is never to come true”, Lobsang, a monk in Dunbhu Choekhor Monastery, dared to defend his beliefs. For this he was sentenced to four years imprisonment.

Lobsang, (ordained name Jamyang Kunga), is 25 years old and comes from Lhangthang Dechen village in Namgyal shol township under Lhoka Gonkar county. He arrived in Dharamsala, India, on 28 April 1997.

Lobsang joined Dunbhu Choekor Monastery, Lhoka Gongkar county, in 1987 at the age of 15 and remained there for five years. In recent years, the Chinese authorities have intensified their repressive policy through the imposition of stringent regulations in the monastery. Lobsang said this fuelled antagonistic feelings amongst the monks towards the Chinese authorities and compelled them to openly express their opposition.

First, travel restrictions in Lobsang’s monastery were intensified. For instance, if a monk wished to travel to Lhasa, the authorities of the monastery could grant “leave” for only one week and the monk must otherwise seek permission from higher officials of the shang (township) or county. Next, monks were compelled to abide by the principles of “love for religion and country” and to oppose the “Dalai’s splittist group”.

Chinese flags hung from the roof top of the monastery and monks were strictly warned not to remove them. Lobsang explained that the monks felt their moral and ethical values and practices had been disrespected and interfered with and such feelings gave rise to the idea of expressing their frustration through pasting wall posters.

In November 1991 Lobsang and eight of his friends secretly pasted wall posters on the wall of Chedeshol police station (Tibetan: Ngagthong Khang) saying “Long live His Holiness the Dalai Lama”; “Tibet is independent”; “Work hard for Tibet’s independence” and “Chinese quit Tibet”.

So as to all be equally involved, each inscribed the poster; the first person wrote the first two words then the second person continued with two more words and so on. It was also hoped that this would confuse Chinese officials when the handwriting was checked. Four of the group members were from Dhunbu Choekor monastery: 22 year-old Dawa, 28 year-old Damdul, 28 year-old Tashi and Lobsang.

Again on 3 July 1992, the four painted slogans on the wall of a local bank in Chedeshol and on the main public street. This time four other individuals were involved: Damdul, Tashi Chungwa, Tashi Chewa, and Lobsang.

After 11 days, Lobsang and Choephel again attempted to write slogans, but were interrupted after only one line. The next day, 27 year-old Chemey from Dunbhu Choekhor and Lobsang again wrote slogans. Lobsang explained that usually when the Chinese officials called a meeting they would hang a huge banner reading; “Tibet’s independence is a daylight dream and is never to come true”. So the group wrote on the wall “the one who wrote ‘Tibet’s independence is a daylight dream’ is like a frog in a well” (a Tibetan expression signifying one who has narrow vision).

During the following days, Tashi Chungwa hinted in conversation about their involvement in pasting the wall posters and was later taken by Public Security Bureau (PSB) officials. He was interrogated twice but revealed nothing of their activities. On 8 November 1992, Tashi was detained in Nyethong Detention Centre (prison) in Tsethang.

On 18 November 1992, after Tashi Chungwa had been detained for 11 days, Damdul, Tashi Chewa, and Lobsang were also taken into detention. A series of interrogation sessions followed: PSB officials, the People’s Procuracy, prison officials and finally the People’s Court. The PSB demanded: “Why were you brought here?”; “What do you aim by Tibet’s independence?” and “Who asked you to do it?”. Sometimes they were interrogated continuously for hours, lasting from 10 am to 4 p.m., and while being interrogated they were kicked, slapped, and forced to hold their hand upraised for hours at a time.

The four were sentenced in April 1993. Lobsang was sentenced to four years imprisonment and subsequent deprivation of political rights for one and half years, of effect from their date of arrest on 18 November 1992. Tashi Chungwa and Chemey were each sentenced to three years imprisonment and subsequent deprivation of political rights for one year. Damdul was sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment and subsequent deprivation of political rights for one year.

Life in Drapchi prison:

After five months of being detained in Nyethong prison, they were shifted to Drapchi prison on 4 May 1993. On reaching Drapchi they were provided with a book called “Book on Prison”, which gave brief guidelines on the basic conduct to be observed in the prison. All the prisoners had to study this book for a week.

They were later forced to work in a green-house vegetable farm. During their regular “exercise” sessions they were required to sing in Chinese: “one must accept one’s crime”; “one must work hard to reform” and “one must again be a good citizen” .

Many prisoners refused to follow this, with the result that their head would be shaved and they would be forced to stand in the sun with their scalp burning. Sometimes they were made to stand continuously for six hours.

Lobsang reported that in 1996 many new prison regulations were issued in Drapchi prison to make it more difficult for prisoners to receive visitors. In early 1996, those who wished to visit their relatives in prison had to seek a new pass from the prison officials. Earlier the pass issued from the village or town authorities was sufficient.

From 20 May 1996, a small hole was made within the main gate of the prison. The size of the hole was too small even for a head to fit through. It was through this hole that the visitors had to see and talk to the prisoners. When a meeting was allowed visitors were placed in a glass-walled cell which had a capacity to accommodate only two people. From 20 October 1996, visitors were limited to bringing only three items for prisoners: a tin of milk, sugar and butter.

Lobsang was finally released on 17 November 1996 after completing his sentence term.

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