China releases Nyima Choedon serving ten years prison term

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) is happy to learn the release of Nyima Choedon, 38 years old, from Drapchi Prison. According to latest update from the U.S based Dui Hua Foundation, Nyima has been released on 26 February 2006. TCHRD has long campaigned for the release of Jigme Tenzin Nyima a.k.a Bangri Chogtrul Rinpoche and Nyima Chodon, a couple running an orphanage in Lhasa, who were wrongly charged for “splitist” activities and convicted in September 2000 to ten years prison term and life sentence respectively. Nyima received sentence reduction on few occasions where as Jigme received a year reduction and is likely to be released on 30 July 2021.

With the release of Nyima Choedon, TCHRD hopes that her husband Jigme Tenzin Nyima would also be released unconditionally soon. Jigme is currently serving his term at the newly operated Chushur Prison in Chushul (Chin: Qushui) County near Nyethang (Chin: Nidang), Lhasa, along a host of other long term serving Tibetan political prisoners. TCHRD requests the international community to maintain pressure on the government of People’s Republic of China to release all the Tibetan political prisoners. 

While TCHRD is happy that Nyima Choedon has been released prematurely in view of her original sentence, TCHRD maintains the stand that she and all the Tibetan political prisoners does not deserve to be in prison at all in the first place. According to TCHRD documentation there are 131 known Tibetan political prisoners currently languishing in a network of Chinese administered prisons in Tibet. Out of the 131 known political prisoners, 52 are serving prison terms of more than 10 years and 91 prisoners out of the total are monks.

Background Information about Nyima Choedon, Jigme Tenzin Nyima and Gyatso Orphanage

Jigme Tenzin Nyima, 40, a.k.a Bangri Chogtrul Rinpoche founded an orphanage in 1996 at Gyatso area near Norbulingka, Lhasa, “Tibet Autonomous Region” (“TAR”) and accordingly named it as Gyatso Orphanage. At its peak the orphanage had 60 children in it and Jigme’s partner Nyima Choedon and his relatives assisted him in running the orphanage. The orphans, belonging to various parts of Tibet, were given education in Tibetan language, Chinese language, English language and mathematics. Until the arrest of Jigme, Nyima and several others working in the orphanage, Gyatso Orphanage catered to the needs of orphans and street children who had no one to look after them. The orphans were between two months to twelve years old.

On allegations of having connections with a Tibetan, Tashi Tsering, who was arrested for an alleged anti-Chinese protest during the National Minority Games in Lhasa in August 1999, Jigme and Nyima were arrested on 27 August 1999 and subsequently Dechen Chonzom (Jigme’s sister and foster mother to the orphans) and several other Tibetans working in the orphanage were also arrested. At least 23 people were arrested in connection with Jigme’s case out of which twelve received sentence of varying prison terms.

On 17 October 1999 the orphanage was closed and the authorities directed the children to return to their places of origin, however, most of them were later reported to be begging in the same streets of Lhasa from where Jigme and Nyima picked them up and provided shelter and education.

On 26 September 2000, on charges of “splittism” Lhasa Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Jigme to life imprisonment term and Nyima to ten years prison term with subsequent deprivation of political rights for five years. Both were later transferred to Drapchi Prison to serve the term.

Citing good behaviour in prison and also in consideration of her seven years old daughter, born just before her arrest, Nyima received sentence reductions thrice in 2002, 2004 and the last at the time of her release. Whereas Jigme Tenzin’s original life sentence was later commuted to a fixed term of 19 years imprisonment in July 2003 and had a sentence reduction by one year in November 2005. His term is now due to expire on 30 July 2021.

Jigme was later transferred to the newly built Chushur Prison along with many other Tibetan political prisoners serving long terms where as his partner Nyima continued to be imprisoned in Drapchi. Dr. Manfred Nowark, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, (TCHRD listed Jigme Tenzin as prisoner of concern in a memorandum to him) during his visit to Tibet and China from 20 November to 2 December 2006 met with both Jigme Tenzin Nyima in Chushur Prison and Nyima Choedon in Drapchi Prison.

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