A Tibetan monk from Drepung monastery in Lhasa, Ngawang Samphel (33), was arrested in early April 1999 for suspicion of political acts. At present his whereabouts are unknown. This is the second time that Ngawang has been arrested. His first detention in Gutsa Detention Centre was for taking part in a peaceful demonstration on 27 September 1988, with five other monks from Drepung monastery.
On 27 September 1988, Ngawang Samphel and five other Drepung monks, Ngawang Zegen (22), Ngawang Chemey (30), Ngawang Thosam (28), Jamphel Wangchuk (28) and Jamphel Sherab (31) staged a peaceful demonstration in the Barkhor in Lhasa, shouting slogans calling for Tibetan independence. The officials of the People’s Armed Police (PAP) and Public Security Bureau (PSB) immediately arrested them. They were taken to Gutsa Detention Centre, located to the east of Lhasa. While in detention, the six monks were subjected to severe torture. As a result of the torture Ngawang’s friend Ngawang Zegen from Toelung County, died in 1989 approximately one month after his release.
In recent years, despite a strict Chinese policy of religious and patriotic re-education, Tibetan independence posters continue to be seen in Drepung monastery. The Chinese re-education work-teams have recently imposed strict control over political activities in the monastery. In order to check the growing dissent among the monks, PSB officials are now permanently stationed in the monastery. In early April 1999, these officials raided Ngawang Samphel’s room. Nothing was found. Nonetheless Ngawang was subsequently arrested on the grounds of suspicion of political acts. Since his arrest, no information has been made available regarding his well-being or whereabouts. The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy is concerned about the fate of Ngawang Samphel, particularly because this is the second time he has been arrested for political acts. Unless immediate intervention and action is taken on his behalf, the Centre fears that his life will be in danger.
Ngawang Samphel is from Phenpo Lhundrup County “TAR”. He joined Drepung monastery in 1983, at the age of 16. He was imprisoned from 27 September 1988. He was released after nine months detention and, after his release, return to Drepung monastery where he remained until his arrest in April 1999.