Rare testimony by a Tibetan youth in Lhasa on March 2008 protest

A rare testimony in detail of a Tibetan youth who was arrested in the aftermath of Lhasa unrest in March 2008 is obtained by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD). The interviewee describes the use of extreme torture in prison, cries of pain in the corridors of the prison, harrowing stories that he constantly hears, unwavering hope of support from the outside world, and perception of life post imprisonment. The interview which is reproduced below has been dictated to a third party and edited by TCHRD in order to protect the identity of the youth. While (*) denotes information withheld, further details, comments or explanations are provided in square brackets.
“On (*) March, around one hundred soldiers entered my house, broke down five doors, checked everything and threw it all on the floor and hit everyone present there. It was like a robbery or burglary. There were a lot of firearms and they were very rough with us. I was arrested. They took me with them, with my thumbs tied behind my back, very tightly, resulting in the whole area being numb for the last two or three months [all of his left thumb]. They treated us very harshly. Talking to each other, they said, “This is our chance”, and they beat us. At first I thought that they were going to kill me, they hit my head a lot, and skull can be broken easily. It is not like the rest of the body. They took me to prison. For four days they didn’t ask me anything, they just threw me in. They gave us half a steamed bun a day. That’s very small. Everyone were very thirsty and a lot of people drank their urine [the detainees were not provided with water]. We had no clothes, no blankets, nothing to lie down on, nothing [just cement floors] and it was very cold. For four days nobody spoke to us, they just left us there.”

“During the day it’s quiet, there’s nothing in Lhasa during the day. Between 11:00 at night and 5-6:00 [in the morning] they arrest thousands of people. In that room, after four or five days, they gave us two steamed buns with hot water. We were (*) people in that room. Very bad. We heard a lot of things. Many people had their arms or legs broken or gunshot wounds but they weren’t taken to hospital. They were there with us. It was really terrible. I can’t believe that we are in the 21st century. For instance, one boy who was shot four times, one from here to there [the bullet entered from the left side of his back and exited from the left side of his chest, near his heart], one from here to here [from inner left elbow to inner left wrist], and one here [a horizontal wound on his upper right arm]. Some people had their ribs broken. One man was punched in his [right] eye, and it was all swollen and black and blue, very bad. People had their teeth broken, these are just examples. A lot of terrible things were done.”

“One of the problems is that people have no food, they are very hungry, they are just falling over. One boy fell into the toilet, all in the same room, and he was cut right across his face [under his chin along the jaw]. For instance, a lot of people have psychological problems, and they’re the first to collapse. A boy from Tse-Tang , he has a problem of the “heart”, a psychological problem, and he was very thin. At first he fell two or three times every day but they didn’t care.”

“The worst thing – this is Gondzhe [the name of the prison], in Lhasa there are nineteen prisons, the biggest is Drapchi and there is one in Chushul [Ch: Qushu County], they are empty, they showed the visitors that nobody is in prison, it’s just for show. Usually there is no prison at the train station, but they rented a very big building and they put people there and in Du-Long [Toelung Dechen County] and at the train station, and in Gondzhe; they put people in these three places. At night they bring a big bus, and many soldiers come, and one hundred to one hundred and fifteen go to Du-Long. They say it’s time to go home, “You haven’t done anything wrong, you’re going home,” but they put them in a huge bus to Du-Long or to the train station. They’ve mixed up the people and transferred people from here to there [from prison to prison]. I didn’t see this myself, but friends told me what they saw at Du-Long. Some monks had sacks put over their heads and they were taken away and didn’t come back, so maybe they were killed.”

“I met an old man, 65 years old, who had two ribs broken and he was all bent over [demonstrates a bent man], and he couldn’t stand up straight, he was dying, so the police took him to People’s Hospital, where one or two people die every day [due to police violence]. The people who are taken to hospital are usually people who have been shot or beaten, and they usually die there. A brother and sister from (*), the brother was younger, were sleeping in the same room and all of a sudden soldiers came and threw them out of the window from a high floor to the ground, the brother was killed on the spot. Yes, right outside the building. The sister didn’t die, but she can’t lie down, she has to remain in a sitting position all the time. They took the body away and told her that she is forbidden to tell anyone. (*).These are just a few examples. There are many problems like this.”

“Many questions were asked of people who were not guilty of anything. They are just [guilty of being] Tibetans. There are many counties in Tibet, they call the police from each county, and the people from the counties aren’t in Lhasa so they show them that the prisons are empty, but they were taken to all kinds of places, because in Lhasa there are so many people watching so they keep everyone away. Now the monks from (*)monastery, friends and relatives, we don’t know where they are.”

“You know that they say that there are no soldiers in Lhasa, but they’re in civilian dress and they check identity papers.”

“I want to talk and that people should know what’s happening in Tibet. If they beat me that’s okay [he means that his family may be hurt as well], I didn’t do anything bad in Lhasa. ”

“Many young people in Lhasa, for example, if we were together on the 14th [of March], I was beaten, so I was “sold” and then you’re with me [with the prison warden doing the beating]. But I have friends in (*) monastery, I would rather die than give them away. I saw a lot of things that they did in prison. A guy from Dhadezhe [possibly Dartsedo County] had a new jacket, so they beat him and he died, because of the jacket, because it was very new, so they said he stole it, so because of his new coat he was killed.”

“There are a lot of high school students from Sauko . A seventeen-year-old who had not participated in the events of the 14th [of March], all his clothes were taken away, they tied his hands and they pushed a wagon at him until he fell, there are all kinds of torture methods. This kid was very young and he didn’t even do anything. Afterwards he said that he’d done all kinds of things, that happens to a lot of people, they pressure people to admit things they never did. I didn’t see the dead people, but in prison people called out to the police or soldiers, “Someone’s dead!”, every day people shout that. At Gondzhe there are nine buildings, and each building has eleven rooms and in each room there are twenty or thirty people. And one day, a Chinese man was asked some questions, someone called and asked how many people had been arrested and he said less than ten thousand, and that doesn’t include Drepung, Sera, Ramoche, Jokhang. After they let us out they arrested the monks. When I got out [of prison] I heard that many were arrested at Drepung Monastery. I was released on (*) April .”

“I met a monk from Ramoche before I was released. I am very worried about the monks. The soldiers regard the monks as something very different, because a monk from Dezhe [possibly Derge County], his finger was bent over [shows a completely bent finger] and he’d been blinded in one eye, he couldn’t see out of it at all, he was beaten more than us but luckily … Really I can’t understand why they do terrible things to monks, very, very painful.”

“I met a boy from (*) [County] in the same prison, and he had two friends in Lhasa who lived near Ramoche and they were shot, and his two friends, one, there’s a hospital near Anichenko , he was taken to a nunnery and he died there, 21 years old, I’ve forgotten his name; the other was 20 years old, he was shot and he’s in hospital, maybe he’ll die too. He was shot on Gangsu Street.”

“A boy named (*), aged (*), from Anishim near Lhasa, is in prison, and two of his friends were shot to death. He and his 18 year-old brother were from Phenpo. In the prison at Gondzhe there are a lot of people from Phenpo.”

“During the day it’s very quiet, everything happens at night, everything’s very secret. There is no telephone contact with Drepung, Sera or the train station. Sometimes we can get in touch with the train station, but not most of the time, so they can’t be reached.”

“I have a relative in India, I wrote just what I heard and saw to send over the internet. I wrote a little and I saved it on Word, and all of a sudden it disappeared, so I was very frightened. So I haven’t checked my e-mail, I have a lot of friends abroad and they send many e-mails but I haven’t opened them.(*).”

“Outwardly they show people that everything is very nice but inside it’s really terrible. People did really bad things and forced us to make this problem. At Ramoche they didn’t do anything, but thousands of soldiers surrounded the monastery and all the temples, and many vehicles closed off the gates like a prison. We can’t be tolerant anymore, we should be tolerant but we can’t be tolerant anymore. There are no human rights and cultural genocide is the reality, that’s the big part, but the small part we see, for instance in Lhasa, on a main street like Beijing Lu [Lu means street in Chinese], or Gengshu Lu, how many Tibetans have businesses on streets like those? This is Lhasa, Tibet, not China. Don’t the Tibetans have to live? The Chinese are more talented because they study in big cities. They have experience or enough money to do business, but Tibetans come from villages, they are farmers or nomads, they don’t have money, so how can they do business in Lhasa? What is more necessary? That the local people do business in Lhasa or the Chinese? Why don’t the Chinese police allow Tibetans to do business on one side of the street and the Chinese on the other side – so things will be more balanced? There are many Tibetans who are very talented and intelligent, but they don’t have enough money to make it. They have money because they live in Beijing or Shanghai. That’s the small part. ”

“I see a lot of things, I’m okay, I can do many things. But I see many Tibetans, the way they live, and the way the Chinese live, and this is Tibet. The local people shouldn’t be superior to the Chinese, but there should be balance. There are some very old Tibetans who have pensions from the government, you can see them on TV. They said bad things to the Tibetans. I watch them and I just laugh. There are many westerners who are fighting for Tibetan civil rights. I’m very happy that these people are doing this. I want to study more at home every day but I can’t. When I watch TV, everything is lies, so it pains my heart [points to his heart] and it’s very bad. So I walk in the streets and I see the soldiers asking me for my identity papers, they look at my card and ask me, “When were you born?” and if there’s the smallest mistake you’re finished. They check the picture and your face, but a Chinese person can pass right by [without identity papers], that’s okay.”

(*). “Before this was the best place, but now it’s like a prison, it’s not like Lhasa. When I was in prison, a Tibetan policeman told me “Kneel down here!”, I had my thumbs tied behind my back. He sat down [on a chair in front of me], put his foot on my head and kicked my forehead with his foot, pushed my head back and slapped my face over and over again, and I saw this man and I was very sad. He’s Tibetan and now I see him every day, I’ve seen him many times [since then]. A lot of Chinese and Tibetans jumped on my back and kicked me and beat me over the head, they twisted my head back so I couldn’t see their faces, but to show me your face and to do those bad things – that’s the worst thing.”

“This is just an experience, I could learn a lot from it. In prison sometimes I dreamed about food and I remembered the food we cook at home, my mother and my sister’s cooking and I could smell it, and then I really appreciated how tasty the food is at home. I usually eat everything and then I say “That wasn’t so good,” and now I’ve learnt that it’s very, very good. These are the worst things that I’ve ever seen in my life, but you learn how to be a good person. Sometimes, when my (*)’s children are here, and they don’t do their schoolwork, I yell at them and hit them. But now if I yell at them it pains me sometimes. I’ve learned a lot.”

“I’m worried about the small Tibetan population. Many people are dying today or being crippled with broken arms and legs, and that’s very bad. And people are in prison, like me, and I think about the people in prison all the time. I think about the terrible state they are in. Young people, 16 or 17 years old, crying all the time – it makes me really sad. I saw people with broken limbs and people who’d been shot – seeing their pale faces is very, very sad.”

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