The Unbearable Life after prison

Jamphel Monlam, also known as Dadul, is 30 years old. Jamphel’s desire to be part of Tibet’s freedom struggle was strong and he became involved in a political group in Drepung monastery, resulting in a five year imprisonment. Yet Jamphel says it was not the years behind bars that were the worst but the life after release. Release did not mean freedom. Jamphel was expelled from his monastery, his movements were restricted and he and his family were monitored and harassed. He tells the story of the end of his regular life.

“I was born in Tsel Gung Thang, Lhasa Trengkan Chu (the Tibetan quarter around the Jokhang temple). My father, Yeshi Gelek, was a farmer. I joined Drepung Monastery when I was 18 years old.

On September 27, 1987, was first arrested by Chinese officials for participating together with 20 other Drepung monks in a peaceful demonstration in Lhasa calling for Tibet’s Independence. I was released after four months detention after repeated appeals by the 10th Panchen Lama and pressure by the Tibetan people.

“I was later appointed accountant of the monastery by the Democratic Management Committee. I was also part of the “Organization of Ten”, a political group formed in the monastery in 1989 which was involved in printing various documents and leaflets calling for Tibet’s independence.

“In January 1989 a ceremony was held in Shigatse to commemorate the erection of a memorial tomb for the late Panchen Lama.  During the ceremony Jamphel Losel, another monk from Drepung, and I distributed some of the political leaflets that we had prepared. We were arrested in Yangchu by Shigatse Nyari Prison. They had no evidence against us but nevertheless we were detained for more than one month.

“During our detention we received severe beatings from our interrogators.” I was thrown out from the first floor and fell on the ground on my face. I was unconscious for some time and when I regained my senses I was hit on the chin with a rifle butt. This injured my jaw and it was so painful to chew that it was extremely difficult for me to consume food. Our belongings were searched and the place where we had been staying was investigated. When they failed to find any evidence to prove our guilt, we were released and ordered to leave Shigatse at once.”

“When we reached Lhasa the situation was notably tense and there were People’s Armed Police (PAP) officials swarming everywhere. Martial law had been imposed on March 7, 1989 at 4 p.m. and everybody was looked upon with suspicion. “Counter-revolutionary cleansing” was taking place and interrogated. Sometimes people would go missing for days without anyone knowing anything of their whereabouts. Restrictions were imposed on movement and everybody had to possess a travel permit.

“Six members from our group were arrested in mid 1989. Three others and I lived in constant fear  for more than a month until we too were arrested. We were immediately taken to Sangyip prison where our trial was held on November 6, 1989 at the Lhasa People’s Intermediate Court. I was sentenced to five years imprisonment and two years deprivation of political rights.”

“After one month, we were transferred to Drapchi Prison. At that time Unit 5 in Drapchi had been newly formed and held only political prisoners. The most difficult part of prison life was the “labour” that we were forced to do. It was actually the worst torture. Sometimes, if the prison officials did not like you they would punish you for breaking minor prison rules. Punishments would vary; sometimes we would be made to run barefoot at high speed on gravel road and sometimes we wogther would be handcuffed for several days. I was put together with the other political prisoners in Unit 5 for four years and then detained for a fifth year with older political prisoners.”

“On 17 July 1994 I was released, yet for all political it is the life afterwards that is more unbearable. I was expelled from my monastery and my ration card was transferred to my hometown. Despite being out of prison I continued to be harassed by the PAP men. I was targeted for strict observance and PAP men frequently came to question me.”

The judiciary department had sent a letter to the local police concerning my case and had given strict instructions to observe me constantly. They said that I had a “polluted mind”, that I wasn’t reformed completely and  that they should hold me in contempt and suspicion. This gave the PSB all the more reason to scrutinize me. I had done the entire day.

“I  met Lhasa girl who I married and I began to do some petty business. However, my problems continued to escalate because now my wife was also victim to constant harassment from Chinese officials. She was looked upon with suspicion even at her work place. This was a source of serious irritation and unhappiness in our married life.”

“In 1996 I was called by the PSB and accused of still working under- cover waiting for an opportunity to initiate political activities. I was restricted from travelling outside Lhasa and I was ordered to report every ten days to the PSB but gradually I stopped obeying. Whenever there was political activity in Lhasa I would be called and questioned and detained for a day or two. My family members were also taken for questioning. It was tormenting.”

“In January 1997 my house was again raided by TAR police officers. They threatened my family and asked me strange questions about my activities, my business, who I met with and so on. This incident frightened my family so much that they were really pushed to the edge. I had found no peace or solace even though three years had passed since my release. At times I wished I was still behind bars. I could never again have a regular life.”

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