Tibetan Prisoner serving life sentence dies in Prison

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) has received information from a reliable source that, Rinzin Wangyal a.k.a Rinwang, 59, died in prison at the end of 2004. There has been no official confirmation of Rinzin Wangyal’s death. It has been reported that his body was not handed over his family.

Rinzin was serving a life imprisonment term in Pawo Tramo Prison, 250 km east of Lhasa. According to the most recent information received by TCHRD on 31 May 2004, his health condition was known to have gravely deteriorated due to constant torture over the years in prison.

Rinzin Wangyal was first arrested in 1966-67 for alleged pro-independence underground movement while working as a labourer in a cement factory. He spent 17 years in prison until his release in 1982. It was reported that while in prison he was regularly tortured and interrogated by the authorities in Drapchi prison.

He was rearrested by the Public Security Bureau (PSB) in August 1995 on charges of suspicion of being involved in a political movement aimed at disrupting the 30th founding anniversary of the Tibet Autonomous Region “TAR” on September 1, 1995. He was again sentenced to a 16-year prison term in October 1997 and while in prison his sentence was increased to life imprisonment.

Rinzin Wangyal’s sentence was extended because of protests by prisoners in Drapchi prison during and after the visit of a United Nations delegation. Some prisoners were reportedly beaten and put in solitary confinement as a result of disturbances following the visit of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to prison on 11 October 1997.

In the spring of 1996 Rinzin Wangyal was refused permission to see his wife Sonam when she became seriously ill and was admitted to the Lhasa People’s Hospital. Sonam died later that year. During her prolonged illness, the Public Security Bureau failed to respond to several letters of appeal by Rinzin Wangyal and his wife’s relatives requesting for a last meeting between the couple.

Rinzin worked as a construction worker in the “Ngachen Lokhang” electricity unit. As he was educated in both Tibetan and Chinese, he was said to have been offered a job in the Geographical Department. However, when the Chinese leader Liu Shao Qi lost political power, there was a shift in the Chinese government’s policy in Tibet. As a result some Tibetans accused of holding “wrong political views” were demoted at the ‘Shuini Chang’ cement factory. Rinzin was among one of those demoted.

As per the TCHRD record, death of Tibetan prisoners in the Chinese administered prisons and detention centers across Tibet have been due to severe torture and brutality. In most cases, the cause of death remains unaccounted for. TCHRD has documented death of 87 known political prisoners as a direct result of torture in Tibet since 1987. All of these Tibetans died either in Chinese custody or after release from the prisons in their very poor health conditions due to torture. Reports indicate that denial of timely and effective medical attention to the prisoners has been one of the main causes of their deaths.

Torture is a regular feature in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) despite the ratification of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (CAT) in October 1988 and outlawed certain forms of torture in the revised Chinese Criminal Procedure Law, which came into effect in 1997. Torture is still used for the purpose of extracting confessions, defeating Tibetan prisoners’ nationalist spirit, intimidating prisoners and causing humiliation and mental trauma that affect the prisoners for the rest of their lives.

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy expresses serious concern over China’s treatment of (political) prisoners. The deaths of more than 80 political prisoners as result of torture and ill treatment?inflicted by prison officials are alarming, requiring serious investigation by independent bodies. Rinzin Wangyal’s death in prison has once again come as a wake-up call to the international community to check China’s indiscriminate use of torture.

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