Since the Dalai Lama announced the discovery of the reincarnate Panchen Lama in May 1995, Chinese authorities have waged a brutal campaign against those who openly support him. Lobsang Shakya, a monk at Tashi Lhunpo Monastery – the seat of the Panchen Lama – was among those who refused to denounce the Panchen Lama in favour of the boy chosen by Chinese authorities. He suffered a series of prison interrogations, torture, hospitalisation and hospital interrogations.
“They suspended me from the ceiling and beat me with blows and kicks all over my body while they interrogated me about why I had not criticised the Dalai Lama and why 1 had refused the Panchen Lama’s reincarnation selected by the Chinese government. When I did not respond, they hit me in the stomach with their elbows and fists and kicked me like an animal. This went on for several hours. When 1 had to go out to the toilet, I was always accompanied by security officers, and my vision was completely covered,” remembers Lobsang Shakya, who suffered more than two months of interrogations and torture.
“I was bleeding excessively and frequently fell unconscious. They beat me most on my stomach. As I fell unconscious, they would splash my face with drain water. I heard them say, ‘Do not hurt him on the outside; disable him with internal injuries.'” Lobsang, aged 24, says, “I was interrogated by four to five Public Security Bureau (PSB) officials at a time which would last from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Two meals were served; one in the morning and one at night. The interrogation session would run continuously for a week, and then there would be a break for 5 to 6 days.
“During that time, my relatives and many people from Shigatse came to visit me. They brought with them food and clothes, but 1 was never allowed to receive any of it. When some of them tried to insist, they were detained for up to 15 days. After more than a month my mother was allowed to see me, but we were not permitted to speak.”
Threatened with a two year sentence and a 3000 yuan fine for being a “counter-revolutionary”, Lobsang escaped while in hospital being treated for torture-related injuries. “All of the monks who were expelled from Tashi Lhunpo were fined between 3000 and 10000 yuan. They were also forbidden to join any other monastery or to conduct prayers in lay houses,” Lobsang reports.
In April 1995, 13 work teams arrived in Tashi Lhunpo Monastery and ‘patriotic re-education’ began.
When the Dalai Lama announced Gedhun Chockyi Nyima as the XIth Panchen Lama on May 14, 1995, the people of Shigatse celebrated and offered prayers for his quick enthronement. On May 16, “TAR’s political leaders denounced the decree as “totally illegal and invalid”.
The next day it was declared that Tashi Lhunpo must be made a true patriotic monastery and that “all monks must respect the order of the authorities; the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama is a political matter and the Golden Urn must be used for the selection of the Panchen. You all need to be re-educated”.
On May 20, Pasang, the head of the work team, asked the monks’ opinions on the reincarnation. Lobsang Shakya wrote,”the reincamation of the Panchen Lama is a religious matter and all monks believe in Gedhun Choekyl Nyima as chosen by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The Chinese Government, in the pretext of politics, wants to select their own boy by using the golden urn, but there are not two Panchen Lamas. If this happens there will be no peace in the world.”
Says Lobsang, “The work team was angered by my letter and that night Pasang and Yung, head of the Religious Affairs Bureau, arrived at my room and asked who had written the letter. I replied that I had. Pasang told me, ‘You are foolish, you never listen to our words. You have the wrong view and all the contents of your letter are false. You must confess your mistaken believes and you must be re-educated’.” In the subsequent months he was again threatened to change his way of thinking.
On 25 November, Gyaltsen Norbu, the boy selected by the Chinese government, was taken to Tashi Lhunpo. All monks were ordered to put on their good robes, to carry a khata (a scarf offering) and to “exhibit good expression’. At 1.30 am, when the PSB became aware that Lobsang was absent, six People’s Armed Police officers went to his house.
“They dragged me out and took me to Shigatse Nyari prison, my vision blocked with black fabric over my head and my hands manacled. I was kept in Nyari for just 15 minutes before being taken to Karkhang prison, Shigatse.” The next day Palden, the local head of the PSB, and Sotop, the head of the Home Depaertment arrived at Lobsang’s cell and the torture began.
After six days of uninterrupted interrogation, they told him, “if you confess to your crimes, your sentence may be reduced from two years. We are advising you out of sympathy, so you must think carefully”. When Lobsang did not comply, another two months of interrogations and torture followed.
“After my relatives and the Shigatse people learned of my health condition, they tried persistently to have me admitted to hospital. 1 was finally admitted to Shigatse People’s Hospital where I diagnosed with problems of the stomach, pancreas and intestine. Even while I was in hospital, my interrogations were continued. With the help of the hospital head and a doctor from the Tibetan Medical Institute (TMI), I was able to receive treatment in TMI for more than two months” Lobsang says.
“At the recommendation of a Tibetan medical officer, I was allowed one week’s treatment without harassment from PSB officials. He advised me to use that period to escape. ‘There is no hope of you being readmitted to hospital, you will remain in prison’, he told me. I remained in hiding for more than two years before escaping to India on 10 October 1997.”
“After my escape, PSB officials went daily to harass my family and relatives, inquiring about my whereabouts. Later I learned that the officials had even stuck my photograph up at the border region of Dram. After they failed to find me, the officials presumed that I had died.”
Health care system
Lobsang also reported the use of red and blue cards in the hospital. Holders of a red card received free medication and those with a blue card paid half-price. Lobsang said the local Tibetans were required to pay full cost for medication, whereas the Chinese who crane to the hospital did not have to pay.
Tibetans were also required to pay 800 to 1000 yuan as a deposit, 20 yuan for a bed per night, 200 yuan for a bottle of glucose plus check-up expenses. “During my stay in the hospital,” Lobsang reports, “two Tibetans died after doctors refused them treatment for having no deposit.”
“Gyalpo, a 47-year-old man from Shalu district, Shigatse region, died from serious injuries to his lung and liver. Another man from Tsongdu district, Shigatse, also died when he couldn’t pay 1000 yuan.”
“Tibetan doctors are being expelled and replaced with Chinese doctors. China claims that they have built hospitals in Tibet, but in reality these benefit only the Chinese settlers. Tibetans have no right of health care.”
“Chinese medical teams have sterilised women aged 16 to 45 in the region by various means. Those who refused were fined up to 500 yuan.”