Free Tibet leaflet leads to Chamdo monk’s death

In May 1996 a Chinese “work team” raided the Chamdo monastery for photographs of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. Finding pro-independence leaflets, three monks connected to this were arrested. One of those monks is now dead, following severe beatings and torture by prison authorities. More than five hundred monks have now been expelled from the monastery.

On 30 May 1996, Chinese officials raided the room of every monk in Chamdo Monastery and confiscated all pictures of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. While searching the rooms they also discovered some political leaflets calling for a Free Tibet. Three monks were subsequently arrested in connection with the leaflets and taken to Chamdo Prison. The monks were: Soepa, a 24 year old from Tsawa Bhema; Jamyang Thinley, aged 25 from Tsawa Bhenda and Gonpo Sonam, a 30 year old from Tsawa.

After four months in Chamdo prison, Jamyang Thinley was released on 13 September 1996 on medical grounds. As a result of severe torture and beatings by prison officials, Jamyang’s state became critical. The possible consequences now represented a serious threat to the prison authorities and Jamyang was quickly released. Only five days after his release, Jamyang Thinley succumbed to death.

Jamyang Khedrup saw the body of Jamyang Thinley prior to cremation. He reported, “His entire back and neck had blisters as a result of being subjected to electrocution. He had marks of having been beaten so badly that it was black and blue all over. There were also patches of clotted blood on certain areas of his stomach”. The other two monks, Soepa and Gonpo Sonam, currently remain in prison.

This was reported to TCHRD by Jamyang Khedrup, a 24 year old monk from Chamdo Monastery in Chamdo County in north-eastern Tibet. He originates from the village of Nyephu under the township of Nyeshe, Chamdo. He joined the monastery when he was just 14 years old. For eight of his ten years in the monastery, he held various responsibilities with regard to the monastery’s administration.

Jamyang tried on two occasions to escape to India. On the first attempt he was caught in Lhatse, close to the southern city of Shigatse. He was detained for eight days within which time all of his belongings, even his scriptures, were confiscated. He was then sent back to Lhasa.

Jamyang’s second attempt to flee was successful. He left Lhasa on 5 December 1997 and finally reached India 17 days later on February 18 1997.

A few months before Jamyang Khedrup left his monastery, he was able to sneak a look at the registration book of the monastery. He discovered that, while the initial record showed 1500 monks in Chamdo Monastery, only 961 monks remained registered at the monastery.

Jamyang says this substantial reduction in monks was a direct result of the “Strike Hard” campaign launched by Chinese “work team” in the monastery on 30 May 1996. The WT consisted of officials from 18 different departments including the Public Security Bureau (PSB), the Religious Bureau and the Monastery Management Committee.

In June 1996, the WT raided every house in the locality for photographs of His Holiness the Dalai lama and the Panchen Lama, Gedun Choekyi Nyima. The only photographs which were not confiscated were those of the Dalai Lama taken together with Mao Tse Tung.

On 30 August 1996, the work teams conducted the political re-education campaign based on the five principles: opposition to separatism; unity of Tibet and China; recognition of the Chinese appointed Panchen Lama; denial that Tibet was or should be independent and agreement that the Dalai Lama is destroying the unity of the people. The monks were ordered to accept the five principles and oppose the Dalai Clique who, they were told, had gone beyond his realm of spiritual authority and was now indulging in political “splittist” activities. The monks expressed their opposition by coughing and sleeping during the sessions of “re-education” and dismissively shaking their robes.

In a new attempt to “re-educate”, each monk was taken into a single room and was interrogated on the five principles. The monks commonly responded that “love for country and religion is possible”, as decreed in the principles, but that “there is absence of freedom of religion”. Moreover, the monks said, “We do not know the concept of splittist and so there is no reason why we should oppose it”. The monks who gave these “unsatisfactory” answers were ordered to leave the monastery. Jamyang Khedrup believes that the “Strike Hard” campaign will continue to be conducted with the same impetus by Chinese officials.

to top