Monk suffers in six different prisons

The nightmare began for twenty year-old monk Yeshi Samien when work teams entered his monastery and ordered him to renounce everything he believed in. When Yeshi refused, threats were made. When he attempted to escape, Yeshi was imprisoned and tortured in six different prisons and detention centres, his suffering made public as a warning to others. He finally managed to flee to India in October 1997.

Yeshi Samten is from Yathak monastery in Tongpa township, Zokhang county, under the Chamdo Region of the ìTibet Autonomous Regionî. In 1996, he says, there were 60 monks in his monastery. Since then, 32 monks have been expelled by the five-member work team that arrived in March1996.

“The monks were called into the monastery’s prayer hall by the work team,” says Yeshi, “and then they locked us in. For three days we stayed locked inside and they gave us no food. All work-team began tearing down all the idols and the religious artifacts placed on alters. They threw these sacred objects and the religious texts on the ground in front of us, saying ‘How can these help you? These idols are just stone and mud’.

“Later, all the monks were called in to a separate room for interrogation in groups of three at a time. The interrogation sessions lasted from 9 a.m. to 12 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. We were ordered to denounce the Dalai Lama and to pledge not to go to India, not to speak in favour of Tibetan independence and not to carry out political activities.

“Thirteen monks were later detained for 13 days in the county prison for refusing to agree with the work team. I also refused to renounce my beliefs and two friends of mine did the same. As a result, our parents were called in to the monastery and told to make us reform our behaviour. When we stated that we were adults and could not be made to change our stand, the work-team ordered us to go home and stay with our family for one week. They told us, ‘make the most of that time to wear your best robes and eat the best food since you now have only one way to go.’

“They threatened our parents and family members if we tried to escape but we were so fearful of our lives that we fled. On the way we were caught at Pashoe county by about 40 army officers and detained in Pashoe military prison for one day. Throughout that day I was hit with rifle butts while at the same time I was being kicked and beaten with wooden rods. My hand was badly hurt.

“Next we were handed over to Zokhang county, where I was beaten by ten police personnel before a public gathering in order to warn the people of the dire consequences of disobeying the Chinese. The three of us were imprisoned on March 20,1996, in three separate cells. For about a month we were beaten with electric batons every morning and every evening for an hour each time. We were given very little food. At noon we were beaten with rifle butts, sticks and anything the guards could get hold of.

“During the four months I was detained in Zokhang county prison, my parents made persistent appeals promising that I would never again be a monk and would do farming work. After I was released on 20 June 1996.

“After my release, I travelled directly to Lhasa and reached there in 20 days. Ten days later I left for India. I was caught by the army police at the border area of Gyala along with a group of 13 people. We were then transferred to army personnel in Kyi-drong county who put us in the military prison.

“During the first seven days we were not provided with any food. The guards interrogated us, ‘Why were you going to India?’, ‘Who invited you to go to India?’, while they beat us with sticks. There was a woman in our group with a tiny 4 month-old baby. The baby was unwell and so the army personnel finally allowed the mother to go out to beg for food in the nearby town.

“We were held in the military prison for one month and 11 days before being transferred to Lhatse county. There again we were detained for three days in the Lhatse police prison while we were photographed and every detail about each of us was recorded.

“Next we were transferred to Shigatse county prison and kept for seven days. Sixty to sixty-five of us were thrown, together into the truck like animals. The authorities announced the name of each detainee over public loudspeakers and we were thrown one by one into the truck. They also broadcast warnings to the public of the, consequences of attempting to flee the country as we had done.

“We were then driven to Gutsa Detention Centre in Lhasa and seven more days of detention followed. This time at least we were provided with tea in the morning and tea with barley flour in the evening. Once again our details were recorded and we were warned that ‘there is only one way to go’, in case anyone dared to flee. Finally, after the seven days, we were released in October or November 1996.

“After some time in Lhasa I returned to Zokhang county for Losar (Tibetan New Year) in February 1997. My two friends stayed in Lhasa, both hospitalised for back injuries caused from torture by Chinese officials. When he heard that I was back in Zokhang, the administrative head of the county called the Chinese police to have me arrested. Terrified, I left again for Lhasa after just three days in Zokhang and from there, finally, I made it to India.

“A three-person work team is still carrying out the re-education session in my monastery. The monastery is also without its spiritual head because the reincarnate Iama, although enthroned last year in the monastery, is not allowed to remain in the monastery for his religious education.”

to top