Profile: Undying spirit even behind bars

Jampel Changchup first became involved in Tibet’s freedom struggle through publishing underground independence materials from his monastery. Thrown into prison for 19 years, his courage in speaking out remains very much alive.

Jampel Changchup (lay name Yugal) is 36 years old and comes from Toelung Dechen Dzong, 12 km west of Lhasa. He was a former monk at Drepung Monastery, 6 km west of Lhasa. Jampel comes from a family of seven or eight children, several of whom have passed away. Having lost his father at a very early age, Jampel’s family has experienced great difficulties due to lack of financial resources.

Jampel was a patriot in the truest sense of the word. From the time he first participated in the mass demonstrations in late September 1987, he has maintained his fight with unrelenting spirit. He was a perpetual freedom activist and persisted despite continuously receiving severe punishment for such activities.

Jampel was unofficially detained on 16 April 1989. However his sentence paper, issued on 7 January 1990, states his official date of arrest as 13 September 1989. At a mass sentencing rally in Lhasa on 30 November 1989, Jampel was among a group of five Tibetans who received sentences of 17 and 19 years imprisonment for independence activities.

Jampel was charged with “espionage” and “organising or leading actively participating in a counter-revolutionary group”. The authorities said the five-member group, based at Drepung Monastery, had produced “reactionary literature” which attacked the Chines Government and “venomously slandered the people’s democratic dictatorship”

The group had been actively involved in printing and smuggling out pro-independence documents, usually reporting on recent dissident activity in Tibet.

One broadsheet, designed to be stuck on walls in Lhasa, gave the number of Tibetans who had been shot dead by police at a pro-independence demonstration. Another informed Tibetans in detail about anti-Chinese sanctions proposed in the US Congress. A third was a Tibetan translation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Drepung group’s most important document to have reached the west was a detailed political manifesto emphasising the Tibetan’s legal right to self-determination and to a fully democratic system.

Avoiding any incitement to anti-Chinese feeling, the document urged Tibetans to fights “with inner strength” and called for an end to “foreign domination”. Jampel had also been involved in staging a small pro-independence demonstration in the center of Lhasa on 27 September 1989 along with other groups of monks. Four days later three thousand staged a massive protest against the imprisonment of peaceful demonstrators. This gave rise to the current wave of unrest in Tibet.

Jampel was one of 20 monks harshly disciplined for protesting against the transfer of five Drapchi prisoners on 27 April 1991. The five men, according to unofficial reports, were transferred, handcuffed, to an isolated work camp where they were placed under a regime of hard labour and reduced rations.

When Jampel and his friends asked a guard about the whereabouts of the missing men, the guard phoned for assistance and a large contingent of armed soldiers moved in. Each protestor was tied with rope, and four or five guards then beat each one unconscious. Prison staff were not allowed to intervene. Most of the protesting men, including Jampel, were thrown in isolation cells, some in manacles.

Jampel was sentenced in 1989 to 19 years imprisonment with five years deprivation of political rights. He is presently in Drapchi prison. His former prison mates who have managed to escape to India say that he suffers severe kidney problems and his eyesight is gradually deteriorating.

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