The risk of returning to Tibet

ngawang_choephelThe flight across the Himalayas to escape the repressions of Chinese-occupation in Tibet is not the only risk Tibetan refugees face. Those who, after spending some time living abroad, choose to return to their homeland, may find themselves accused of illicit “espionage activities for western forces and the Dalai clique”. Such was the case for Ngawang Choephel, serving 18 years in Drapchi today for entering Tibet to do research on Tibetan music. One of his prison mates has a similar story: Ngawang Jungney is presently serving a nine year sentence in Drapchi for “being a spy for the Tibetan Government-in-Exile” after visiting Tibet to undertake study on Tibetan language.

Ngawang Jungney
Ngawang Jungney

Born in Naydrung village, Damshung county, north-west of Lhasa, 27-year-oldNgawang Jungney (ordained name), lay name Tashi Tsering, later went to India and worked as a Tibetan language teacher in Dharamsala. He then returned to Tibet accompanied by a westerner to do further studies in Tibetan language and joined the University of Tibet in Lhasa.

On 13 January 1994, Ngawang was arrested near the road leading to the University by “TAR” Public Security Bureau (PSB) officials and was accused of being a spy for the Tibetan Government-in-Exile. He was detained in Seitru Detention Centre, part of Lhasa’s Sangyip complex, for six months and 26 days. While in Seitru he reportedly underwent a series of torture inflicted by PSB officials.

Finally, after failing to find any valid evidence to prove the alleged espionage activities, the officials finally decided to release him. When Ngawang requested that his Indian Registration Certificate – earlier confiscated by the PSB – be returned, his detention was extended for a further day.

After he had been in detention in Seitru for three months, a 26 year old person named Chungdak was put in Ngawang’s cell for two months. Chungdak was reportedly known for his criminal activities and was put in the same cell in order to extract Ngawang’s future plans and ideas.

Ngawang Jungney was re-arrested after two months of his release from Seitru and this time he was kept in a tight security cell in Drapchi Prison where prison officials could control both his movements and his state of mind.

Initially Ngawang Jungney was to be sentenced to one year imprisonment, but when he refused to kneel down before an officer named Paljor – the 46 year old Deputy-in-Charge of Drapchi Prison Unit # 4, he received a sentence of nine years which he is currently serving.

Ngawang Jungney’s release is estimated for the end of 2003 when he will be 36 years of age.

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