A Tibetan protester who served a three-year term in a Chinese prison is in poor health as a result of harsh treatment suffered while in custody, according to his niece, who escaped into India earlier this year, a Tibetan human rights group said Tuesday.
The failing health of Chime Gonpo, who was a “healthy and energetic” man before he went into prison, was suspected to be due to beatings and torture he suffered during his imprisonment, Nyidon told the India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD).
Gonpo, now 41, was beaten and detained along with 10 other Tibetans in March, 2008, for staging a peaceful protest against Chinese rule in Tibetan-populated Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) county in China’s southwestern Sichuan province, the center said in a statement.
Gonpo’s detention was separately confirmed in 2008 in a list of jailed Tibetan protesters received by RFA.
Following his release on March 17, 2011, Gonpo’s health took a “drastic” turn, as he “began to lose weight, and his body turned darker day by day,” Nyidon said.
Suspecting that Gonpo’s failing health was due to beatings and torture suffered in prison, Gonpo’s relatives took him first to three hospitals in Sichuan’s capital Chengdu, she said.
After doctors there failed to diagnose his condition, Gonpo’s family took him to a hospital in Beijing, where he was found to be suffering from hepatitis and kidney disease.
The statement did not say who is taking care of Gonpo at present.
After returning home, Gonpo was regularly questioned by Chinese police, who monitored his movements and kept his family under surveillance, Nyidon said, adding, “It is normal for family members and relatives of a former or current political prisoner to face many hardships at the hands of the police and other government officials.”
Determined to “tell the story of my uncle to the world,” Nyidon left her hometown in Kardze in April this year after telling Chinese police and local authorities she was going on a pilgrimage to the Tibetan regional capital Lhasa.
She arrived in Nepal in May, and reached India in August.
Speaking to TCHRD, Nyidon said that Gonpo’s relatives were unaware of his whereabouts for more than a year after he was first taken into custody.
“I remember my grandmother (Gonpo’s mother) calling out his name, saying prayers, and then breaking down in tears thinking he might already have died,” Nyidon said.
Gonpo’s three-year confinement in Sichuan’s Mianyang Prison led to the rapid breakdown of his own mother’s health, she added.
Noting that other protesters sentenced with her uncle had received jail terms ranging from three to eight years, Nyidon said, “All that they did to get such heavy sentences was to hold peaceful protests.”
“My uncle is a man of conscience,” Nyidon said. “He wouldn’t hurt anyone.”
Reported by Richard Finney.