A monk in Tibet has died after suffering beatings and enduring hard labor during his 10-year prison sentence for campaigning for freedom, a source said.
News of his death comes amid a U.S. State Department report that many of the Tibetan monks and nuns under detention are subjected to "extrajudicial punishments, such as beatings and deprivation of food, water, and sleep for long periods."
Yeshe Tendzin died on Sept. 7 in Sog county of the Nagchu prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) after being bedridden and in extremely poor health following his release in December last year, said Ngawang Tharpa, a Tibetan resident in the Indian hill town of Dharamsala.
"He was imprisoned in 2001 after being convicted of copying and distributing posters calling for Tibet’s freedom. Many of these posters had appeared in the Sog area at that time," Tharpa said.
"When he was released, there were signs that he had suffered from beatings and hard labor. His family took him to several hospitals in Nagchu and in Lhasa, but no one could help him, and he lingered in poor condition until he died."
Tendzin had been a monk at the Tsenden monastery in Sog county, and had once attended the Kalachakra ancient Tibetan Buddhist ceremony presided over by the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, in Sikkim.
Some Tibetans living in Sog believe that political prisoners are poisoned before their release, Tharpa said. The charge could not be independently confirmed.
"When political prisoners from their area are released, they are first poisoned in some way, so that some die very quickly and others linger for longer periods of time," Tharpa said, quoting residents in Sog.
Sog residents said that another political prisoner, Tendzin Choewang, lingered for two years following his release with symptoms similar to those of Yeshe Tendzin, and then finally died.
"Tibetans in the Sog area are scared to help or associate in any way with released political prisoners, as this brings them, too, under official suspicion," according to Tharpa.
"Because of the fear, political prisoners are ostracized and they are treated as lepers," he quoted one resident as saying.
As of September 1, 2010, there were some 824 Tibetan political or religious prisoners, according to the U.S. Congressional Executive Commission on China's Political Prisoner Database.
Of those, more than half are Tibetan Buddhist "religious professionals," such as monks and nuns, it said.
The State Department said in a global religious freedom report released on Tuesday that several Tibetan monks also reportedly committed suicide as a result of the harsh conditions and religious restrictions in monasteries.
The restrictions were imposed after the March 2008 anti-Chinese riots, the bloodiest in Tibet in 20 years.
At the end of 2010, many monks and nuns remained in detention because of their involvement in the 2008 protests, the report said.
"According to numerous sources, many of those detained were subjected to extrajudicial punishments, such as beatings and deprivation of food, water, and sleep for long periods," it said.
In some cases detainees reportedly suffered broken bones and other serious injuries at the hands of People's Armed Police (PAP) and Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers.
According to sources who claimed to be eyewitnesses, the bodies of some, including monks and nuns who were killed during the violence or who died during interrogation, were disposed of secretly rather than being returned to their families, the State Department report said.
The whereabouts of more than 80 nuns reportedly detained in southwestern Sichuan province after March 2008 were still unknown, it said.
Limited access to information about prisoners and prisons made it difficult to ascertain the number of Tibetan prisoners of religious conscience or to assess the extent and severity of abuses, according to the report.
Reported by Rigdhen Dolma for RFA’s Tibetan service. Written in English with additional reporting by Parameswaran Ponnudurai and Richard Finney.