Sister of imprisoned Tibetan businessman detained and beaten overnight

Gonpo Kyi had come to prison to appeal for release of brother serving life sentence.
By Sangyal Kunchok and Lhuboom Tashi for RFA Tibetan
2023.03.22
Sister of imprisoned Tibetan businessman detained and beaten overnight Gonpo Kyi (L) was detained by police and tortured, according to two Tibetans, after she went to the prison in Tibet’s capital of Lhasa on Monday, March 20, 2023, to appeal for the release of her brother, former businessman Dorjee Tashi. In a video obtained by RFA, Kyi shows bruises she received (R) and describes the beatings.
RFA screenshot from video

As she had done several times before, Gonpo Kyi went to the prison in Tibet’s capital of Lhasa on Monday to appeal for the release of her brother, former businessman Dorjee Tashi, who is serving a life sentence.

When police told Kyi to stop, she refused. So they grabbed her and detained her overnight, during which she was beaten and tortured, two Tibetans with knowledge of the situation said. 

Kyi was released on Tuesday, and her other brother, Dorjee Tseten – who has also repeatedly campaigned on his brother’s behalf – took her to the hospital for treatment of injuries she suffered, one of the sources said.

“While Gonpo Kyi was pleading with the Chinese authorities to allow relatives to visit her jailed brother, she was tortured and then arrested by the police,” said a Tibetan inside Tibet, who declined to be identified for safety reasons. “She was detained for a night and released the day after.” 

Radio Free Asia obtained a video in which Kyi, also known as Gontey, describes the beatings and shows bruises on her shoulders and upper arms.

In the video, she displays a legal document about a Chinese business couple who were imprisoned for 15 years on fraud charges around the same time Tashi was arrested. 

“But the Chinese couple has been released after 10 years,” Kyi says. “And it is not fair that my brother, Dorjee Tashi, has still not released though he has already paid off all the money that he was allegedly charged with [stealing] through loan fraud.”

“This is illegal and discrimination against the Tibetans,” she said, though she did not explain how she obtained the document about the Chinese couple.

Former hotel chain tycoon

Before his arrest, Dorjee Tashi, 48, was a member of the Chinese Communist Party and a successful businessman who owned a luxury hotel chain and real estate companies in Tibet, according to International Campaign for Tibet, a rights group. 

He was praised for his philanthropic activities that contributed to poverty alleviation and economic development in the region.

Tashi was arrested in July 2008 following mass Tibetan protests against Chinese rule that spring and branded a “secessionist” for alleged covert support to the Tibetan protesters and for political connections with the Tibetan community in exile, which he later denied. 

Though the political allegations against him were dropped, Tashi was indicted for loan fraud and sentenced to life in in Drapchi Prison in Tibet’s capital Lhasa on what rights groups and supporters say were politically motivated charges.

Sibling support

Both Kyi and her brother, Tseten, have protested Tashi’s imprisonment. 

Tseten has posted videos of himself pleading with prison authorities to let him and other family members visit his brother, although all his requests have been denied.

In December 2022, Kyi staged a peaceful protest calling for her brother’s release outside a courthouse in Lhasa until security guards took her into custody. She also staged sit-ins outside another courthouse in the capital in June 2022.

“Though the police told her to stop the protest, she continued with her appeal to meet and to get her brother, who has been serving a life sentence in Drapchi Prison since 2010, released,” said a Tibetan who lives outside China’s Tibet Autonomous Region.

Drapchi Prison, or Lhasa Prison No. 1, is the largest detention facility in Tibet, housing Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns detained for their political beliefs. It has a reputation for its poor conditions, brutality and use of torture on inmates, according to the human rights group Free Tibet.

Tibet was formerly an independent nation until it was invaded and incorporated into China more than seven decades ago. Chinese authorities maintain a tight grip on the region, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of cultural and religious identity.

Translated by Tenzin Dickyi for RFA Tibetan. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.

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