A Tibetan monk was released from prison by Chinese authorities this week after serving his full term in harsh conditions for taking part in protests 15 years ago challenging Beijing’s rule in Tibetan areas, sources said.
Ngawang Gyurme, a monk of the Sog Tsenden monastery in Sog (in Chinese, Suo) county in the Nagchu (Naqu) prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region, was freed on March 20, a source in India told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
Gyurme and five companions were originally detained on March 17,2000, after distributing leaflets and posters calling for Tibetan freedom, the source, Ngawang Tharpa, said, citing contacts in Tibet.
“They were accused of printing out leaflets calling for the long life of [exiled Tibetan spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama and demanding that the Chinese leave Tibet."
The protest literature had been printed from specially carved wood blocks, Tharpa said.
After being charged with “harming national security,” Gyurme was handed a 15-year prison term by the Nagchu Prefecture People’s Intermediate Court sometime later that year, Tharpa said.
Torture, ill health
Gyurme was held first in Tibet’s notorious Drapchi prison and later at Chushur prison, and endured long years of harsh treatment while in custody, Tharpa said.
“He was repeatedly tortured while in detention, and his father died while he was serving his sentence,” Tharpa said.
“While he was detained, he also developed problems with his lungs, but the treatment given by the prison doctors did not help him and only made things worse.”
Following an urgent request made by his brother, though, Gyurme was later successfully treated at a larger hospital, Tharpa said.
Two of those taken into custody with Gyurme—Yeshe Tendzin and Tendzin Choewang—received shorter terms but later died after being released in poor health, sources said in earlier reports
Another, Se Khedrub, was handed a life term, while two others—Tsering Lhagon and Trakru Yeshe—were sentenced to 15 years and 7 years respectively.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Chinese rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 137 Tibetans to date setting themselves ablaze to oppose Beijing’s rule and call for the Dalai Lama’s return.
Reported by Dolkar and Tsewang Norbu for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.