Tibetan Ex-Prisoner Describes Harsh Conditions Behind Bars

tibetan-gonpo-thinley-laogai-document-crop.jpg Gonpo Trinley’s laogai prison release order issued by Deyang prison in Sichuan province, in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of TCHRD

Tibetan political prisoners in a notorious prison in China’s Sichuan province are forced to work long hours, isolated from each other and assaulted by Han Chinese guards, a former inmate said this week after escaping into exile in India.

“The time I spent in that jail was the worst part of my life,” Gonpo Trinley, a Buddhist monk released from Deyang prison in 2010 after serving a two-and-a-half-year term for opposing Chinese rule, told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“I pray and hope I never have to experience anything like that again.”

He said Tibetan prisoners were “forced to work all the time” and discriminated against by being given double the tasks assigned to Han Chinese inmates.

“Our food was bad, we lacked proper bedding, we were often beaten, and most of us became ill in detention,” said Trinley, who carried with him into exile a list of 45 Tibetans held at Deyang while he was there.

Thirty-five of them have been released after serving three- to six-year terms, but 10 still remain, including two—identified as Pema Yeshe and Sonam Gonpo—who are serving life terms, with the rest serving terms of from seven to 16 years, Trinley said.

“Tibetan political prisoners from [neighboring] Qinghai province were recently moved to Deyang, though, so now there are even more Tibetan prisoners there,” Trinley said.

The main work of prisoners at Deyang—located about two hours’ drive from the provincial capital Chengdu—“is to make shoes,” Trinley said, adding, “we Tibetan prisoners had to make twice the number of shoes produced by the Chinese prisoners.”

“Each of us was watched by four Chinese inmates, and we were not allowed to talk among ourselves,” Trinley said.

‘Special orders’

“We Tibetans were given special orders to ‘change our way of thinking,’” said Trinley, who was taken into custody together with his brother in Sichuan’s Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture for participating in anti-China protests in June 2008.

“On June 21, 2008, I and my brother Nyida Sangpo went to the center of Kardze town and began a protest, demanding freedom for Tibet and calling for the return of [exiled spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama,” he said.

Held for six months in a facility in Kardze, the two were severely beaten in detention, Trinley said.

“After that, I was moved to Dartsedo [Kangding] county, where I was held for three months, and I was then sentenced to two-and-a-half years by the Dartsedo People’s Intermediate Court and sent to Deyang.”

Trinley’s brother, Nyida Sangpo, was handed a three-year term, but has now also been released, Trinley said.

Following Trinley’s release on Oct. 21, 2010, he was forbidden to rejoin his monastery and was constantly monitored by police, the Dharamsala, India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) said in a recent report.

“Eventually, Gonpo Trinley left his hometown for an extended pilgrimage to monasteries in Serthar (in Chinese, Seda) county and Dege county,” TCHRD said.

After a long journey, “I arrived in Nepal on July 1, 2014 and reached Dharamsala on Aug. 2, 2014,” Trinley said, speaking to RFA.

Reported by Lobe Socktsang for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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