Tibetan convicts held in a notorious prison in western China’s Sichuan province are routinely denied visits from family members bringing food and clothes and suffer from cold winter temperatures and beatings by guards, according to a former prisoner jailed for five years for protesting Chinese rule.
Released in failing health in 2013 from Sichuan’s Deyang prison, the former prisoner now lives under police watch at his home in Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture’s Kardze county, he told RFA’s Tibetan Service, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“I was dumped into a Chinese prison for five years for taking part in peaceful protests in 2008 against China’s policies in Tibetan areas,” the man said, adding that he was first briefly held at a detention center in Kardze and then in a jail in Sichuan’s Dartsedo (Kangding) county.
“Many other Tibetans were detained in the places where I was held. I saw many nuns and other female Tibetan prisoners in those places, too,” he said.
About 18 nuns detained in area protests were held in Dartsedo while he was there, RFA’s source said, adding that he can still recall almost all of their names now, more than six years later.
“They were later transferred to a women’s prison in Sichuan,” he said.
Families turned away
At Deyang itself, located about two hours’ drive from Sichuan’s provincial capital Chengdu, prisoners’ daily labor began at 6:30 a.m. with inmates, mostly monks, put to work welding and making clothes, the former prisoner said.
And though prisoners were fed three times a day, the quality of the food was poor, with meals consisting mainly of plain vegetables and rice, he said.
“During the winter, we suffered from cold, and family members of Tibetan prisoners who came to the prison bringing clothing and food were not allowed to visit with the prisoners or pass those things along.”
Once, a group of six guards attacked and beat him, injuring one of his hands and a foot, he said.
“My movements are now impaired as a result of this beating, and my overall health was so damaged by my time in prison that now I cannot even fight off a simple cold,” he said.
Speaking separately, a second former prisoner from Deyang confirmed the source’s account of conditions at the prison.
“He is from the same prison where I served my own sentence, and everything he told you is true,” the man said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.
“I would like to meet with him, but for now we are connected only through social media.”
“He is still being watched by security officials,” he said.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Chinese rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 133 Tibetans to date setting themselves ablaze to oppose Beijing’s rule and call for the return of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.