Tibetan Prisoner Who Sparked Freedom Call in Poor Health

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A screen grab from a video of Runggye Adrak calling for Tibetan freedom, Aug. 1, 2007.
A screen grab from a video of Runggye Adrak calling for Tibetan freedom, Aug. 1, 2007.
International Campaign for Tibet

Prominent Tibetan political prisoner Rongyal Adrak, who is about to enter his seventh year in jail, is in poor health and continues to suffer frequent beatings for being among the first to raise calls in public for Tibet’s freedom from Chinese rule and for the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, his nephew says.

“Each time there is an incident related to Tibet’s freedom, he is blamed as the ‘match stick’ that lit the fire, and he is tortured with beatings,” Adruk Tseten, a member of Tibet’s India-based exile parliament, told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Thursday.

“He now suffers from backaches and damaged vision,” Tseten said of his 59-year-old uncle who was sentenced to eight years in prison in October 2007.

“Of course, it is extremely difficult to know the exact details of his condition due to the security restrictions surrounding him.”

On Aug. 1, 2007, Rongyal Adrak called in public for Tibetan freedom and the Dalai Lama’s return while standing on the reviewing stage of an annual horse racing festival in Lithang (in Chinese, Litang) county in the Kardze (Ganzi) prefecture of Sichuan province.

He was immediately detained, prompting a standoff between Chinese security forces and thousands of Tibetans who demanded his release, and was sentenced in October to eight years in prison.

'Slogans echo everywhere'

Following widespread protests across Tibetan regions the following year, Rongyal Adrak’s calls for Tibetan unity and freedom have now been repeated throughout Tibet, Tseten said in a statement released by Tibet’s exile parliament on Thursday.

“Since 2008, the fire of protest has spread in all three regions of Tibet calling for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet and for Tibetan freedom,” Tseten said, adding, “These are slogans that echo everywhere.”

Meanwhile, Rongyal Adrak’s family and relatives have been subjected to restrictions and harassment, Tseten told RFA.

“Relatives who completed their studies in Chinese universities have been barred from securing good jobs,” he said.

“Other relatives who were elected by the local community to leadership positions have been prevented from serving the wishes of the people, and they are often barred from taking part in special events in the Lithang area.”

“They are also harassed by being followed from place to place,” he said.

Like Rongyal Adrak, other Tibetans now held in detention are undergoing “limitless suffering,” Tseten said in his statement.

“Therefore, all nations, organizations, leaders, and individuals who love justice and freedom should support Rongyal Adrak and others who have sacrificed themselves for the truth.”

Protests continue

Sporadic demonstrations and a campaign of self-immolations have continued since 2009, with 121 Tibetans to date having set themselves ablaze to challenge Chinese rule and call for the return of the Dalai Lama.

The burning protests come as reports indicate that Tibetan human rights have plunged to a new low amid arbitrary arrests, detentions, torture, and the erosion of language and cultural rights.

In talks held this week in China as part of an annual dialogue on human rights, the U.S. State Department expressed “deep concern about China’s stepped-up attempts to silence dissent and tighten controls over Tibetans.”

“Policies ostensibly designed to maintain stability are counterproductive when they deny Chinese citizens their universal human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Uzra Zeya said at a press briefing held on Friday at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

The United States urges the Chinese government to “engage in substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, without preconditions,” Zeya said.

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





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