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From Darkness to Dawn

May 19, 2009

Legal Punishment in Tibet from Imperial Chinese Rule to Independence
Jamyang Norbu
Shadow Tibet
May 17, 2009

On November 1st 1728, in a meadow on the banks of
the Bamari canal, a short distance south-west of
the Potala, seventeen Tibetans were put to death
by executioners of the Manchu expeditionary
force. Thirteen were decapitated and two high
lamas were slowly strangled to death. The
principal prisoners, two ministers of the kashag,
Ngabo and Lumpa were put to death by the uniquely
Chinese form of execution known as língchí (??)
sometimes translated as the "lingering death or
"death of a thousand cuts” whereby the condemned
person had small portions of the body
methodically cut off with a knife over an
extended period of time – perhaps even a full day
-- till he finally died. The term língchí derives
from a classical description of leisurely walking up a mountain.

The citizens of Lhasa, who had been forced to
witness this terrible event were profoundly
traumatized by the spectacle -- as it was meant
to – according to the historian Luciano
Petech.[1] To drive home this lesson in legal
terror, all the relatives including children of
the condemned were also executed. One Tibetan
eyewitness, the official and scholar, Dokar
Tsering Wangyal, wrote five years later, that
even with the passage of time he still felt
gloomy and disturbed in recalling the events. The
Tibetan minister Phola was also deeply distressed
by the spectacle, and in the following days made
offerings and burnt butter lamps in the many
temples of Lhasa for the spiritual welfare of
those killed. In point of fact the executed
ministers had been his adversaries in a civil
war, which had provided the casus belli for the
expeditionary force to march into Tibet and shore
up the establishment of Imperial Chinese protectorate in Tibet.

This form of execution was used in China from
roughly AD 900 to its official abolition in 1905.
But in a recent Harvard published study on
língchí , the authors mention occurrences of
língchí executions in Eastern Tibet as late at
1910, by Zhao Erfeng’s administration. Khampas
claimed that Chinese soldiers “would bring slow
death by slicing off a small part of the body at
a time until the heart was reached and life
ende". The authors suggest that -- this could
have been justified as military emergency.”[2]

The Tibetan poet and blogger extraordinaire,
Woeser, in a recent interview refuting official
Chinese propaganda about "barbaric feudal
serfdom”  (invariably “proven” by exhibitions of
torture instruments allegedly used in Tibet such
as cages, shackles, neck pillory, stones, and
knives used to dig out one’s eyeballs) said that
“the most brutal torture instruments came from
the inland -- the imperial envoys from the Qing
Dynasty brought them to Tibet."[3]

One of the more conspicuous of Chinese
contributions in this regard was the mu jia (??)
, which in most European writings on China is
referred to as the cangue. It was similar to the
pillory in the West, except that the board of the
cangue was not fixed to a base, and had to be
carried around by the prisoner. In Tibet it was
known, appropriately enough, as gya-go or
"Chinese door," and was used widely by the Manchu
Chinese administration. The cangue, in addition
to being an effective restraint, was because of
its weight, a most painful form of punishment.
The traditional Tibetan method of restraining
prisoners was with leg-irons (kang-chak).

Another form of judicial torture and punishment
that was introduced to Tibet by the Chinese was
the finger-press. This instrument was on display
this year at the “50th Anniversary of Democratic
Reforms in Tibet” Exhibition in Beijing along
with other instruments of torture, and
photographs “proving” the barbarity of old Tibet.
But this allegedly Tibetan torture-instrument
doesn’t even have a Tibetan name, while we find
that very same finger-press in a Ming dynasty compendium of such articles.[4]

. . .

But execution by decapitation (shatou ??), was
the standard Chinese punishment for those who
might defy them in Tibet. This punishment became
especially prevalent around 1910 when the 13th
Dalai Lama escaped to India and acts of defiance
and rebellion began to take place against
Imperial Chinese rule. According to an old monk
who claimed to have witnessed an execution take
place at the Chinese parade ground (zhaozhang?)
in Shigatse, the condemned Tibetan had to get
down on his knee while a Manchu soldier pulled
his hair so that his neck was extended and
readied for the big executioners sword (dadao ??).[5]

The events of 1728 saw the creation of the office
of the amban, or imperial residents in Lhasa. The
first two ambans, Seng Ta-zing and Me Ta-zing (as
Tibetan records refer to them) conducted a
thorough reorganization of the military and
administration in Tibet, and also appear to have
introduced Chinese forms of judicial punishment
-- used alongside traditional Tibetan forms of
punishment. But the Chinese punishments were
clearly more effective in subduing Tibetans.
Petech, in his history of early 18th century
Tibet, concludes that Imperial power in Tibet was
based, among other things, “on the terror
inspired in the hearts of the Tibetan aristocracy
by the bloody repression of 1728."[6]

But Chinese despotism and legal terror was
probably experienced worst of all in Eastern
Tibet, not only during the Manchu dynasty but
also in the Republican era, and later, the War
Lord period as well. Eric Teichman the English
diplomat who arranged for the negotiations
between the Tibetan and the Chinese army in Kham
in 1918, writes "There is no method of torture
known that is not practiced in here on the
Tibetans, slicing, skinning, boiling, tearing asunder, and all."[7]

. . .

I was going through an old National Geographic
Magazine (September 1921 issue) about life in
Eastern Tibet when I came across this photograph
of a giant cauldron used in monasteries to make
tea for the monk community. The caption read. “A
cauldron which has been used by the Chinese for
cooking Tibetans."[8] The article by Shelton did
not provide more information, but I came across a
detailed account of this "cooking of Tibetans" in
Shelton’s book Pioneering In Tibet. He had come
across this gruesome cauldron in the district of
Drayak. The Chinese colonel commanding the
garrison in this place had captured some
forty-five or fifty Tibetans, and had thought of
making himself feared by the Tibetans. He had
tied up three of them and placed them in the
cauldron in cold water and slowly bought the
water up to a boil. After they had been well
cooked their bodies had been fed to animals.
Shelton actually saw “the skeletons laying bare
on the stones near by their flesh all having been
eaten by the dog. Others had oil pored on them
and had been burned alive. Others had their hands
cut off and sent back a warning to those from
whom they came. Others had been taken and, with
yak hitched to each arm and each leg, had been torn in pieces."[9]

It should be made clear that the ancient Tibetan
legal code, traditionally attributed to Songtsen
Gampo, revised by the first Phagmotruba monarch
and later revised by the fifth Dalai Lama and
Desi Sangye Gyatso, did specify severe forms of
capital punishment such as drowning and by being
shot at with arrows, for capital crimes. But we
are talking of ancient times here, when
"traitors" were hung, drawn and quartered in
London, heretics were burnt at the stake by the
Inquisition in Italy and Spain, and by Calvin in
Geneva, and “witches” tortured and hung in
Massachussetts. Of course, condemned men were
still slowly sliced to death in Imperial Beijing
in the beginning of the 20th century.

The last recorded case in Tibet of drowning being
carried out as a capital punishment was in 1884,
when the Tibetan Parliament ordered the Sengchen
Lama to be put to death by drowning because he
had assisted the British spy Sarat Chandra Das to
travel to Tibet. Other lesser punishments as
amputation of the right hand and cutting the
Achilles tendon of the feet for repeated offences
were prescribed by the code, but later abolished throughout Tibet.

The business of cutting off of hands and
amputating feet is one of the standard charges by
the Chinese and their Western propagandists
against the Dalai Lama and his government. Of
course, no mention is ever made that such
punishments, as well as the death penalty, were
abolished in Tibet in 1913 -- an important but so
far overlooked (both by Beijing as well as
Dharamshala) historical fact which we will
discuss in detail further on. Chinese propaganda
publications, films and exhibitions never fail to
highlight photographs of old dismembered limbs,
skull-caps, bone-ornaments and trumpets made of
human thigh-bones trumpets, to prove their point.
Readers may remember in the 1970s and 80s the
accusation that the Dalai Lama had 108 virgins
executed and their thigh-bones made into ritual instruments.

It is often not clear whether such cruel
punishments inflicted during the period when
Tibet was under the rule of Imperial China were
those based on old Tibetan legal codes or actual
Chinese punishments introduced to Tibet under
Chinese rule? Cutting-off of limbs does fit
nicely into a type of Chinese punishment called
the Five Pains (wutongku ????) invented by Li Si,
a famous Legalist and a minister of the Qin
dynasty, where the victim’s nose was cut off,
followed by a hand and a foot. The victim was
then castrated and finally cut in half in line
across the waist. Li Si himself was ironically executed in this way in 208 BC.

But perhaps more important than establishing the
origins of such punishments the crucial question
should be under whose political rule -- Tibet’s
or China’s – were such cruel punishments
inflicted on Tibetans? The question is
significant as a principal "proof" of China’s
claim for Tibet being an "inalienable part of
China" is that Tibet was under Manchu rule from the 1700s to 1912.

It is hence quite telling that Beijing and its
propagandists in the West, whenever bringing up
the subject of "cruelty and barbarity" of the old
Tibetan government and society, are invariably
restricted to quoting from Europeans who traveled
to Tibet before it became independent in 1912.
Preferred writers are L.A. Waddell, Percival
Landon, Edmund Candler and Captain WFT O’Conner,
who, in addition to their pre-1912 vintage,
accompanied the British invasion force of 1904,
and who sought to justify that violent
imperialist venture into Tibet by demonizing
Tibetan society and institutions in much of their writings.

In the official statement issued by Beijing on
March 2, 2009 for the commemoration of "Fifty
Years of Democratic Reform in Tibet" they have a
section “ Old Tibet — A Society of Feudal Serfdom
under Theocracy” where the initial and extensive
description of old Tibetan society is that by
British journalist Edmund Candler who is
matter-of-factly described as having "visited
Tibet in 1904, and recorded the details of old
Tibetan society"[10], He was actually a war
correspondent for the Daily Mail and was
“embedded” with the British expeditionary force.
Furthermore he was badly injured by
sword-wielding Tibetan militia men at the first
conflict at Guru. So, far from being an impartial
witness, he wasn’t even in Tibet for any significant length of time.

Tibetans were beginning to challenge Manchu rule
during that period, but no matter how politically
assertive they were becoming, they could not, of
course, have instituted any changes in the
administrative and legal system of Tibet until
after the Chinese had been expelled. The Chinese
system of torture and beheadings only ended in
1912 when the Chinese garrison in Lhasa finally
surrendered, and the troops repatriated to India.

There is good evidence that the young 13th Dalai
Lama and many of His officials not only desired
to be free of Chinese political rule but also
wanted to do away with Chinese laws and
punishments in Tibet. In December 1893, the Tibet
Trade Regulation Talks were held at Darjeeling
between the British and the Chinese. Tibetans
were deliberately excluded from the talks, but
the kashag sent the minister Shatra to Darjeeling
to keep an on the proceedings. The British
regarded Shatra’s presence as insolence and
apparently had him publicly humiliated, as I have
detailed in another essay. L.A. Waddell was in
Darjeeling at the time and interviewed Shatra on
a number of occasions. In return Shatra asked
Waddell to provide him a summary of British
"criminal, police and civil codes" which he
wanted to take back to Lhasa for "...the
improvement of the government." Wadell complied
with this request and gave him translations of
the general contents of the British/Indian legal
system. According to Waddell, Shatra was much
impressed with the practice of not compelling an
accused person to testify against himself, and
exclaimed “Why, we, following the Chinese, do the
very opposite, for we torture the accused until he confesses to the crime!"[11]

The first clear indication of the Dalai Lama’s
enlightened intentions for his nation’s future
came after his enthronement in 1895. The former
regent Demo Rinpoche after relinquishing power
began to plot with his two brothers, Norbu
Tsering and Lobsang Dhonden, to murder the Dalai
Lama. The plot was discovered and Demo and his
two brothers arrested. An outraged National
Assembly (tsongdu), called for the death penalty
but the Dalai Lama rejected their decision
declaring his opposition to capital punishment on
Buddhist principles. Professor Melvyn Goldstein
retails a rumour that Demo was secretly killed in
prison. There is a possibility that an
overzealous official could have done something
like that, but there is no evidence beyond the
rumour.  Sir Charles Bell, in his biography of
the Great Thirteenth, writes that the Dalai Lama
told him that -- until the time of his flight to
India he allowed no capital punishment in any circumstances.”[12]

After His return from exile, on the eighth day of
the fourth month of the water Ox Year (1913) the
Great Thirteenth, in his declaration of
independence, announced the ending of what we
might now call “cruel and unusual” punishments –
in addition to his earlier abolishment of the
death penalty. The statement is quite specific.
"Furthermore, the amputations of citizens’ limbs
has been carried out as a form of punishment.
Henceforth, such severe punishments are
forbidden."[13] Copies of the proclamation were
sent out throughout Tibet, and copies had to be
maintained in the office of every district.

Charles Bell in his Tibet Past and Present
provides, in the book’s index, three references
for "Capital punishment abolished in Tibet."[14]
Robert Byron, the noted British travel writer,
art critic and historian, traveled to Tibet in
the early thirties and observed matter of factly
"Capital punishment was now abolished."[15] Even
in such a remote part of Tibet as Zayul, Frank
Kingdon-Ward, the plant-hunter, writes of a
criminal case in 1937 where a government courier
had been murdered, and that the district
magistrate did not have the power to inflict the
death penalty. Kingdon-Ward drew the conclusion
that  “…the modern Tibetan government, having
abandoned the barbarous practice of mutilating
criminals, in vogue twenty-five years ago, has
swung to the other extreme, and is chary of inflicting the death penalty."[16]

William Montgomery McGovern, the American
anthropologist who traveled to Lhasa in disguise
in 1922 (and who was possibly an inspiration for
the character of Indiana Jones) not only mentions
the abolishment of capital punishment, but also
notes the Dalai Lamas’ consideration that such
punishments were inconsistent with Buddhism. He
also writes that "legally the judges can now only
inflict flogging or banishment for any crime,
including murder. The Lhasa magistrates stated
that these sentences were not sufficiently severe
to deter other offenders, and expressed regret
that the old system had been done away with.”[17]

Charles Bell also noted that Nepal objected to
the abolition of the death penalty in Tibet, as a
few cases had come up where Tibetans who had
murdered Nepalese subjects had received lesser
sentences. A “high Tibetan official” told Bell
that. “The Nepalese authorities demand that we
shall put those Tibetan to death. So far we have not consented." [18]

Alan Winnington, the left wing journalist who was
the first European allowed into Tibet after its
"liberation" by Communist China -- when the legal
system was still the traditional one – was
informed by “the chief magistrate and mayor of
Lhasa,” Gorkar Mepon that "no death sentences
have been imposed in Tibet for some years."
Winnington discussed "lighter sentences" as
amputation, but received an unexpected reply.
"‘But such things have not been done in my memory.’ the Mepon insisted."[19]

Although there were shortcomings and occasional
lapses in the implementation of the law, one must
certainly describe its realization as monumental,
certainly impressive. Tibet was one of the first
countries in the world to end capital punishment.
It is, of course, ongoing in the USA and Britain,
and, it might be noted in Buddhist Sri Lanka and
Thailand as well. In the latter country Buddhist
sensibilities are supposedly assuaged by shooting
the condemned man from behind a curtain. Japan
still has the death penalty and Bhutan only abolished it in 2004.

Even the few instances when the Dalai Lama’s
revolutionary legal decision was violated or
contravened, serves to demonstrate the fullness
of Tibetan commitment to the Great 13th’s ideals.
In 1924 when a soldier died under punishment,
Tsarong, the Commander in Chief of the Tibetan
army, a man who had personally saved the Dalai
Lama’s life, was demoted and permanently relieved of his military duties.

Not only is there no record of executions after
1913, but the one recorded case of a "cruel and
unusual" punishment being officially inflicted
serves to demonstrate how deeply the law had
taken root in Tibetan life. Some years after the
death of the 13th Dalai Lama, the official,
Lungshar, attempted a violent coup d’état. On its
failure many in the government wanted Lungshar
executed but the old law stood in their way. So
Lungshar was sentenced to the lesser punishment
of having his eyes removed. The operation was
badly botched. Such punishments had for so long
fallen into desuetude that, according to even
such a relatively anti-Tibetan academic as Melvin
Goldstein, the class of people who in the past
had carried out executions and such punishments
found it very difficult to do so and they
"...told the government that they were only able
to do it because their parents had told them how it was done."

Aside from this case there is virtually no record
of "eye gouging" or amputations being carried out
as a punishment in Tibet. Alan Winnington has no
such cases in his book. Anna Louise Strong,
China’s foremost American Communist propagandist,
traveled through Tibet and wrote two books, but
although she retails atrocity stories by the
bushel she only has the same one photograph of a
blind man in both her books.[20] He is not named
but Strong claims that he "was blinded by rebels
for helping repair the PLA highway." A Chinese
propaganda pictorial published in 1981 also has a
photograph of a “herdsman blinded by the
rebels.”[21] But so far I have not come across
any photograph in Chinese propaganda material of
anyone blinded as a legal punishment by the
Tibetan government. Even the charge of "blinding
by rebels" must be treated warily as no further
detail of the victims or the crime, beside the
picture captions, appear to exist anywhere.

What is always surprising in such propaganda
exercises by China is the absolute lack of
specificity in their claims of atrocities in old
Tibet. Not only are the so called victims not
named but even more surprisingly no names of the
perpetrators – feudal lords or local magistrates
-- are ever mentioned. The Chinese have in their
possession all the old Tibetan court records from
the past. Yet as far as I know, not a single
Tibetan aristocrat, official or magistrate has
been charged specifically with eye gouging or
cutting of anyone’s hands or legs . Thousands of
Tibetans have been executed for
counter-revolutionary and “splittist” crimes, but
I have not heard or read of one Tibetan
aristocrat or magistrate having been executed for
those "cruel and barbaric" tortures and crimes
described in Chinese propaganda. Even the
instruments of torture so lovingly displayed in
their museum-like settings lack any kind of
provenance. There is no mention in the labels of
the persons or prisons and courthouses from where
the objects where acquired, or any mention of the period of their alleged use.

When all’s said and done Chinese propaganda about
the "man-eating serf system" doesn’t amount to
very much: the same old photographs of torture
instruments (many of Chinese origin) and human
thigh bones and skulls you could quite easily
pick up in a curio or antique store in Kathmandu,
New York, New Delhi and these days even in
Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai, I would imagine.

This is not directly related, but I have to bring
up (and deal with once and for all) this most
outrageous charge that appears in nearly every
Chinese propaganda publication I have come
across. It is a photograph of a Tibetan man
carrying another Tibetan piggyback. The caption
reads "Carrying officials on their back -- one of
the many compulsory labour services extorted from
the serfs."[22] First of all the man being
carried is clearly not an official judging by his
clothes. Secondly, the apparatchik in the
Ministry of Truth in Beijing who dreamed this up
did not seem to have realised that Tibetans were
horsemen and Tibet, horse country. All Tibetans
rode horses, including women, children, old
people and high lamas. Only beggars and pilgrims
walked, and the latter did so to increase the
merit of their pilgrimage. Even the Dalai Lama
rode a horse or sometimes a hornless yak (nalo)
when he travelled. He had a palanquin (a gift
from the Chinese Emperor), but it was only used
in some formal processions in Lhasa. There were
no other palanquins or sedan chairs in Tibet.
Before 1912 the ambans rode about in official
style palanquins, guanjiao, as did other Chinese officials in Tibet and Kham.

In fact some scholars attribute the remarkable
military success of Zhao Erfeng in Eastern Tibet
to the fact that unlike other Chinese mandarins
who were tied to their palanquin and their opium
pipe, he was a tough leader who shared his
soldiers hardships. Eric Teichman writes of Zhao
that "Unlike the somewhat effeminate and
ease-loving Szechuanese, he disdained the sedan
chair, and traveled all over Eastern Tibet on horse-back."[23]

Admirable as that was, it might be pointed out
that on the Tibetan side, everyone -- the highest
lamas, aristocrats, grandmothers, ladies even the
governor-general of Eastern Tibet himself, rode a horse or walked.

The custom of using human beings to carry other
humans is demonstrably a Chinese not a Tibetan
one. Traditional transport in China was largely a
matter of sedan-chairs, palanquins and rickshaws,
all pulled or carried by poor Chinese coolies.
Lao She’s famous novel Rickshaw (Lo Tuo Xiang Zi)
provides a heart-rending account of the miserable
life of one of these TB ridden, opium-smoking
beasts of burden. Under Communist Chinese rule, a
cousin of mine in Lhasa (with bad class
background) was assigned to be a hand-cart
(therka) puller. For over twenty years he hauled
building materials, produce, and people all over
the holy city, and still has the heavy calluses on his hands to prove it.

If we go through travelers accounts of Tibet
written after 1913 and up to the Communist
invasion, whether written by Europeans or even
Chinese, reports of cruel punishments that
featured in earlier narratives seem to have quite
disappeared. Heinrich Harrer who had read most
negative accounts by early English travelers,
writes that “We never saw any punishments as
cruel as this. As time has gone on the Tibetans
seem to have become more lenient. I remember
witnessing a public flogging which I thought was not severe enough."

Charles Bell also mentions something to the
effect that over time Tibetans had become more
gentle and civilized, and hints here and there at
the civilizing effect of contact with British
India. Albert Shelton is more specific that it
was the influence of English customs and laws
that the Dalai Lama and Tibetan officials
absorbed during their exile in Darjeeling, that
had made them more humane and civilized. We can
agree with Bell and Shelton, up to a point, but
we must bear in mind that the British were
hanging natives galore in India and elsewhere in
the colonies. So the 13th  Dalai Lama’s decision
to renounce capital punishment cannot be attributed to that particular model.

The Tibetan legal system, even after the 13th
Dalai Lama’s reforms was admittedly imperfect,
corrupt and many of the punishments it retained
brutal. For instance the standard punishment in
Tibet was flogging with a leather whip. It was
not as cruel as the cat-o’ nine tails of the
Royal navy (used in the navy and in British
prisons till 1957) where sometimes steel balls or
barbs of wire were added to the tips of the
thongs to maximize the potential flogging injury.

Fatality was also minimized in Tibet as prisoners
were whipped on the buttocks and not on the back.
Nonetheless it was undeniably brutal by today’s
standards, and I don’t think the practice can be
defended, even if it was being carried out in
Tibet before 1950, or that many countries in
Africa and Asia still retain the punishment:
including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Singapore,
Malaysia, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and, of course,
China -- where the practice has been modernized
with the use of electric batons.

Tibetan prisons were also definitely unpleasant
places. But incarceration, other than during
trial was not imposed in most of Tibet, because
of the expense and problems it entailed.
According to Woeser, there were two very small
prisons in Lhasa, “They were only big enough for
about 20 prisoners.” Another source on Tibetan
jurisprudence also mentions that the Shol court
prison in Lhasa only had space for "thirty to
fifty men," while the main city Nangtse-shak
prison had only two holding rooms and a basement
room, that probably could not hold over thirty
people at most.[24] Criminals were often
restrained in leg shackles and allowed to roam
the city, unsupervised, and beg for their living.
More important political prisoners were banished
to Western and Southern Tibet, as in the case of
Kunphel la, Changlochen, Khyungram and others.
Only in a few rare cases were political prisoners
actually kept in Lhasa jails. Lungshar was
imprisoned for four years and Gedun Chophel for three.

When Gedun Chophel was in the city prison he
"...was given a separate room on an upper floor
and was allowed to receive food and bedding from
friends” according to Donald Lopez. He was then
transferred to the Zhol prison. “ Although the
physical conditions there were worse, he was
given writing materials. He continued his work on
the White Annals as and also wrote letters and
poetry. After his release the government
"provided him with rooms behind the Jokhang,
above the Ministry of Agriculture, along with a
stipend of money and grain, with the instruction
that he resume work on the White Annals. He did
not do so.”[25] I did not mention this to play
down the Tibetan government’s treatment of the
great scholar, but to compare it with conditions
in  Chinese prisons. Has anyone written poetry or history in a laogai camp?

General amnesties were not uncommon in Tibet,
when all prisoners were freed, the courts and
prisons emptied out, cleaned and decorated with
auspicious drawings done with whitewash. This
would happen on the discovery of a new
incarnation of the Dalai Lama, his enthronement
or on the occasion of his obstacle (kag) years.
It might also happen on the installation of a
regent, or a period of national crisis or national celebration.

Communist propaganda about "horrible dungeons of
the Potala filled with poisonous scorpions" are
old wives tales. Lhasa prisons probably had some
scorpions and spiders, as any dank place would.
Lungshar complained about them to his son. A
native of Lhasa, Tupten Khetsun, mentions in his
memoirs, how a Chinese propaganda team went about
photographing and filming a prison in Lhasa,
filling it beforehand with skeletons and
scorpions. "The Shol neighbourhood committee had
children collect scorpions to use for the
propaganda movie. But when they tried to film,
the scorpions would not stay on top of the
corpses where they had been placed and kept
escaping into cracks into the walls, so they had
to be held in place with invisible threads attached to their limbs."[26]

What Thupten Khetsun’s book also brings into
perspective is how negligibly insignificant in
size or iniquity Tibet’s traditional penal system
was when compared to the gigantic prison and
lagogai system that China created and maintains
in Tibet (and in the PRC). In and around Lhasa
alone we had, after 1959, such major prisons and
holding areas as Silingpu, Tering, Norbulingka,
Trapchi, Gutsa (I might have overlooked a couple)
where thousands of prisoners were incarcerated
and where in at least three, Tubten did time.
Tubten also served in the forced labour camps
(laogai) in Nachen and Powo-Tramo, where he and
tens of thousand of Tibetan prisoners laboured
and where many thousands died. We must also
mention in Amdo and Kham, the giant laogai camps
at Tsaidam, Ragnakhag in Minya, and Yakraphuk
north of Dhartsedo.  It goes without saying, of
course, that we are talking about a system that is ongoing.

What is also ongoing under Communist Chinese rule
is the barbaric cruelty, injustice and terror
that Tibetans had to endure under Imperial Manchu
rule – until we became independent in 1912.

Notes
1. Petech, Luciano. China and Tibet in the Early
XVIIIth Century, E.G. Brill, Leiden, 1972.

2. Brook,Timothy. Bourgon, Jerome. Blue, Gregory.
Death By a Thousand Cuts, Harvard University Press, 2008.

3. Zhang Nan, Voice of America, Mar 29, 2009,
"Tibetan Writer Questions Beijing’s Version of
Tibetan History" http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/content/view/14422/

4. Wang Qi, ed. Sancai tuhui Illustrated
compendium of the three powers [heaven, earth,
humanity]. Nanking: wuyun xuan, 1609.

5. Conversation with Loten la, Dharamshala, November 1973.

6. Petech, pg196.

7. Teichman, Eric, Travels of a Consular Officer
in Eastern Tibet, Cambridge University Press, London, 1922.

8. Shelton, Albert. "Life Among the People of
Eastern Tibet," National Geographic Magazine, September 1921.

9. Shelton, Albert. Pioneering In Tibet, Fleming H.Revell, New York, 1921

10. "Full Text: Fifty Years of Democratic Reform
in Tibet" http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-03/02/content_10928003_4.htm

11. Waddell, L.A., Lhasa And Its Mysteries, Methuen & Co., London, 1906.

12. Bell, Charles Portrait of a Dalai Lama, Wm.Collins, London, 1946.

13. Shakabpa, W.D. Tibet: A Political History, Yale, 1967.

14. Bell, Charles. Tibet Past and Present.
London: Oxford University Press, 1924. See index:
"Capital punishment abolished in Tibet, 142, 143, 236.”

15. Byron, Robert. First Russia then Tibet.
London: Macmillan & Co., 1933. pg 204

16. Kingdon-Ward, Frank. In the Land of The Blue
Poppies. New York: Modern Library, 2003. pg 222.

17. McGovern, William. To Lhasa in Disguise. New
York: Century Co., 1924. pp. 388-389. pp. 388-389

18. Bell. Tibet Past and Present, pg. 236.

19. Winnington, Alan. Tibet: The Record of a
Journey. London: Lawrence & Wishart Ltd., 1957. pg99.

20. Strong, Anna Louise, Tibetan Interviews, New
World Press, Peking 1959 between pg 110-111.

Strong, Anna Louise, When Serfs Stood Up in
Tibet, New World Press, Peking 1965, between pg 74-75

21.Jin Zhou, ed. Tibet No Longer Mediaeval,
Foreign Language Press Beijing, pg 56.

22. Ibid. pg 56

23. Teichman, pg 36-37

24. French, Rebecca. The Golden Yoke: The Legal
Cosmology of Buddhist Tibet, Cornell University, Ithica, 1995.

25. Lopez Jr., Donald S. The Madman’s Middle Way:
Reflections on Reality of the Tibetan Monk Gendun
Chopel, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2006

26. Khetsun, Tubten. Memories of Life in Lhasa
Under Chinese Rule, Columbia University Press, New York, 2007
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