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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

'We want to die together! You have killed our people:" A Tibetan ex-political prisoner, Tsering

May 30, 2009

Natalia Idzkowski
The Tibet Post International
May 27, 2009

A Tibetan girl and her brother near Lhasa, the
capital of Tibet. Photo: TPIDharamsala: Tsering
Samdup is an ex-political prisoner of 6 years
whose mother and sister were arrested last year
following the uprisings in Tibet. "I was born in
Phenpo, north of Lhasa, in 1986. In 1994 I
partook in a demonstration in Lhasa, chanting the
slogans: 'Independence for Tibet,' 'China out of
Tibet,' 'Long Live His Holiness the Dalai Lama,'
"Human Rights and Freedom of Religion in Tibet.'
We protested for 5 minutes before 11 district
police officers arrested my 3 fellow protesters
and me by holding our hands behind our backs. We
continued to chant slogans, and they responded by
inserting their fingers into our mouths. When we
arrived at the police station near the great
temple in Lhasa, 15 additional officers beat us with belts and ashtrays.

Afterward, we were forcefully loaded into a
windowless truck, and transported to a detention
Center. The guards tortured us with sticks and
electric shock apparatus for half an hour. There
are a few different types of electric zappers:
one kind, if utilized, can leave a person
unconscious for 7 minutes; another is topped with
two ends which can cut the skin; the third
flashes electricity to inflict pain. We were
forced to stand in the nude in the prison hallway
between 4:00 and 9:00 in the evening. After 9:00,
we were separated and transferred to our cells.
The center contained 4 blocks; I resided in Room
1 of Block 3 with 13 other prisoners who, when I
entered, told me that my face was covered in blood. I was 19 years old.

The 'integration' program began shortly after we
arrived. When I was arrested, I was holding a
Tibetan flag in my hand. The guards shouted, 'You
must have been undermined; you are far too
young.' They demanded that I draw the design of
the Tibetan flag, and I told them that I could
not draw. Then they placed my hands under the
legs of a chair and sat on it. Prisoners were
frequently forced to remain in a standing
position for hours at a time, and even forced
into a narrow chimney to be burned by its steam. I was beaten 3 times a day.

I spent 4 months in the detention center. In the
morning we received 2 small steamed rolls and a
cup of black tea. The rolls were always covered
with flies. In the evening we were given 2 rolls
and rotten vegetables, in which we frequently
found worms. Twice the prison officials drew my
blood, informing me that this was the charge for the food I consumed.

In September 1994 I was called to the Peoples'
Meter Court in Lhasa. Political prisoners are not
granted legal representation. I was convicted as
a 'counter-revolutionary' for 6 years, combined
with an additional 3 years without political
rights after release; my friends received
sentences of 5 years in prison, and periods of 2
years without political rights following their
release. The public is forbidden to attend court proceedings.

I was one of the 8 people transferred to a prison
after the hearing. It contained 2 units; the
second was under construction and housed the new
political prisoners. We were forced to perform
Chinese military exercises. The army officials
made us stand stones between our legs as
punishment. In the summertime the guards shaved
the prisoners' heads and left them under the sun.
In the wintertime prisoners were forced to sit in
pools of ice-water or to stand on the ice without
shoes. The winter program also involved the study
of Chinese propaganda. We were instructed to sign
forms declaring that we had been successfully
'reeducated.' Those who refused were subjected to
torture. I stayed in the new political prisoners'
unit for 1 year, until I was transferred to the
old political prisoners' quarters. The facility
contained about 600 political prisoners.

Prisoners with serious illnesses were given
nothing more than painkillers. Once when I was
barely conscious I was sent to a police hospital
in Lhasa. Conducting an x-ray was deemed too
expensive, and essential fluids were removed from
my spine. After my release, Tibetan doctors
confirmed that the procedure had been both dangerous and unnecessary.

In May 1994 the new non-political prisoners
demonstrated against the installation of Chinese
national flags in their cells within the prison.
They demanded improvements, and held a hunger
strike. Eight inmates died, some as a result of
torture, others due to the lack of medical treatment available..

In May 1998 a number of the prisoners held a
strike, proclaiming, 'We want to die together!
You have killed our people. Respect human
rights!' I heard a gun-shot. One monk from Gaden
died; he was 21 years old. A guard had shouted,
'If you want freedom, I'll give you freedom,'
while beating him with wooden boards. He had
tried to protect his head by ducking under the
table. Although he could barely walk, the guard
insisted that he was pretending, dragged him down
the stairs, and transferred him to the empty room
in which he died. I saw him in his last moments,
his face full of blood. He left a message: 'I am
sorry I cannot continue my work. I could not bear the suffering.'

The level of torture practiced within the prison
walls increased between May and August. The
Chinese Peoples' Security Bureau located in the
Lhasa area sent 21 police officers to each room
of 12 detainees for the purpose of torturing
them. Another man died, leaving the message:
'Good luck to you all.' After one beating I
returned to my cell to find prisoners with broken
arms and legs. The prisoners protested by
attempting to break down the prison gate; 260
inmates participated, and the prison officials
opened fire. One political prisoner was shot in
the abdomen. He was taken to the hospital, where
a prison guard removed his bandage and used an
electric zapper on his wound, while mocking his
struggle for humane treatment. The shirt I wore
during this demonstration is on display at the
Guchusum Tibetan movement of Ex-Political Prisoners in Dharamsala, India.

Ngawan Dorjee, a man from Rinpong county who
suffers from leprosy, was accused of throwing
dust into the face of an army officer during the
course of the prison demonstration despite the
fact that his hands are stiff and immobile. The
Chinese Constitution ensures adequate care for
the handicapped, but this is not put into
practice. His sentence was extended by two and a
half years, and his mental state continuously
deteriorated. A guard once struck him on the
forehead with an iron bar. People are strange.
Some are easy to die; others are very strong. He
has a hole in his head, but he's still alive.

After the prison demonstrations, conditions
progressively worsened. Two others succumbed to
injuries, one of whom originated from India. He
was hit on the head with an electric heater and
died in solitary confinement. During the course
of my sentence, 12 people died in the male unit.
In the female section, 4 nuns perished. We were
denied visits with family members between May and
August. After August, families once again brought
food and other necessities to the prisoners,
which the guards kept for themselves. Over the
course of 5 years, the prison guards sold tins of
dried meat back to the prisoners. At the end of
the summer, security cameras were installed in
the cells and prisoners were no longer allowed to
leave their cells, except to empty the communal
water bucket. Non-political prisoners were then
forced to reside with political ones.

Prior to my release in 2000, I had studied
Chinese law. The Constitution states that
discharged prisoners possess the same rights as
other citizens. However, shortly after I was
released from prison, the authorities confiscated
my funds and forbid me from participating in
meetings. They attempted to extract information
concerning my whereabouts from my friends
thereafter. I purchased a restaurant in Phenpo
county for 9,000 yen; the authorities took issue
with its name and forced me to close it down. I
sold it for 5,000 yen, thus losing 4,000 yen. I
eventually found employment in the private
sphere, but Chinese government officials
pressured my employers to discharge me.

I was left with no other option but to escape
into exile in 2005. After 21 days in the
Himalayas, I crossed the border into Nepal. I was
reacquainted with humanity. During the course of
my sentence, I only met one Chinese guard who
exhibited compassion by asking me if I was in
pain after I had been tortured. Most prison
officials beat with such hateful passion that
they themselves are end up in tears. He told me
that, 'We do this because we must make a living. We have no choice.'"
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