Labrang monk official who spoke out seized from monastery as detentions continue across Tibet

There are fears for the safety of a senior monk, Jigme Guri (or Gyatso), whose account of a period in detention following the March protests in his monastery, Labrang (Chinese: Xiahe) was videoed and uploaded on Youtube. Jigme Guri (also known under the honorifics ‘Akhu’ Jigme and Lama Jigme), deputy director of his monastery’s ‘Democratic Management Committee’ and Director of Labrang’s Vocational School, was taken from his monk’s quarters at Labrang last Tuesday (November 4) by around 70 police and is now being held in Lanzhou, the provincial capital of Gansu province. Images included in this report show 42-year old Jigme in hospital following torture during his period of detention from March 22.

Labrang monk Jigme Guri, who gave an authoritative account of his earlier detention on a video in which he shows his face and gives his full identity, is now being held in an unknown location in Lanzhou, according to a Tibetan source. It is Jigme Guri’s third detention, and there are serious fears for his welfare after he endured severe torture during a 42-day period of imprisonment from March 22.

Jigme Guri had not taken part in the protests at Labrang on March 14 and 15, but the authorities suspected him of being a ring-leader. In a video account later posted onto Youtube, which is now subtitled in English, Jigme described how on March 22, while he was waiting on the street near his monastery for his shoes to be mended, he was dragged into a white van by four uniformed guards. He was taken to a guest-house run by local paramilitary police near Labrang, in Sangchu county, Kanlho prefecture, Gansu province. Jigme’s account of his ordeal, broadcast on Voice of America after they obtained a copy of the video, is published below in English translation. (The video can be viewed online at: www.highpeakspureearth.com)

On arrival in detention, Jigme said: “I was put on a chair with my hands tied behind my back. A young soldier pointed an automatic rifle at me and said in Chinese, ‘This is made to kill you, Ahlos [a sinicized form of the Tibetan word for ‘friend’, used by some Chinese as a derogatory term for Tibetans]. You make one move, and I will definitely shoot and kill you with this gun. I will throw your corpse in the trash and nobody will ever know.’ When I heard this, I was not terrified by the gun pointed at my head but thinking that this man is not only a soldier or security personnel, but also a law enforcement officer; however, here he is pointing a gun at an ordinary citizen and uttering such words. It made me very sad, as if my heart was shattered into two pieces.”

After three days in the guest-house, Jigme was taken to Xiahe County detention centre for a further three days, where he was the only monk in a cell of ten people. There were more than ten cells, and 70 to 80 people were being held there at the time, all in connection with the incidents in March at Labrang. Jigme says in his account: “Monks as young as 14 or 15 and as old as 60 or 70 were arrested. No difference is made, whether they are involved in protests or not. We had no clothes on our backs nor shoes on our feet. Two monks would be tied together and put in the vehicle to be driven away. They are thrown in the vehicle like you would throw logs of wood. Even if some of them had their heads injured, and for some, their hands broken, they were all taken to the prison. Relatives or friends were not allowed to bring food, clothing or bedding. We had to huddle together to bear the cold. The reason why we were so severely beaten is solely because we are Tibetans. For that we feel extremely sad.”

Jigme’s family had not been informed about his whereabouts; a source said that when they found out, one of his young relatives “had not known what fear was, but from this time onwards he was afraid to sleep alone, and others could not speak of Lama Jigme in his presence for fear of him bursting into tears.”

Jigme was taken next to Kachu (Chinese: Linxia) detention centre and held in cell number nine for 28 days. Jigme was the only Tibetan in his cell together with nine Chinese prisoners. For each interrogation, his head was covered with a black hood and he was taken to a nearby hotel by police car. The first interrogation lasted one day and one night, the second for two days and nights, and the third three days and three nights. He was tortured at least once to the point of unconsciousness during these sessions, on one occasion being beaten continuously for two days “with nothing to eat nor a drop of water to drink”. Jigme later said that none of his interrogators or torturers were Tibetan.

Jigme Guri was beaten unconscious and hospitalized twice after being tortured while in detention.

Following the interrogations, Jigme spent six days at Linxia City’s People’s Liberation Army Hospital No 7. The second time he was taken to hospital he was unconscious for six days, and then sent home as the authorities feared he would die. Jigme had not been formally released; he had been freed under the ‘qubao houshen’, meaning he was free on cognizance and could be taken into detention again if he violated restrictions imposed under the conditions of qubao houshen, which is usually imposed for a year. Typically, qubao houshen includes restrictions on movement, on who people meet, who they communicate with, and sometimes includes subjective standards imposed by police, such as people’s ‘attitude’ towards their alleged crimes. Jigme needed two months of treatment in another hospital after this period in detention before he recovered.

Jigme’s video testimony gives a vivid account of the authorities’ response to the March protests: “We are accused of aligning with the ‘Dalai clique’ and instigating riots among the public. If there is real racial equality, freedom of expression and freedom of religion, then why are we not allowed to respect the figure for whom we have faith in our heart of hearts? Right in front of our eyes, they stomp on the picture of the Precious One [the Dalai Lama], break the picture frames with the butts of guns, shred the pictures into pieces and burn them in the fire. Being Tibetans and Buddhists, when we see the picture of our object of refuge being trodden upon and torn into pieces, we view these as irreparable acts. When Tibetans break a few windowpanes, they say that such acts caused hundreds of millions of yuan worth of damage. How do you measure the damage caused to our hearts by seeing our most revered One’s picture trampled under foot? The Chinese leadership says that the goal is to achieve a harmonious society, but at the same time continue to vilify the Dalai Lama, a figure that all Tibetans respect and honor as their spiritual leader…how can we begin to feel harmony when our values are denigrated and trodden on?”

After the video was released, Jigme went into hiding. It was only when he returned to Labrang that he was again detained from his monk’s quarters last Tuesday (November 4). A source told the London Times: “We don’t believe they gave any reason for his arrest. They came at lunchtime when most of the monks were in their rooms and there were fewer people around.” (November 4).

Jigme Guri had been under suspicion for some time. In February 2006, holding a valid passport, he traveled to India and attended teachings by the Dalai Lama. On his return to Labrang, he was detained for 40 days before being allowed to return to his monastery.

Labrang monastery has been open again to tourists since the middle of October, and the atmosphere is quiet and subdued, according to some recent visitors.

Filmmaker monk returns to monastery after detention

Another Labrang monk, Golog Jigme (also known as Jigme Gyatso), who filmed interviews for a documentary, ‘Leaving Fear Behind’, returned to his monastery on October 15 after being released under conditions of qubao houshen. Jigme Gyatso had been held in Kachu, Gansu, and was released possibly pending further investigation.

Golog Jigme, 39, who assisted filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen in taping interviews with Tibetans in Tibet about their lives under Chinese government rule for the film Leaving Fear Behind, had been held in custody for nearly seven months, according to the film production company, Filming for Tibet, based in Switzerland (http://www.leavingfearbehind.com). The production company, run by a relative of Dhondup Wangchen, said it was not clear from the information received from Tibet if all charges against Golog Jigme had been dismissed. “He was told by the authorities that he will stay under observance and his probation will last one year,” it said. The company said that Golog Jigme had been severely tortured during his period in custody: “The interrogators beat him continuously and hanged him by his feet from the ceiling for hours and kept him tied for days on the interrogation chair,” said a statement by Filming for Tibet. “During the interrogations he fainted several times due to the beatings.”

There are fears for the welfare of Dhondup Wangchen, who remains in prison. The authorities told a relative of Wangchen on August 31 that the filmmaker was being held at the Ershilipu detention center in Xining, but that family was not allowed to visit. Dhondup Wangchen’s wife, Lhamo Tso, who lives in exile in India, does not know of her husband’s current whereabouts and had not received official notification of his detention. Wangchen, who is in his mid-thirties, was born in Qinghai but moved to Lhasa as a young man. He had relocated to Dharamsala, India, with his wife and four children before returning to Tibet to begin filming. He and Golog Jigme traveled across the Tibetan plateau to make their film, asking ordinary Tibetans what they really feel about the Dalai Lama, China, and the Olympic Games. The filmmakers gave their subjects the option of covering their faces, but almost all of the 108 people interviewed agreed to have their faces shown on camera, despite the risks.

A Voice from Tibet: a video testimony by Jigme Gyatso, broadcast by Voice of America Tibetan service

“This year, on the 15th day of the second Tibetan month (March 22, 2008), after the assembly was over at the monastery, I went to the market. There I sat at the side of a taxi-stand and got a shoe repaired. As I was returning to the monastery, I received a call on my mobile phone. I looked at the phone, but there was no number visible. Suddenly a white vehicle appeared, and stopped in front of me. Four soldiers arrested me and dragged me into the vehicle. When I looked back, I saw a nun. I shouted ‘Ani! Ani!’ [nun! nun!] several times and made sure she saw me getting arrested. Once in the vehicle, they covered my head with a black cloth and handcuffed me. Then with guns pointed to my head, and my body pressed down, they took me to the armed police guest-house.

The guest-house is at the back of the local police station. There they removed the cloth covering my head but kept the handcuffs on. Afterwards, they searched my body and took my phone, wallet and everything. I was put on a chair with my hands tied at the back. A young soldier pointed an automatic rifle at me and said in Chinese, ‘This is made to kill you, Ahlos [derogatory term used for Tibetans by some Chinese]. You make one move, and I will definitely shoot and kill you with this gun. I will throw your corpse in the trash and nobody will ever know.’ When I heard this, I was not terrified by the gun pointed at my head, but thinking that this man is not only a soldier or security personnel, but also a law enforcement officer; however, here he is pointing a gun at an ordinary citizen and uttering such words…made me very sad…as if my heart was shattered into two pieces.

This is the case of a powerful nationality harassing and oppressing a small nationality, a big nation making weapons to kill a small nation; if they are doing such things at the lower levels, there is no need to say that they are doing worse things to us at higher levels. The way they oppress and murder Tibetans, and can utter such words while pointing with guns, stunned me. By telling us that Tibetans could be killed and our dead bodies dumped in the trash and that nobody would know – we are not even treated like dogs and pigs. If other people’s dogs and pigs are killed, there will be somebody to claim them. Then why won’t Tibetans be claimed after death? We are ordered not to claim our fellow Tibetan’s body even after death. At that time, I realized that there is no racial equality.

During the detention they asked me many questions, such as: ‘Did the Dalai Lama instigate you? Did the Dalai Lama ask you to carry out this looting, burning and destruction?’ ‘How do you view the Dalai Lama?’ As for me, I am a follower of Buddhism. The Dalai Lama is like my life, heart and soul. In that, I am not alone. For all 6 million Tibetans, the Dalai Lama is their spiritual refuge in this life as well as the next. The Dalai Lama is widely respected for his tremendous efforts made towards world peace. He is the champion of world peace. He has established a path of non-violence. I totally reject their accusation that the Dalai Lama has master-minded acts of looting, burning and destruction. The Dalai Lama can never do such things. Even an ordinary monk like myself cannot urge anybody to burn, loot and destroy.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is like the soul of the 6 million Tibetans. There is no way we can be parted from Him. As a Tibetan monk, historically, we have a teacher-disciple relationship. We must maintain this relationship. We have unwavering faith in the Dalai Lama. This was what I answered to the question of how I view the Dalai Lama.

After keeping us at the detention center for a few days, they took us to the jail. At the prison, the soldiers commanding us in Chinese ‘one, two, three’, as some of us could not understand Chinese, they scolded us – they would call us ‘animals’, ‘fools’, and beat us with batons. When we asked why they are beating us, they replied that it was because we could not understand the Chinese language and then they would mock us. My question is: In the Charter and Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, it is enshrined that, in the regional areas of different nationalities, the language of that particular nationality is to be used and that the regional nationality must be given the right to govern. Then why is that in the Tibetan areas, instead of using Tibetan language, Tibetans are not only verbally abused as ‘animals’ and ‘fools’ but are physically beaten just because we do not understand the Chinese language?

There is no differentiation on the basis of one’s actions or age. For instance, monks as young as 14 and 15 and as old as 60 or 70 were arrested. No difference is made, whether they were involved in protests or not. We had no clothes on our backs nor shoes on our feet. Two monks would be tied together and put in the vehicle to be driven away. They were thrown in the vehicle like you would throw logs of wood. Even if some of them had their heads injured, and for some, their hands broken, they were all taken to the prison. Relatives or friends were not allowed to bring food, clothing or bedding. We had to huddle together to bear the cold. The reason why we were so severely beaten was solely because we are Tibetans. For that, we feel extremely sad.

We were taken to a prison in Kachu (Chinese: Linxia, Gansu province). All the prisoners there were Chinese and Muslim Chinese. We were the only Tibetan prisoners. Everyday, we had to remove urine and excrement barefooted, and wash the floors. At the prison, [I was] forced to take off my monks’ robes and put on layperson’s clothes. I am a Buddhist monk and it is humiliating to disrobe and put on a layman’s clothes, and to be handcuffed and taken away barefoot in a vehicle. In the prison, the condition was very poor – There was not enough to eat or drink and nothing to wear. There wasn’t even a towel to clean your face.

I was kept there for one month, during which time I was handcuffed in one position for many days and nights. During interrogations, I was accused of having contacts outside: with the Dalai Lama, Samdhong Rinpoche [the Prime Minister of the Tibetan government in exile], and Ajia Rinpoche [former abbot of Kumbum monastery in Qinghai who defected to the USA], and that I had to acknowledge that I have these outside contacts. Likewise, I was told that I have contacts inside with scholars and teachers. ‘You have been involved in activities and have led organizations. You have made calls to many outside provinces. What have you achieved from those? Where did you print the Tibetan flags? How many flags did you print? How many members are there in your group?’, and ‘you have no choice but to accept these crimes’. They would hang me up for several hours with my hands tied to a rope…hanging from the ceiling with my feet off the ground. Then they would beat me on my face, chest, and back, with the full force of their fists. Finally, on one occasion, I had lost consciousness and was taken to a hospital. After I regained consciousness at the hospital, I was once again taken back to prison where they continued the practice of hanging me from the ceiling and beating me. As a result, I again lost conscious and then taken to the hospital a second time. Once I was beaten continuously for two days with nothing to eat nor a drop of water to drink. I suffered from pains on my abdomen and chest. The second time I was beaten unconscious, I was in the hospital for six days, unable to open my eyes or speak a word.

In the end, when I was on the verge of dying, they handed me over to my family. At my release, my captors lied to the provincial authorities by telling them that that they had not beaten me. Also, they lied to my family members by telling them that they had not beaten me; they also made me put down my thumbprint (as a signature) on a document that said that I was not tortured. I had to stay for about twenty days at a hospital and spent 20,000 Chinese yuan [US $2,922] to get treatment.

On my return to the monastery, friends told me that 180 monks had been arrested. The monks had done nothing wrong. Our senior monk and the official lama (teacher) too were arrested. They were made to stand on the tips of their toes at night, and were beaten on their backs with the butts of guns. The Chinese took pictures with their mobile phones as they were beating the monks on their necks.

I also found out that when the police and soldiers raided the monastery, they stole religious statues, money, personal belongings and even foodstuff from the monastery and monks’ private residences. It is apparent that the real looters and murderers are these soldiers of Chinese Communist Party. They engage in illegal acts, but we are the ones who are arrested, beaten, tortured and killed.

Also, we are accused of aligning with the ‘Dalai clique’ and instigating riots among the public. If there is real racial equality, freedom of expression and freedom of religion, then why are we not allowed to respect the figure for whom we have faith in our heart of hearts? Right in front of our eyes, they stomp on the picture of the Precious One [the Dalai Lama], break the picture frames with the butts of guns, shred the pictures into pieces and burn them in the fire. Being Tibetans and Buddhists, when we see the picture of our object of refuge being trodden upon and torn into pieces, we view these as irreparable acts. When Tibetans break a few windowpanes, they say that such acts caused hundreds of millions of yuan worth of damage. How do you measure the damage caused to our hearts by seeing our most revered One’s picture trampled under foot? The Chinese leadership says that the goal is to achieve a harmonious society, but at the same time continue to vilify the Dalai Lama, a figure that all Tibetans respect and honor as their spiritual leader…how can we begin to feel harmony when our values are denigrated and trodden on?

Monks were regularly beaten during this period. Not only that, monks who spoke to some reporters were beaten with batons and had their legs broken; on some, they used electric batons on their heads and in their mouths – the electric baton affected their brains and some have become disabled…driven to a type of insanity. We endured such torture. Now our main hope is that the international media and the United Nations’ investigators come to Tibet and check on the real situation and then report on it after they assess their findings. This is our main hope.

The Chinese are telling us that Tibetans have done illegal things and are arresting and beating us, and even killing many people. Many people have fled to the mountains and dare not return to their homes and families. It will help if the world media sees these things and reports about them.

The Dalai Lama did not incite us into do anything. His Holiness did not tell us to fight for independence. His Holiness never said anything of this sort. Many of us support the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way approach and the process of solving Tibet’s issue through peaceful dialogue. But we are sad about being extremely oppressed today. Today, I, as a witness to truth, am telling the media the story of those Tibetans who were killed, those who underwent torture in prisons, and the countless others who have been forced to flee to the mountains and are too afraid to return to their homes, so that the media can truthfully report on these situations. This is my hope.

Officers from the security office and secret service as well as task teams have visited my room in the monastery, and are keeping close watch on me. Even here now, there is one man purposely watching me. I am not allowed to go out, nor am I allowed to make phone calls. I have been given a thick copy of the Chinese constitution to study; I am ordered to write a confession. I am not physically in a prison, but have no freedom whatsoever.

These days there are actions taken against us, not just in Labrang, not just in Amdo, but in Kham and central Tibet, too. Many Tibetans are being killed, many oppressed and arrested. We heard that more than 200 Tibetans were killed and several thousand arrested. Still the beatings and arrests have not stopped. For us, access to news is blocked; we are not allowed to watch news or put up a satellite dish nor are we allowed to listen or watch news from the United States and other foreign countries. We are ordered to watch and listen to domestic broadcasts. We are told not to listen to foreigners or to talk to them. Where is the freedom of expression? Where is the freedom of religion?

Tibetan people are undergoing all kinds of suffering. For me personally, I am a Buddhist monk at Labrang monastery. I was one of those arrested this year. I to the face of my captors: ‘If you kill me, then that will be the end of it. But if am able to go outside and get the opportunity, I will talk about the torture I went through; I will tell the people of the world, as a truthful witness, about the sufferings undergone by friends and report these to the media.’

Even when I was released, I was told not to tell anyone that I was beaten; I was warned not to contact any outsiders. But I cannot just keep shut about the torture I went through, or the suffering borne by friends. This is also my reason for telling you this today. Still, there is a harsh crackdown taking place in Tibetan areas and restrictions on the movement of Tibetans.

These days, the authorities tell us to support the Olympic Games, but Tibetans around here are not even allowed to travel to Lanzhou, let alone go to Beijing to watch and support the games. We are not even allowed to go outside our own areas. Because of the Olympics, all traditional festivals, celebrations and religious rituals have been banned.

There is a military presence everywhere. In the barn belonging to our monastery, they have made effigies out of straw and dressed them in Tibetan robes. The Chinese soldiers use them for doing bayonet practice. It seems that the Tibetan people and the robe-wearing monks are their enemy. Not all arrested Tibetans were involved in protests, so why are they stabbing their bayonets on the effigies with Tibetan dress as their military exercise? It is not just monks who are suffering as a result of the Chinese viewing Tibetans as their enemy…even Tibetan staff members, students and the ordinary Tibetans…all are suffering. This big government, big country, and big nationality are using weapons, tanks and cannons on the small, humble Tibetan people. Thousands of soldiers are surrounding us. ‘Kill the Tibetans who are disobedient’, they ordered.

In this 21st century, the people of the world are walking on the path to world peace. The peace-loving people and the supporters of truth should expose China for blocking the media and restricting reporters from seeing what is going on inside Tibet. I would like the international press, the United Nations and human rights organizations to pay attention and find a solution to the current dire situation for the Tibetan people. You can pressure China to conduct meaningful dialogue with the Dalai Lama’s representatives for a mutually beneficial solution to the Tibet-China issue. It is the hope and wish of the Tibetans inside Tibet to invite the Dalai Lama to Tibet. The Chinese Communist Party has stated that stability and unity are important goals for the nation. Now, if both the Dalai Lama and the CCP work together through dialogue to solve the Tibet-China issue for the mutual benefit of both the Chinese and Tibetan peoples, there is no reason why genuine and long lasting peace, stability and unity cannot be achieved.

Download PDF

 

Stay informed:
Get ICT’s latest reports and analysis: sign up for our e-mail list at savetibet.org/email »

, , ,