Tibetan nomad Runggye Adak released after eight years in prison for bold protest

Runggye Adak, one of Tibet’s most well-known political prisoners, was released today (July 31) after serving his eight year prison sentence after he made a bold statement of support for the Dalai Lama in front of an audience of thousands at a horse festival in 2007.

According to reports from Tibetan exiles in contact with the region, Runggye Adak was taken straight to his home today by the authorities. Officials may have done this without informing his family in order to prevent any public celebrations of his release.

According to other sources, the Lithang Horse Festival in Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi), Sichuan, has been cancelled this year as a crackdown in the area deepens following the death of revered religious leader Tenzin Delek Rinpoche on July 12.[1]

Footage emerged of Runggye Adak making his courageous and dignified protest at the Lithang (Chinese: Litang) horse festival on August 1, 2007, and can be viewed at http://www.savetibet.org/rare-footage-of-runggye-adak-subtitles/.

Runggye Adak, a nomad and father of 11, in his statement at the horse festival on August 1, 2007, expressed a wish for the Dalai Lama to be allowed to return to Tibet, and referred to China’s oppressive policies. He said: “…These things have happened to us; did you hear what has happened to us? Although we can move our bodies, we cannot express what is in our hearts. You know? These days there are those who say we don’t need the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama is the one that we six million Tibetans truly [need].”[2] Runggye Adak is also believed to have called for the release of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a prominent Tibetan religious teacher whose death in prison on July 12 has caused widespread anguish in the Lithang area.

The footage of Runggye Adak’s statement could not be a more vivid depiction of how a perfectly civil expression of a point of view can be judged by the Chinese authorities as a “crime” that can endanger the security of the state. Unknowingly, his actions that day at the Lithang horse festival were a precursor to a wave of protests against Chinese government policy and in support of the Dalai Lama that swept across Tibet in 2008, transforming the political landscape in Tibet.

When he was sentenced, Runggye Adak told the court: “I wanted to raise Tibetan concerns and grievances, as there is no outlet for us to do so.” He went on to say there is no one in Tibet who does not have faith in, loyalty to or the heartfelt wish to see the return of the Dalai Lama. He countered “propaganda” by the Chinese authorities that Tibetans have lost faith in the Dalai Lama, saying: “That is wrong, but we have no freedom to say so.”[3]

Tibetan political prisoners who are released cannot be said to experience freedom. Perceived by the authorities as a threat to the state because of the views and actions that led to their sentencing, they face isolation, fear and anxiety, in addition to chronic health conditions, pain and trauma.[4]
 

Footnotes
[1] ICT report, http://www.savetibet.org/fears-for-the-safety-of-tenzin-delek-rinpoches-sister-and-niece-detained-after-his-cremation-home-area-like-a-military-zone/

[2] Images of his detention can be viewed here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kate-saunders/pictures-from-tibet-that-_b_734503.html

[3] Tibet Post, http://www.thetibetpost.com/en/news/tibet/4669-tibetan-political-prisoner-released-after-eight-years-in-chinese-jail

[4] ICT report, http://www.savetibet.org/newsroom/torture-and-impunity-29-cases-of-tibetan-political-prisoners/

 

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