By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, Oct. 19: The longest-serving Tibetan political prisoner, Takna Jigme Sangpo aged 91 passed away on Saturday at an elderly home in Switzerland. He spent 37 years in Chinese prison for his relentless voice against human rights violations and repressive Chinese policies in Tibet through his stories.
The Tibetan government-in-exile known officially as the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) observed a prayer service to mourn the demise of the political prisoner on Monday. CTA President Lobsang Sangay expressed his condolences, “I have been an admirer of his courage since my youth days. It was an honour meeting him in person and I also took part in the launch of his autobiography in Dharamshala. We have lost a true patriot of Tibet.”
Activist and poet Tenzin Tsundue wrote in an FB post, “With this the four legendary Tibetan political prisoners: Ani Pachen, Palden Gyatso, Ama Adhe and now Takna Jigme Sangpo have all left the world. An era has come to an end.” Parliamentarians, activists, CTA officials quickly took to social media with photos and excerpts from his book to express their condolences and respect for the well known former political prisoner and spokesperson.
He was a school teacher in Lhasa, Tibet when the Chinese police first arrested him in 1960 after he criticized the government for their repressive policies. He was first charged for “corrupting the minds of children with reactionary ideas” which led to the first of many prison sentences; he never stopped protesting against the regime. He was further convicted for ‘counter-revolutionary’ propaganda in 1970, 1983, 1988, and again in 1991 where he shouted ‘Free Tibet’ slogans during a visit by a Swiss delegation in the prison in Lhasa.
The former educator aged 76 was released on medical parole by the Chinese government after political pressure from the international community and human rights groups in 2002. He was first received in the US and later took asylum in Switzerland as a political refugee. His autobiography ‘Swirling Red Dust’ was published by the Gu-Chu-Sum Movement of Tibet in 2014.