A file photo of Lobsang Tenzin.
DHARAMSHALA, May 27: After spending a quarter of a century in Chinese prisons, Lobsang Tenzin, one of Tibet’s longest serving political prisoners continues to remain under house arrest and constant police surveillance, almost a month after his release.
According to Dharamshala based rights group Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, Chinese authorities insist on imposing strict limitations on Lobsang Tenzin’s “freedom” outside of prison and have only recently allowed his extended family members and relatives to meet him.
In a report last week, the group said Lobsang Tenzin “still remains under house arrest and constant police supervision” and is barred from meeting non-family members. He is only allowed to leave his house to go to the hospital with a police escort.
Lobsang Tenzin is also reportedly suffering from “numerous serious health problems,” a result of two and a half decades of torture and mistreatment suffered at the hands of Chinese authorities.
“He currently suffers from back problems that make it difficult for him to stand and diabetes that damaged his kidneys and eyes and caused temporary blindness,” TCHRD said.
Lobsang Tenzin, in his mid-twenties, was a student at Lhasa’s Tibet University when he was arrested in 1988 for participating in popular anti-China protests in Lhasa that later led to the declaration of martial law in Tibet under the then Tibet party secretary, Hu Jintao.
He was initially sentenced to death but was later commuted to life imprisonment as a result of strong international pressure on China.
Even while in prison, Lobsang Tenzin, despite severe torture had continued his political activism.
In 1989, while he was still on death row, he wrote a letter supporting the pro-independence demonstrations in Tibet and together with three fellow prisoners and some non-prisoners co-founded a group called Snow Lion Youth for Tibetan independence.
When officials discovered the existence of the movement, the inmates were brutally beaten and subjected to solitary confinement for 34 days. Lobsang Tenzin was also put in shackles for 17 months and two of his prison-mates, Dawa and Migmar Tashi, who co-founded the pro-independence group, were executed in 1990 for allegedly planning to escape from prison.
After being released from solitary confinement in 1990, Lobsang Tenzin organised the first known mass protest in Drapchi prison demanding information about the cause of his fellow prisoner and activist Lhakpa Tsering’s death.
Later, in March 1991 when the then US ambassador to China, James Lilley visited Tibet, Lobsang Tenzin and another inmate Tenpa Wangdrak tried to hand over a petition letter to the ambassador containing the names of all political prisoners and their conditions in the prison. The attempt was caught by jail authorities which led to Lobsang Tenzin’s further torture and deterioration of health.
TCHRD urged the Chinese government to free Lobsang Tenzin from the “restrictive house arrest” and provide him with medical treatment in the care of his family and relatives.
“Twenty-five years ago, Lobsang Tenzin was imprisoned for a crime he did not commit, he should not still be suffering for that same crime today,” the group said.