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Oral statement by Mr. TAKNA Jigme Sangpo at Commission On Human Rights

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Fifty-ninth session Item 9: Question of Violations of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms Oral statement by Mr. TAKNA Jigme Sangpo, International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR)

Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen,

I am making this statement on behalf of International Fellowship of Reconciliation.

My name is Takna Jigme Sangpo, a former-political prisoner in Tibet. When I was 37 year old, the Chinese authorities detained me for remarks I made about the 10th Panchen Lama of Tibet that they charged as “counter-revolutionary” views. All in all (between 1965 and 1992), I was sentenced to 41 years of imprisonment, out of which I have still nine years to complete.

Ladies and gentlemen, despite the guarantees of protection in the constitution of China and her obligations to various international human rights instruments, I was imprisoned because I carried out a non-violent human struggle to defend the legitimate rights of the six million Tibetan people. During those more than three decades of a political prisoner’s life, I was tortured both physically and mentally, beyond human imagination. My dignity as a human being was humiliated and crushed. My physical appearance today is a proof of the immense suffering I endured. The Chinese authorities identified me as criminal who must suffer for life and die in prison. That is how I lost the best part of my life. I never thought I will leave the prison alive. But due to my fate I somehow survived, unlike thousands of Tibetans who sacrificed their lives for our just cause.

Mr. Chairman, the situation in Tibet and the plight of Tibetan political prisoners, deserve adequate attention from this body. The execution of Lobsang Dhondup in eastern Tibet on 26 January this year, is another example of the gravity of the human rights violations taking place in Tibet. When I was in prison, we were forced to read a lot of propaganda documents like China’s “White Papers” on Tibet. These documents routinely deny allegations about prison conditions in Tibet and portray prisons as luxury hotels. But as a witness, let me just give you a few examples of life in prison: a prisoner is provided one shirt and pant a year for the summer; one set of winter clothing every five years; and, one set of bedding every five years. For example, until 1997 prisoners were allocated a monthly budget equivalent to $4 for food, out of which charges for water and electricity are deducted. I was denied proper medical attention and competent legal representation throughout my imprisonment. From 1975 onwards due to the forced labour, prison atrocities and harsh prison conditions I lost my eyesight. It was only in 1981 when I was a “prisoner in the society” that I gained some sight to my left eye after an operation with financial help from my relatives. However, I only gained sight to my right eye when I was operated in Switzerland in August 2002. These are just some examples of how the system works in reality in Tibet’s prisons.

Ladies and gentlemen, many prisoner-colleagues died in custody or were executed. Shol Dawa and Sonam Rinchen, two of my inmates died in prison in recent years because they were denied medical treatment. On 4 June 1997, Sangye Tenphel, an inmate was tortured to death. In May 1998, following two protests in Drapchi Prison, two monks, Khedup and Lobsang Wangchuk never returned alive to their cells after the torture sessions. While a third monk, Lobsang Jinpa died under mysterious circumstances. Torture and degrading ill-treatment, inhuman interrogation, solitary confinement, forced labour and indoctrination sessions are common practices used by the Chinese authorities in Tibet’s prisons.

Mr. Chairman, two prisoners, Sonam Tsewang and Tingka, have since 1999 been confined to small dark cells in Drapchi Prison’s Block Ten which has 24 such cells for confinement. They along with another prisoner raised slogans about forced labour condition in prison during the 7 October 1997 visit by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of this Commission to Drapchi Prison. I remain deeply concerned about their fate because I too was once confined in such torturous cells between 2001 and February 2002. I confirm to the Working Group that the assurance given to it by the Chinese authorities is completely false, Sonam Tsewang and Tingka are still suffering in Drapchi Prison. I was informed that the Chinese authorities have invited the Working Group for a follow-up visit that I hope will include a programme in Tibet. I urge the Working Group to visit Drapchi Prison to find the truth directly from Sonam Tsewang and Tingka or secure their release as soon as possible.

I remain grateful to all the special thematic procedures of this Commission who acted on my behalf and other Tibetan political prisoners through various interventions to the Chinese authorities. I wholeheartedly thank governments and NGOs who urged the Chinese authorities to release me and other Tibetan political prisoners. With your support, I was released on 31 March 2002 with medical parole and later allowed to travel to the United States. I wish to once again thank the people and government of Switzerland and USA for allowing me to live in freedom and dignity. Of course, it is my hope that one day I will be able to also live in freedom in my homeland.

In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, this old man from Tibet, appeals to all nations in this hall to help end the human suffering of the Tibetans. Please urge the Chinese government to open earnest negotiations with His Holiness the Dalai Lama to resolve the long-standing Tibetan Issue in the interest of both the Tibetan and Chinese peoples. The unfortunate people of Tibet, including the political prisoners, who are the same human being as everyone else in this hall, urgently need your support before it is too late!

I pray for an end to the suffering of all political prisoners in this world.

I thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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