News and Views on Tibet

They Died; So That Tibet May Live

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter

By Thupten N Chakrishar

Running into the flames with his charred flesh hanging like rags off his limbs, Jampa Tenzin, a monk, was hoisted by his fellow protesters as he continued to demonstrate. He was arrested the same day, in October 1, 1987 in Lhasa. Jampa became the emblem of Tibet Independence movement around the world, his picture being displayed on almost every Free Tibet website. In March 1988, a few months after his release, Jampa was found dead with a rope tied around his neck.

Similar is the story of Lhakpa Tsering, who was tortured to death at the young age of 20. He was a member of the “Snow Lion Youth Organization”, which advocated for Tibetans’ freedom and political rights. He had boldly refused to tell the foreign delegates, visiting Drapchi Prison, that Tibet had always been a part of China. He was subjected to intensive interrogations and torture leading to his death. He had bruise marks on his body, blood clots under the skin and his nails had turned blue. Lhakpa died in extreme pain. After his death, he became the symbol of resistance inside Drapchi prison, prisoners distributed and made flags from pieces of his prison quilt and used his quilt cover as a banner.

Tsering Lhamo (Rangzen Ama), Jampa Tenzin, Lhakpa Tsering, Sholpa Dawa, Dekyi, Dawa Tsering, Hor Lobsang Tsuendue, Dawa Tsering, Thupten Ngudup and others like them had one thing in common; the willingness to sacrifice their lives, so that Tibet may live.

They were no ordinary people. They were brave, They were heroes. They could had lived their life comfortably if they hadn’t been involved in any political activities but no, they fought. They ‘CHALLENGED’ the most atrocious government in the world, They fought face-to-face with the super-power and risked their lives for freedom, for justice, for Tibet and for us; Tibetans. Even the most evil regime in the world hasn’t been able to silence the Tibetan spirit and the cry for freedom.

One such example is the great risk taken by 14 nuns who sang the following song, inside Drapchi Prison, the largest prison in Tibet;

“..We sing this song of independence
Yesterday’s land of Dharma
Today turned into barbarity
Though prisoner today
We will never be disheartened
How sad
The barbarians are triumphant
Discard the blue prison uniform
Stand up prisoners of Drapchi.” 

Not surprisingly, each of the nuns had their prison sentences increased by between five to nine years. Fortunately, their recorded tape was smuggled out of the prison and distributed throughout Tibet and the rest of the world.

The following figures from briefly describes the mode of death of the 1.2 million Tibetans who have died following the Chinese occupation;

Tortured in prison : 173,221
Executed : 156,758
Killed in fighting : 432,705
Starved to death : 342,970
“Suicide” : 9,002
“Struggled” to death thamzing : 92,731

Recently I met a newly arrived Tibetan from Lhasa, Tibet. We discussed the current political situation in Tibet, public opinions, karaoke bars, and the banning of the picture of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan National Flag. I asked him if he had a picture of the Dalai Lama kept secretly somewhere in his house, he smiled and pointed his finger towards his heart.

In the Quiet Land, no one can hear
what is silenced by murder
and covered up with fear.
But, despite what is forced, freedom’s a sound
that liars can’t fake and no shouting can drown.

– Aung San Suu Kyi

For Tibetans and the Chinese government alike, His Holiness the Dalai Lama is not just a spiritual figure for Tibet; He is Tibet. Under his guidance, Tibetans have been very patient, peaceful and compassionate. The Chinese government believes that with the Dalai Lama, the issue of Tibet will die and everything will be calm some day. But witnessing the frustrations and restlessness of the younger generation of Tibetans, I doubt it. Some say that the Chinese government is buying time until the Dalai Lama dies and everything will be okay, but that logic might back-fire. The time they are buying might be the ticking of a time-bomb.

Heated arguments happen sometimes when our friends meet over a cup of coffee:

“For more than forty years, we have been waiting patiently for the Chinese to go back. We have been good Buddhist, compassionate and forgiving, but all our compassion and understanding has not seen an inch of our land returned. We see our population dwindling and the Chinese getting greater day by day. We are becoming minorities in our own land, yet all we hear is silence.”

Some of us believes that whatever happened to Tibet was a result of a bad karma and hence we are passive, sort of waiting for something to happen. But some are restless and ready to risk another sequence of Karma;

We should do something. We were originally the race of the warriors, Buddha came later. We should go back to our roots and Fight, if it means we are creating bad karma, so be it. We are prepared to be reborn as pigs and dogs if necessary, if it means our children can enjoy the freedom and dignity that comes with our own country .”

Whatever the cause and effect or the thing about karma is, the situation in Tibet is getting worse day by day. Even as you read these lines, another Tibetan is being arrested, tortured or maybe even executed in Tibet. They continue to withstand and fight risking lives of their own and their families. In exile, though sometimes busy in their own petty problems, Tibetans have been trying to do all they can and needless to mention the thousands and thousands of selfless Tibet supporters around the world who have been together all along, I believe a smooth coordination between all of us is all it takes to start a revolution.

Having the privilege of personally knowing many young Tibetan leaders, I am certain that a “Free Tibet” isn’t too far.

Everyday I sing to my heart,
A tune of a forgotten land.
Yes, tears do come in my eyes,
Friends come and say their ‘byes’.

I stay in a corner and read the walls
Strange, but a history of a nation.

I close my eyes and remember,
The dead bodies, the sacrifices and the cries.
Memories I left behind the Himalayas
Still calling me, following like a shadow.

I see people getting crazy for money,
I see people dying for fame,
But I have nothing to do with them,
I don’t even have a complete name.

My dream is simple and my ambition small,
Dream to return and touch my land
Dream to meet my mom.

With this article, I pay my tribute to the martyrs of Tibet who died, and to the brave Tibetans who continue to fight.

Free Tibet !

Thupten N. Chakrishar can be reached at

For more information on Tibetan Political prisoners and current Human Rights situations in Tibet, please visit and

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *