By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, Oct. 30: A Tibetan woman named Lhamo from Tibet’s Driru county in Nagchu died while in custody in August this year, Human Rights Watch said Thursday. The 36-year-old mother of three passed away shortly after she was sent to a hospital from police custody. Lhamo and her cousin, Tenzin Tharpa were arrested in June on charges of having sent money to family members or other Tibetans in India.
Tharpa, a former monk, had been under surveillance by Chinese authorities since 2012 when he, as well as other monks, were forced out of Larung Gar monastery in Sichuan province. He also started a Tibetan-medium school for children in Chaktse township but it was closed down for being “illegal” by local authorities. Since then, the 39-year-old ventured into a successful Yartsa-Gunbu (cordycep) business. His current whereabouts or information regarding his trial remains unknown.
A press conference on Friday spearheaded by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) with five Dharamshala-based NGOs condemned the continuous crimes against humanity in Tibet. The statement highlighted, “The deteriorating situation in Driru is evidenced by the custodial death of Lhamo and the ongoing arbitrary detention of her cousin, Tenzin Tharpa, as reported yesterday by Human Rights Watch. The leading international NGO said cases like Lhamo and Tharpa become rarely known outside Tibet due to the extreme restrictions on basic freedoms and highly securitized environment.”
Kunchok Rinchen from CMR Law school in Bangalore told Phayul about the circumstances surrounding Lhamo’s arrest, “[She] was arrested on June 6 on charges for colluding with Tharpa for sending money to India, and also for sheltering her cousin at her home for a few days. Following Lhamo’s arrest, the local police searched her home and confiscated a picture of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and religious books and DVDs of the Tibetan leader.”
In August, her family was informed about Lhamo’s hospitalization in a Nagchu hospital where she was found severely bruised that made her unrecognizable and unable to speak to her family. After a few days when she succumbed to her injuries, the authorities did not allow the family members to conduct proper rituals for the deceased and ordered them to cremate her body immediately. She had no prior health conditions that could have caused her unfortunate death.
The joint press conference in Dharamshala revealed another case of a Tibetan singer named Lhundrub Drakpa in Driru county who was sentenced to 6 years in prison in June for a song called ‘Black Hat’ that criticized Chinese repressive government policies. The NGOs called for the immediate release of Lhundrup Drakpa, Tenzin Tharpa and all other Tibetans unjustly subjected to arbitrary arrests and detention. It urged the international community to conduct a “thorough and independent investigation into the custodial death of Lhamo and other human rights abuses in Driru.”
The statement was signed by the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), Tibetan Women’s Association (TWA), National Democratic Party of Tibet (NDPT), Gu-Chu-Sum Movement Association of Tibet, Students for a Free Tibet- India (SFT) and the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD).