By Tenzin Nyidon
DHARAMSHALA, Nov 17: Former Tibetan political prisoner Ven. Golog Jigme was honoured with the prestigious Democracy Award for his unwavering commitment to freedom and democracy by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The award was conferred on Nov. 14 during NED’s 40th-anniversary presentation of the annual Democracy Awards and Democracy Service Medals.
Golog Jigme, jailed three times for his activism and Nicholas Opiyo, a Ugandan human rights lawyer received the ‘Individual Courage’ award for their dedication to advancing democratic principles in their respective regions.
“As we look back on the four decades of NED’s history, we are paying tribute to those on the forefront of the struggle for freedom and building on our legacy to adapt to today’s more complex challenges to democracy,” said Damon Wilson, the President and CEO of the NED. “Our 2023 honourees affirm the universal aspiration for democracy—even in the most challenging places, ordinary people are risking everything for human rights and freedom.”
Golog Jigme, a Tibetan activist, had experienced first-hand the oppression and suppression prevalent in his homeland under the Chinese government’s rule. In 2008, he was arrested by Chinese authorities for his involvement in a film project initiated by a Tibetan filmmaker, Dhondup Wangchen which documented the Chinese occupation of Tibet, particularly, the sentiments of Tibetans regarding Chinese rule and their aspirations during the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. He was arrested in 2009 for his alleged role in sharing information about the Tibetan Uprising in 2008 with the outside world. Subsequently, in 2012, Jigme faced another arrest, this time on charges of inciting Tibetan self-immolation protests.
Following his escape into exile, he continued his activism for Tibet, becoming one of the most vocal Tibetan activists in the world. In Switzerland, he amplified the Tibetan struggle by providing crucial testimony before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). He also actively engaged with significant bodies like the International Olympic Committee (IOC), especially in the context of China’s bid to host the 2022 Olympic Games. Addressing the IOC, he raised his concerns, admonishing the committee for potentially awarding the Olympic Games to China. He emphasised that by supporting China’s bid, the IOC would indirectly condone the ongoing atrocities committed against Tibetans by the Chinese Communist Party.
The Democracy Award, an esteemed recognition presented annually by the NED Board of Directors, serves as a tribute to individuals and organisations showcasing exceptional courage and innovation in advancing human rights and democracy on a global scale. A notable aspect of the Democracy Award is its symbolic representation. The award itself is fashioned as a replica of the Goddess of Democracy, a poignant and iconic symbol from the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in China.