Torture remains widespread in Tibet and is used by the authorities to send a clear signal to Tibetans that political dissent is dangerous and often deadly. Women, children and men are all know to have been subjected to torture. The prevalence of torture in Tibet is one of the symptoms of a political system that persecutes those seeking to express their human rights peacefully. As well as in prisons, torture is also commonplace in other institutions where people are detained, such as detention centres and labour camps.
Severe abuse, beatings and torture inflicted by police and other security personnel are most prevalent at the initial stage of detention, when the intention is to extract 'confessions' from detainees. Those being held in custody are particularly vulnerable as they are questioned without the presence of lawyers, are denied the right to silence and are frequently held incommunicado for long periods of time.
Following his 2005 visit to Tibet Dr Manfred Nowak, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, concluded that "torture remains widespread in china". Dr Nowak made on-site inspections of Drapchi Prison and the then recently opened Chushur (Chinese: Qushui) Prison near Lhasa; he expressed particular concern over sanctions placed on Tibetan monks, including prohibitions on prayers and religious worship.
"Right from the first time I was detained, Chinese officials used different torture instruments on me to break my spirit ... my fellow political prisoners and I were subjected to electric shocks from different types of electric batons and prods... Other nuns and I were hung in the air with our arms tied behind our backs for extended periods of time and we were frequently made to stand in the direct sun or freezing cold for extended periods of time and if we collapsed ... we were beaten ... This torture and mistreatment occurred through most of my life in prison."
Ngawang Sangdrol was first imprisoned for nine months when she was 13 years old. She was re-arrested when she was 15 years old and served 11 years of a prison sentence totalling 21 years for peaceful protest.
'Throughout those 33 years the only motivation to stay alive was that I was determined to tell the outside world what was happening in Tibet ... These events may be taking place in a land so far away that it hardly seems real. But pain, torture and anguish are real. I know. You have the chance to make sure that hope is also real."
Tibetan Buddhist monk Palden Gyatso was first jailed by the chinese communist forces in 1959 for being a "reactionary element". He spent the majority of the next 33 years in prison, enduring brutal physical and psychological abuse and torture by the chinese oppressors attempting to break his will. In 1992 he finished serving his sentence and escaped to India, smuggling with him several torture instruments used on him in prison.
Common torture methods in Tibet are: beatings, use of electric shock batons, submersion in pits of sewage, exposure to conditions of extreme heat or cold, deprivation of sleep, food or water, prolonged solitary confinement, denial of medical treatment, hard labour, harrassment by dogs and being hanged upside down. 88 confirmed cases have been reported of prisoners who died while in prison as a result of torture. The chinese communists have taken steps to reduce the numbers of prisoners dying in custody by occasionally releasing prisoners in immediate danger of dying to the care of their families, so that their death does not take place in prison.
In September 2007 four school children aged between 14 and 15 years old, who allegedly wrote free Tibet slogans on the local police station in Amdo region, were beaten and tortured. One boy was hospitalised and required ongoing hospital treatment.
According to an eyewitness account chinese oppressors tortured a group of men and male children who were captured after the Nangpa La shooting. Jamyang Samten, 15, testified that they were taken to a police station and interrogated for three days. Children aged 15 and over and the adult males in the group, mostly monks, were beaten with electric cattle prods. "It went on until I fainted," Jamyang stated. After three days they were transferred to Shigatse, the second largest city in Tibet. There the beatings continued. "A guard wearing a metal glove would hit us in the stomach." Jamyang also said people were chained to walls during the interrogation and were forced to work in a labour camp, digging ditches. Women received beatings with belts.
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