Instruments of torture

"The practice of torture and ill-treatment is still deeply entrenched in the [Chinese] criminal justice system."

- United Nations' Committee Against Torture, 2015 

Former Tibetan political prisoners who have escaped the country have provided testimony revealing the torture they faced in China’s Tibetan prisons. Scroll over and click the images below to read their words.

You can view our Stop Torture in Tibet page to learn more about torture in Tibet, how we're holding China to account and how you can take action.

Interrogation chair
Toilet
Stove
Snow
Boots
Beer bottles
Ceiling
Electric socket
Gun

Interrogation Chair

“During all my time under arrest, this was the worst form of torture I suffered.  One of my ribs was broken and my joints suffered very badly.  Whenever I remember that chair I feel scared, even to this day.  I felt like it would be better to die than survive being tortured on that chair.  I was kept on the chair days and nights.  At one point, my feet got swollen and, to my horror, all my toenails fell off.”

- Golog Jigme, Tibetan political prisoner

Prisoners are shackled to interrogation chairs (sometimes known as a tiger chairs) to hold them still while being questioned and tortured. The chair itself can be a form of torture. Golog Jigme reports being hung from it by his wrists and ankles:

 

“This made me feel that my chest was going to split into two and all my intestines were going to fall onto the floor.  I became very dizzy and could not see properly.” 

China’s government defends the use of the chair, however. In 2015, a senior Chinese legal official told the United Nations’ Committee Against Torture that:

 

“We use the interrogation chair to guarantee safety of the detainee … it is sometimes packaged with soft padding to increase a sense of comfort, a sense of safety.”

Toilet

“Most of the prisoners were suffering from urinary infections, kidney infection and a lot of health problems. The water that came from the toilet had to be drunk to quench our thirst.”

- Gonpo Thiney

“The pain of thirst was the second worst torture.  Due to the blood loss from my body, I felt like I was dying from thirst, but was only given a very small amount of water.  Over time, I got used to hunger and sleep deprivation, but never to being thirsty.”

- Golog Jigme

Stove

“I was taken down and brought to a hot wood/coal burning stove.  I was handcuffed with the hot chimney of that stove between my arms.  The stove and its chimney got hotter and hotter and my arms, chest and both sides of my face got burned and blistered.  I kept turning my face, so the middle part (nose, chin and forehead) would not burn.”
“At one point, I couldn't stand the heat any more.  So I gave a hard tug to the chimney with my handcuffs.  The hot chimney fell down and hit the neck of one of the police officers and burned him.  My action made the policemen angry and they started beating me.”

- Golog Jigme

Ice

“The weather is really cold in Tibet between March and April. They forced me to sit in cold water with only underwear and my feet were stuck to the ice.”

- Tenzin Namgyal

“That night, I was taken into a freezing cold room with all the windows open.  My guards went to sleep with warm clothes on.  I couldn't sleep with all the pain of the burns on my chest and, even worse, I became very cold and started to get a fever.”

- Golog Jigme, Tibetan political prisoner

In 2014, Tibetan prisoner Goshul Lobsang was released from prison at the point of death. Tortures he had faced included being left outside in the Tibetan winter. He died three days after being released.

Boots

“The officer would clap and the rest of them would blindly start hitting and kicking me.  It felt like something out of a gangster film.”

- Golog Jigme

“They kicked us and hit us with batons. Slapping and kicking are not even counted as beatings.”

- Gonpo Thinley

Beatings are routine for Tibetan prisoners. Some are so severe they are fatal. In 2014, Ngawang Jamyang’s body was released to his family three weeks after his arrest on unknown charges. Marks on his body showed that he had been beaten and tortured to death.

Beer bottles

“They would tie our hands back, one going above the shoulder and one from below.  Sometimes they put beer bottles in between, causing a lot of pain.”

- Gonpo Thinley

Ceiling

“I was hung from the ceiling by my handcuffs. My toes just touched the cold floor. The officials started punching and kicking me to entertain themselves.  I was hung like this for a whole day.”

- Golog Jigme

“They also tied both hands up on the ceiling and beat us on our feet with batons.  We were hanging above the ground.”

- Gonpo Thinley

Electricity

“Then they burned my body using electrical currents, even my tongue.”

- Tenzin Namgyal

“Our heads were burned.  Sometimes they also used electric batons in our mouth, which caused us to lose consciousness.”

- Gonpo Thinley

“I was put onto the chair without any clothes and they gave me electric shocks to my mouth.  The pain the chair caused was too extreme to feel any of the pain. I only smelt the burning of my own flesh.”

- Golog Jigme

Gun

“They told me: “We are going to kill you so say your prayers as you are religious man. It is better you don’t look at us, we don’t want you to harm us after you are reborn as a ghost.” They made me turn around and held a gun to the back of my head. They told me to think hard. They held the gun to the back of my head and they fired it. I heard the sound of the gun and my heart was beating so fast but I thought I was yet to die.”
“They put the gun aside and asked if I had anything else to say. I said I didn’t. They pointed the gun at me again and asked me if I had anything else to say. I was not sure whether they had bullets in the gun or not. They trampled my face on the floor and kept pointing the gun on my head. I thought I was going to die as many Tibetans had been killed by this kind of torture before.”

- Tenzin Namgyal

Resistance

Despite the suffering they faced, Tibetan prisoners remained defiant.

When they beat us, I remembered the promise I made as we entered the prison that I would not have any regrets, even if I was killed.  I encouraged myself when I was being beaten up and was never going to submit.  The same is the case with other Tibetans.  They were also saying that the beatings motivated them more, rather than demotivating them.

- Gonpo Thinley

To survive the torture, I thought about the thousands and thousands of our forefathers who were killed for Tibet.  I feel immense pride in their memory and I was determined to carry forward their legacy and be the true next generation.  I also felt stronger when they reviled HH the Dalai Lama. 

- Golog Jigme

 

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