In 1996, Bangri Rinpoche and his wife Nyima founded an orphanage for Lhasa’s vulnerable and deprived children. They were well-respected pillars of the Tibetan community. However, in 1999, they were arrested for allegedly ‘attempting to split the country’.
The exact circumstances leading to their arrest remain unclear. However, it is believed that a worker at the orphanage was arrested for trying to raise a Tibetan flag and then detonated explosives strapped to his person in protest during the 1999 National Minority Games.
Many people with connections to the orphanage were subsequently arrested, including Rinpoche and his wife. The orphanage was declared an illegal organisation and the children were evicted, facing a harsh life on Lhasa’s streets.
Bangri Rinpoche was interrogated, ruthlessly, for five days and nights. Following this, a confession of his supposed “crimes” was forced from him by torture. Hooded and handcuffed, with his legs bound, he was forced to kneel on a low stool for an extended period of time.
Little is known about Bangri Rinpoche’s current whereabouts in the Chinese prison system, but he was due for release in 2021.
Bangri Rinpoche’s wife, Nyima, was initially ordered to serve 10 years in Drapchi prison. Former political prisoner Ngawang Sangdrol reported that Nyima’s first year there was spent in solitary confinement. After this, her sentence was reduced to seven years, and she was released in February 2006.