Geshe Tsewang Namgyal

Drago County: Three monks severely ill after six years of torture

Arrested after the 2012 Drago protests, three monks were subjected to forced labour and denied adequate food

Tibet Watch has learned that three senior monks from Drago Monastery are still severely ill after their release from prison four years ago. The three monks, Tsewang Namgyal, Tengya, and another monk whose identity is kept confidential for security reasons, served six-year prison sentences from 2012 until their release in January 2018.

Geshe Tsewang Namgyal

Geshe Tsewang Namgyal, one of the three monks imprisoned for six years in 2012

The news of their failing health comes as their home county of Drago faces rising tensions due to a series of arbitrary detentions and demolitions. The county is also under close surveillance by Chinese authorities.

The monks are suffering from a range of serious conditions as a result of inadequate food, torture, and forced labour in prison including crippled legs, organ damage, insomnia, constant headaches, and loss of mobility.


Tsewang Namgyal, Dalha, and Tengya were sentenced to six years in prison after mass protests erupted in Drago County on 23 January 2012. Local Tibetans took to the streets of Drago and reasserted their demands from the 2008 Tibetan Uprising. The protesters called for freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet.

Following a crackdown against the protests, 36 people were charged between January and April 2012. The demonstrators, who were aged between 20 and 70, were found guilty of various political crimes and handed sentences of between one year and life imprisonment.

Eight of those charged in 2012 are still in prison. These include two monks from Drago Monastery named Tashi Dhargyal and Namgyal Lhundup, who are serving 14-year prison sentences, as well as four residents of Likhogma Township named Kundrub, Jewai, Kuntho, and Sonam Lhundup, serving prison terms of between 11 years and life. Two unidentified Tibetans are also serving 11 years for their participation in the 2012 protests.


Most of the 36 prisoners were sent to Bamey Prison (Tib: བ་སྨད་བཙོན་ཁང་།) and Dhardo Prison (Tib: དར་མདོའི་བཙོན་ཁང་།), where they were forced to undergo what China calls “reform through labour” without sufficient food provisions. All of them were beaten in prison and ordered to do heavy manual labour. Families of Tsewang Namgyal, Dalha, and Tengya were allowed only one visit per year, or sometimes once every two years.

When they were released, the families learned that none of the food or money left for them during the families’ rare visits was given to the prisoners – they had instead been shared amongst the prison officials.

Tsewang Namgyal was the former principal of Gaden Monastic School which was forcibly demolished in November 2021. He was released with crippled legs and forced to sign a letter that enlisted a series of orders depriving him of his freedom of movement and communication. The letter forbids him from keeping a mobile phone, staying in his monastery or attending public meetings. It further stated that he must register and seek permission from the police for every trip outside his hometown, including hospital visits. “Moreover, he was asked to keep everything secret”, a source told Tibet Watch.

Another senior monk of Drago Monastery whose identity is kept confidential for security reasons was beaten with such an extreme force that he was rendered blind and had to undergo organ transplantation.

Tengya, the abbott of Drago Monastery, was so severely beaten that he lost his ability to hear and move his body. He also suffered from insomnia due to head injuries sustained in prison. Despite medical treatment after his release, Tengya’s health did not improve.


Police brutality in Drago County continues to worsen since the local demonstrations of 2008 and 2012. During these mass protests, Chinese police and armed forces fired upon unarmed Tibetans, injuring 45. The oldest casualty was a 70-year-old woman named Sanglha, and the youngest was a 14-year-old child. Following the 2012 military crackdown, Chinese officials have set up a “Monastic Management Committee” in Drago Monastery consisting of Chinese Communist Party members whose job it is to monitor the movement of the Tibetan monks. Few monks have been included in this committee. A police station was also constructed just beside Gaden Monastic School in response to the demonstrations.

A monk from Drago told Tibet Watch: “As with other areas in Tibet, the main reason for increasing Chinese repression in Kham Drago [the recent crackdown] are firstly to commit genocide of the Tibetan identity and Tibetan culture. Secondly, to eliminate those influential Tibetans who are conscious of freedom and rights of Tibetan people and thirdly, to abolish Tibetan language and education centres.”


Information supplied by Tibet Watch


In the wake of arrests, demolitions, and repression in Tibet, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have accelerated surveillance across the region, installing thousands of new CCTV cameras.

Here in the UK, one Chinese manufacturer of CCTV cameras, Hikvision, is implicated in the CCP’s human rights abuse. Controlled by the CCP, the company’s cameras are used in Tibet and East Turkestan to ensure that no moment is private.
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