Ama Adhe was a hero of the resistance, a political prisoner and an advocate for Tibet
“Ama” Adhe Tapontsang, has died at the age of 88. During her lifetime she what part of the resistance to the Chinese invasion of Tibet, a political prisoner and a human rights advocate. She is cited by a generation of Tibetan activists and Tibet supporters as an inspiration.
Ama Adhe was born in Nyarong in Kham, eastern Tibet, in 1932 and raised as a devout Buddhist. Her life changed in 1950 when she was still a teenager, as China invaded Tibet. In interviews later in her life, she recalled the terror she felt as the Chinese forces entered Tibet.
Against the onslaught of the Chinese army, Ama Adhe, married and pregnant with her second child, tried to flee from Kham to Lhasa with her husband and daughter. Before they could escape, her husband was poisoned, dying in front of her.
Ama Adhe joined the resistance against the Chinese occupation, supplying soldiers with provisions and encouraging women to join in the struggle. She was arrested in 1958 as part of a group of 300 Tibetans, all but four of whom would die in prison due to starvation and ill-treatment. In later life she told harrowing stories of the hunger in the prisons where she was held.
She would spend 27 years in prison, experiencing hard labour, rape and torture and only seeing freedom in 1985 when she and other political prisoners were pardoned by CCP leader Deng Xiaoping. She returned to her native Kham, but two years later she escaped from Tibet, reaching Dharamsala where she lived for the rest of her life.
Ama Adhe dedicated much of the rest of her life to raising awareness of Tibet, travelling the world to speak to her audiences about her ordeal in prison, including, notably, in 1997 at Harvard University, which had agreed to host Chinese Premier Jiang Zemin. That year also saw the release of her autobiography, Ama Adhe: The Voice that Remembers: The Heroic Story of a Woman’s Fight to Free Tibet.
Ama Adhe passed away on Monday in Dharamsala. Her family informed Tibetan media that she died peacefully of old age.
A vigil was held in Dharamsala by Students for a Free Tibet and the Tibetan Women’s Association in her memory. A cremation ceremony will be held morning in McLeod Ganj.