Tibetan political prisoner unable to walk after torture in prison

A photo of Dolkar in her bed.
Dolkar has been left bedridden by her time in prison doing forced labour, paralysed from the waist-down and unable to walk by herself.
23rd December 2021

Dolkar was sentenced to prison and subjected to forced labour for telling the truth of her nephew’s arrest.

Dolkar, a former Tibetan political prisoner from Sershul County in Kardze, eastern Tibet, is bedridden after being tortured in prison for over a year and not given timely medical treatment. 

Despite her release on 15 August 2020, injuries sustained from police beatings, torture and forced labour has left her paralysed and unable to walk again. As her health deteriorates, her nephew, Wangchen, remains in prison, serving a four-and-a-half-year prison sentence while her two children are cared for by her relatives.

According to a local source, "she was tortured in prison, forced to lift stones and do other hard labour, and her body is all bruised. She was not given timely medical attention and treatment, and that is why her limbs are paralysed and immobilised. Even after undergoing medication and visiting several doctors for a year, her health did not improve. Instead, she is bedridden and unable to walk and stand on her feet.”

Dolkar’s arrest is related to the arrest of her nephew and three other local Tibetans who were celebrating the 30th birthday of His Holiness the Eleventh Panchen Lama, Gendun Choekyi Nyima. He is one of the most important figures in Tibetan Buddhism, second only to the Dalai Lama himself. The Panchen Lama was kidnapped by the Chinese government in 1995 at the age of six and Tibetans continue to demand information about his location and well-being. Since several years ago, Tibetans of Domda Town observe his birthday every year on 25 April with mass cleaning drives from 20 to 29 April and making ritual offerings. 

A series of images, from left to right: Dolkar, Wangchen, Lobsang and Yonten
From left to right: Dolkar, Wangchen, Lobsang and Yonten.

It was on the last day of this week-long cleaning drive that Wangchen, Lobsang, Yonten, all in their 20s, and an unidentified friend hoisted prayer flags on the hillside of Sershul Monastery and circumambulated around it. They also called for the immediate release of the Panchen Lama and for him to be united with the Dalai Lama in Tibet. On their return to home around 10:30am local time, they were arrested immediately by police. The unidentified person was released after the police learned he could not speak.

On 3 May 2019 around noon, security personnel arrived at Dolkar's home and arrested her. On 8 May 2019, the Sershul Intermediate People's Court sentenced her to one year and three months in prison on the charges of collaborating with illegal organisations and sharing information about the aforementioned arrests with Tibetans living outside Tibet. Wangchen, who was also summoned to the same court, was given a prison sentence of four and a half years. On the other hand, Yonten and Lobsang were fined 15,000 yuan each and were forced to undergo six months of political re-education classes on “issues of national security” with the Sershul National Education Department.

The prison sentences prompted a campaign by Free Tibet targeting local authorities. Thousands of supporters joined the action, demanding the release of Dolkar and Wangchen.

Since Wangchen’s arrest, his family has been allowed to visit him only once, the source explained. With Wangchen’s continuing prison term and his family being denied further visits by the Chinese authorities under the pretext of COVID concerns, “His family is worried about his health now", the anonymous source reported to Tibet Watch. Two recent photos of Dolkar, whom Wangchen affectionately calls Achi Dolkar, meaning big sister, shows her lying down in bed by the window and another one where she is supported by a stack of blankets to help her sit upright. 

Information supplied by Tibet Watch

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For Tibetans, the fear of becoming a political prisoner and being arbritrarily detained is an everyday reality. In August 2021, Rinchen Kyi, a Tibetan school teacher, became a political prisoner when she was taken from her home by Chinese authorities.

Since her arrest, Rinchen Kyi has effectively disappeared. No information has been shared to indicate her whereabouts or wellbeing, not even with her 13-year-old daughter.

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