Letter smuggled out of Tibet sheds light on a brutal occupation and Tibetans’ defiance
Free Tibet press release
Free Tibet has acquired a letter written by the outspoken Tibetan Buddhist monk, political activist and former prisoner Jigme Guri (1) (2). Jigme Guri managed to smuggle the letter out of Tibet, one of the most closed places on earth, last November.
The letter, titled "Survived Another Threat to Life", offers a rare glimpse into existence under China’s repressive rule over Tibet. It refers to the harsh treatment that Tibetans who stand up to the occupation, including Jigme Guri, have been subjected to, including arbitrary detentions and the use of torture to extract confessions from detainees (3).
Jigme Guri's letter (4) (5) was written on 26 November 2016 and eventually made its way to one of his former students (6), who has since made the letter public.
Writing in his native Tibetan script, Jigme Guri reflects on the power exerted by the Chinese state: “They have various means and methods to defeat us such as threats, lies and deception […] We have been made to face the law and admit to many things that we haven't done and, as a result, we have been tortured severely.”
He goes on to describe how these crimes have hardened his will to resist: “(F)or the sake of fairness and loyalty, I gained strength, power, courage, patience and much more that I hadn't gained before […] My thoughts about my people, my love for my country, my hope for my fellow Tibetans are unshakeable like that of a rocky mountain, no one can destroy that.”
Jigme Guri was arrested in August 2011 after dozens of police officers and soldiers raided a hotel that he was staying in. No reason was publicly provided for the arrest, although it was believed to be related to a video he recorded in 2008 in which he criticised the violent crackdown in Tibet at that time and spoke of the beatings and torture that he suffered in police custody during a previous arrest. He was later sentenced to five years in prison for "attempting to split the nation", a crime under China’s state security laws.
Jigme Guri was released from prison on 26 October 2016, having completed his sentence. Following his release, he remained under constant surveillance by Chinese security services and his movements were monitored. Other conditions of his release forbade him from wearing his monk's robes or returning to Labrang Monastery, where he lived while he was a monk. He was nevertheless able to send this letter out of Tibet during this period.
In November 2016 he was taken to hospital, where he was diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure and problems with his heart, liver and eyes. Jigme Guri did not suffer from any serious health problems before his arrest in 2011.
Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren, director of Free Tibet said: “Jigme Guri is one of a number of courageous Tibetans who continue to face down China’s occupation, now approaching its 70th year. Despite his repeated arrests and torture, Jigme Guri continues to vocally oppose this authoritarian and repressive regime. His letter sheds light on a people cut off from the outside world who are monitored in everything that they do through an incessant, intrusive system of surveillance and who are routinely snatched by police, tortured and jailed for crimes that they never committed. Tibet’s culture is systematically being eradicated and the rights of its people trampled on. But as Jigme Gur himself writes, these outrages have only spurred him on and strengthened his faith in his fellow Tibetans. China will not succeed in pacifying Tibet through torture and arrests, only an end to the occupation and the restoration of Tibetans’ fundamental rights will end their vocal and widespread resistance.”
Information supplied to Free Tibet by Tibet Watch.
John Jones, Free Tibet
T: 0207 324 4605
(1) Jigme Guri, also known as Jigme Gyatso and Labrang Jigme, is a senior monk from Labrang Monastery in in Sangchu County, eastern Tibet (Chinese: Xiahe, Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province). He was arrested in 2011 by dozens of police and soldiers at his hotel while visiting a cultural event in Tso City, Ganlho Tibetan Autonomous Region, 72 kilometres away from Labrang. The police and soldiers also confiscated his computers and other property. Jigme Guri disappeared after his detention and was finally sentenced in 2014, receiving 5 years in prison for “inciting splittism”. Jigme Guri had been detained on three other occasions, and in 2008 almost died as a result of torture inflicted on him while in prison. After his second period of detention in 2009, Jigme Guri posted the testimony of his experiences in prison online, as well as words of support for Tibet and the Dalai Lama. People close to Jigme Guri suspect that this video was the pretext for his arrest. He was released from prison on 25 October 2016 having served a sentence of five years.
(2) Pictures of Jigme Guri are available here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/freetibetorg/albums/72157679695077906
(3) In December 2015 the United Nations Committee Against Torture found that that the practice of torture and ill-treatment was “still deeply entrenched in [China’s] criminal justice system”, which “overly relies on confessions as the basis for convictions”. This included “numerous reports from credible sources that document in detail cases of torture, deaths in custody, arbitrary detention and disappearances of Tibetans.” (UN Committee against Torture, Concluding observations on the Fifth Periodic Report of China, 3 February 2016. See relevant paras; 20, 40 https://www.savetibet.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/CAT_C_CHN_CO_5_22477_E.pdf)
(4) A picture of the original letter is available here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/freetibetorg/albums/72157679695077906
(5) The full translation of Jigme Guri’s letter is as follows:
"Survived Another Threat to Life"
"Once my courage and commitment, love for Tibetans, love for Tibet, hope and the spirit for survival have declined, then "their" wishes are fulfilled. So, they have various means and methods to defeat us, such as threatening and misleading, lying and deception. In a nutshell, showing threatening faces and cunning smiles are the methods they have become experts in.
"In this way, the general public have been fooled. As for us, major crimes have been manipulated and hats have been put on our heads - we have been made to face the law and admit to many things that we haven't done and, as a result, we have been tortured severely. Or, we have been continuously targeted to be destroyed from the world completely.
"But I can say that they could not have made any changes to my thinking and my innermost promise. On the contrary, for the sake of truth and justice, for the sake of fairness and loyalty, I gained strength, power, courage, patience and much more that I hadn't gained before. And I believe this is the power of the strength of truth and justice.
"My thoughts about my people, my love for my country, my hope for my fellow Tibetans are unshakeable like that of a rocky mountain, no one can destroy that. For the sake of world peace, the flourishing of the land and happiness for sentient beings, I can sacrifice myself. This is the life promise created by truth and justice. When a butter lamp is extinguished by the wind, or prayer flags are cut by a knife, or whatever it may be, this is the will of a dying man or innermost heartfelt words.
"By Labrang Jigme, On 26 November, 2016"
(6) Free Tibet has decided to keep the name and location of the student anonymous for their own safety.