Take action for Tibet's religious political prisoners

Resistance to China’s rule inside Tibet is often led by monks and nuns.  

As a result, many of them are now in jail. They may disappear for months, before facing show trials in which they are convicted for "crimes" against the Chinese state.

Many endure torture and long sentences, their illnesses are often untreated and some go years without visits from families and friends.

The Robed Resistance

Monasteries play an important role in Tibetan communities and are vital in preserving and protecting Tibet’s culture and language.

But monasteries also feel the full weight of China’s occupation. Communist officials interfere in their activities and monitor for signs of loyalty to the Dalai Lama. Many have police stations close by or even inside the monastery walls. Thousands of monasteries have been shut by China, while heavily-armed security forces intimidate religious gatherings. Monks and nuns are forced to show their loyalty and even fly the Communist flag on their buildings.

Undeterred, these monks and nuns continue to brave the consequences of their opposition to China’s rule and activist monks have been at the forefront of Tibetan protests for many years. Today, many have paid a heavy price for standing up for their country, their culture and their beliefs.

ROBED RESISTERS

We will be highlighting different prisoners each month and providing more information about how to take action to help him. This month, you can demand freedom for Ngawang Gyaltsen.

Ngawang Gyaltsen

Ngawang Gyaltsen
Ngawang Gyaltsen

Age: 41

Reason for imprisonment: Unknown, although local Tibetans believe it to be politically related.

Detained: 24 February 2015

Sentence: Not yet tried, as far as is known

Location: To be confirmed 

About: Ngawang Gyaltsen had been a monk at Shag Rongpo Monastery, where he was a well-known artist but disagreements with the Chinese government officials (running a re-education campaign for the monks and nuns) at the monastery led to officials harassing and keeping a heavy surveillance on him, leading him to leave the monastery. Authorities continued to harass Gyaltsen, who was not allowed to travel or meet with friends and family without government authorization.

Support Ngawang Gyaltsen

Ngawang Gyaltsen, 41, from Tarchen Township, Nagchu County, is a well-known and accomplished thangka artist who was formerly a monk at Shag Rongpo monastery.  He was arrested on 24th February 2015; his arrest and detention were executed in secret, leaving his family to believe that he had disappeared.

In March 2015, Ngawang Gyaltsen was found to be being secretly detained in at a detention centre in Nagchu Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), but his current whereabouts and conditions are unknown.  Although no official reason for his arrest is known, it is reported that he was arrested on suspicion of activities challenging Beijing’s rule.

Ngawang Gyaltsen had formerly studied thangka (Buddhist) painting at Shag Rongpo monastery, where he was a monk, but left the monastery to live as a layperson after being harassed and subjected to heavy surveillance by the Chinese government officials at the monastery.  Ngawang Gyaltsen had had disagreements with the government officials over a re-education campaign for the monks and nuns; he continued to be harassed by the authorities after his departure from Shag Rongpo, and was forbidden to travel or meet with friends and family without government authorization.

 

Past Robed Resisters

Below you will find a list of all our past robed resisters. Some are now free while other remain imprisoned.

Tsangyang Gyatso

Tsangyang Gyatso
Tsangyang Gyatso

Age: Unknown 

Reason for imprisonment: Tsangyang Gyatso has been charged for "separatist" activities, such as - having contact with people outside Tibet and China and plotting to protest with other monks against the Chinese Communist government.

Detained: 17 March 2014

Sentence: 12 years

Location: Chushul Prison, Tibet Autonomous Region

About: Tsangyang Gyatso is a senior monk and chant leader from Drilda Monastery, Sog County, TAR

Update January 2016: Free Tibet supporters wrote Tsangyang Gyatso almost 500 solidarity messages and hundreds also signed letters to the local Chinese authorities. 

Take action: If you would like to post a letter to the local authorities, you can find the Tibet Autonomous Region Chairman's address in English and Chinese here (PDF) and download our sample letter here (PDF).

Bangri Tsamtrul Rinpoche

Bangri Tsamtrul Rinpoche
Bangri Tsamtrul Rinpoche

Name: Bangri Tsamtrul Rinpoche (also known as Jigme Tenzin Nyima / Bangri Chogtrul Rinpoche)

Age: Born 1966 (49)

Reason for imprisonment: Bangri Rinpoche was convicted of 'attempting to split the country' after a partial confession was extracted by torture.

Detained: 1999

Sentence: life sentence, later commuted to 18 years

Location: Chushul prison, Tibet Autonomous Region

About: Bangri Tsamtrul Rinpoche and his wife Nyima founded an orphanage for Lhasa's deprived children in 1996 and were well-respected pillars of the Tibetan community. After his arrest, the orphanage was closed down. In justification for his conviction, authorities claimed he had met the Dalai Lama in India, accepted a foreign donation for the orphanage and had links with a man who had hoisted a Tibetan flag and then attempted to blow himself up. His wife, a former nun, was also imprisoned and released in 2006. Bangri Rinpoche's "confession" was extracted by torture, whilst being interrogated for five days and nights.

Update November 2015: Free Tibet supporters wrote Bangri Tsamtrul Rinpoche more than 800 solidarity messages and hundreds also signed letters to the local Chinese authorities.

Take action: If you would like to post a letter to the local authorities, you can find the Tibet Autonomous Region Chairman's address in English and Chinese here (PDF) and download our sample letter here (PDF).

Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche

Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche
Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche

Age: Born 1957 (59)

Reason for imprisonment: Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche is believed to have been detained following a peaceful demonstrations by nuns from Pangrina nunnery, where he is abbot, in order to deter local Tibetans from further protests.

Detained: 18 May 2008

Sentence: 8 years and 6 months

Location: Kardze County, Sichuan Province

About: Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche is the first reincarnate lama to be charged with a serious crime since Tenzin Delek Rinpoche (recently died in prison after serving 13 years of 20 year sentence).

Update April 2016: On 17 April 2016 Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche was released after eight years in prison. His release came several months before his sentence was due to be completed.

Thardhod Gyaltsen

Thardhod Gyaltsen
Thardhod Gyaltsen

Age: Unknown

Reason for imprisonment: Thardhod Gyaltsen’s charges are unknown but believed to have been due to possession of banned images and teachings of the Dalai Lama.

Detained: December 2013

Sentence: 18 years

Location: Most likely Chushul prison - to be confirmed

About: Thardhod Gyaltsen was well known for promoting Tibetan culture and Buddhism. His father was one of the thousands of Tibetans killed by China during the 1969 Driru County protests.

Update May 2016: Over 2,300 Free Tibet supporters added their names to our letter to the local authorities, calling on them to release Thardhod Gyaltsen.

Take action: If you would like to post a letter to the local authorities, you can find the Tibet Autonomous Region Chairman's address in English and Chinese here (PDF) and download our sample letter here (PDF).

Lomig (also known as Jo Jamyang)

Lomig
Lomig

Age: 27

Reason for imprisonment: Unknown. It is speculated that Lomig was detained for writing articles criticising China's policies in Tibet.

Detained: 17 April 2015

Sentence: Seven and a half years in prison

Location: Aba Prison, Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture

About: Lomig is influential amongst young Tibetans in Ngaba and known for initiating debates and his writings about the situation in Tibet under China's occupation.

Update June 2016: Free Tibet supporters wrote Lomig more than 400 solidarity messages inside four days. They also sent over a thousand signed letters to the local Chinese authorities.

Take action: If you would like to post a letter to the local authorities, you can find the address of the Governor of Aba and Tibetan Qiang Prefecture in English and Chinese here (PDF) and download our sample letter here (PDF).

Sonam Lhatso

Sonam Lhatso
Sonam Lhatso

Age: 43

Reason for imprisonment: Official charge is unknown, although expected to be due to her role in a 2008 demonstration

Detained: 14 May 2008

Sentence: 10 years

Location: Believed to be Mianyang Prison, although restrictions in Tibet make this impossible to confirm

About: Sonam Lhatso is a nun from Pangri Nunnery in Kardze County, Sichuan Province. She was arrested during a peaceful demonstration along with fifty other nuns from Pangri Nunnery. The demonstration was broken up by Chinese security forces, with several of the nuns being beaten and arrested. During the demonstration, nuns shouted slogans calling for the return of the Dalai Lama and for Tibet to be free. Both of these slogans are forbidden under Chinese rule and in the past have resulted in Tibetans receiving lengthy prison sentences for "attempting to split the Chinese State", a state security crime under Chinese law.

Sonam Lhatso is one of the few nuns still detained today. Free Tibet believes that she is currently being held in Mianyang Prison, but inquiries about her exact location and wellbeing from her fellow nuns at Pangri Nunnery have been met with silence by authorities.

Update July 2016: Free Tibet supporters wrote more than 400 messages to Sonam Lhatso in prison and hundreds also signed letters to the local Chinese authorities.

Take action: If you would like to post a letter to the local authorities, you can find the address for the Governor of Sichuan Province here (PDF) and download our sample letter here (PDF).

Tsewang Choephel

Tsewang Choephel
Tsewang Choephel

Age: 29 

Reason for imprisonment: The official reason for his arrest is unknown although local Tibetans believe it could be due to Tsewang Choephel’s presence at the self-immolation protest of fellow monk, Kalsang Yeshi, on 23 December 2014.

Detained: 18 May 2015 Sentence: Not yet tried, as far as is known

Location: Tawu County

About: During the self-immolation protest of Kalsang Yeshi, Tsewang Choephel had expressed his anger and frustration against China's authorities. Since then he has been under constant police surveillance. Tsewang Choephel's present whereabouts and condition are unknown.

Update November 2016: Nearly 300 Free Tibet supporters added their names to our letter to the local authorities, calling on them to release Tsewang Choephel.

Lobsang Gendun

Lobsang Gendun
Lobsang Gendun

Age: 21

Reason for imprisonment: Official charge is unknown. Lobsang Gendun was arrested for carrying out a solo protest, during which he called for the long life of the Dalai Lama and freedom for Tibet. The protest took place in Pashoe County during official celebrations marking the anniversary of the Communist Party of China. He has reportedly been tortured and is unable to walk.

Detained: 1 July 2013

Sentence: 10 years Location: To be confirmed

About: Lobsang Gendun is a monk from Drongsar Monastery, Pashoe County, Tibetan Autonomous Region

Tenzin Lhundrup

Tenzin Lhundup
Tenzin Lhundup

Age: Unknown

Reason for imprisonment: Unknown

Detained: May 2014

Sentence: 12 years

Location: To be confirmed

About: Tenzin Lhundrup is a well-respected senior Tibetan monk from Gom Gonsar Monastery in Driru County, TAR. Known for his social service and promotion of Tibetan culture, gave talks and Buddhist teachings, helped to arbitrate local disputes and advocated vegetarianism.

Tsultrim Kalsang

Tsultrim Kalsang
Tsultrim Kalsang

Age: 25 

Reason for imprisonment: Tsultrim Kalsang charged with ‘intentional homicide’ (frequently used by Chinese authorities to crackdown on self-immolation protests in Tibet). It is not known why he has received this charge, although it is possibly linked to the self-immolations of Ngawang Norphel and Tenzin Khedup, whose bodies were taken to Tsultrim's monastery.

Detained: 1 September 2012

Sentence: 10 years

Location: To be confirmed

About: Tsultrim Kalsang is a monk from Zilkar Monastery

Jigme Guri

Jigme Guri
Jigme Guri

Also known as Jigme Gyatso

Age: 49

Reason for Imprisonment: Attempting to split the Chinese state

Detained: 20 August 2011

Sentence: 5 years

Location: Unknown

About:  Jigme Guri is a senior monk from Labrang Monastery. 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 two previous 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.

Update October 2016: On 25 October 2016 Jigme Guri was released from prison having served a sentence of five years.

Karma Tsewang

Khenpo Kartse
Khenpo Kartse

(popularly known as Khenpo (abbot) Kartse (abbreviation of his name))

Age: 38

Reason for imprisonment: Khenpo Kartse is charged with harbouring fugitive Tibetans in his monastery. He is reported to be in very bad health and it is unclear whether he has been given appropriate medical treatment.

Detained: 6 December 2013

Sentence: 2 year and 6 months Location: Powo Tramo Prison, Tibetan Autonomous Region

About: Khenpo Kartse a highly respected senior monk who is well known for his advocacy of the Tibetan language and environment.

Update July 2016: Khenpo Kartse was released from prison after serving two and a half years. Due to a number of restrictions imposed on him after his release, he is not pemitted t0 return to his monastery.

Yonten Gyatso

Yonten Gyatso
Yonten Gyatso

Age: 40

Reason for imprisonment: Yonten Gyatso was charged for allegedly sharing information about the self-immolation protest of Tenzin Wangmo.

Detained: October 2011

Sentence: 7 years

Location: Prison in Chengdu (to be confirmed)

About: Yonten Gyatso, a senior monk from Khashi Monastery, Ngaba county was part of the Monastic Democratic Management Committee and taught Tibetan language to local primary school children and worked to preserve Tibetan culture and Buddhism.

We will be highlighting different prisoners each month and providing more information about how to take action to help him. This month, you can add your name to our letter calling for the release of detained monk Ngawang Gyaltsen.