High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser written in September 2014 for the Mandarin service of Radio Free Asia and published on her blog on September 10, 2014.
Woeser has consistently written about her friend Lama Jigme on her blog and documented his story, from his video testimony to his previous detentions. Sadly there haven’t been any updates on Lama Jigme or his health since this blogpost was written.
“Remembering Lama Jigme Who Has been Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison”
In August 2011, the former Deputy Head of the Labrang Monastery Democratic Management Committee and monk Lama Jigme was secretly imprisoned, the crime was “suspicion of instigating national separatism”. According to reports from within China, on September 5, the second trial began, the local authorities chose a lawyer for him and Lama Jigme was sentenced to 5 years in prison. Where exactly he is serving his prison sentence remains unknown till the present day.
Lama Jigme was born in 1966 to a farmers’ family in Lhutang village, Juicha Township, Sangchu County, Kanlho Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province. At the age of 13, he left for Labrang Monastery in Amdo to become a monk; his religious name is Jigme Gyatso, Jigme is the official name shown on his ID card; but he is also known as Jigme Guri. He used to be a senior monk and was the Director of the Vocational School at Labrang as well as the Deputy Director of the Labrang Monastery Democratic Management Committee. Between 2006 and 2011, Lama Jigme was arrested 5 times:
The first time was related to his visit to India in January 2006 for the Kalachakra initiations given by His Holiness the Dalai Lama; at the time he also received an audience with His Holiness. He was arrested by the Kanlho Prefecture Security Bureau in April and only released after over 40 days. A large sum of cash was confiscated, which had been given to him by Arjia Rinpoche who lives in exile in America; the money had been raised for the sewing of tents; as of today, it has not been returned to him.
His second arrest was related to the uprisings in Labrang in March 2008. Local authorities suspected Golog Jigme to be the mastermind and main organiser behind this. On March 22, he was arrested for no reason, kept in custody for over one month, interrogated and beaten nearly to death. After more than four weeks in a military hospital where he was rescued, he was released on condition of bail and returned to the monastery.
The third arrest was related to a video made public by Voice of America in September 2008, in which Lama Jigme talks for about 20 minutes. He used his real voice and real name to tell the world about the oppression of the Tibetan people, appealing to the international community to pay attention to the human rights question in Tibet; this talk found great resonance. On November 4, over 70 military police surrounded his residence and arrested him, keeping him locked up for six whole months until he was released thanks to the intervention of the two Chinese human rights lawyers, Li Fangping and Jiang Tianyong.
The fourth arrest of Lama Jigme turned him into a hero of the Tibetan people, he was honoured as “Labrang Jigme”. “Labrang” refers to the area in which Labrang Monastery is located. He was arrested on August 20, 2011 in Linxia. Over 50 military police officers searched his residence and confiscated his computer, manuscripts and other personal things. On January 1, 2012, the Kanlho Prefecture Security Bureau signed the “arrest notification”, accusing Lama Jigme of the crime of “suspicion of instigating national separatism” and detaining him in Hezuo City’s detention house. Later he was moved to a secret prison in Lanzhou; the two lawyers that his family hired in Beijing were refused permission to see him. This fourth arrest happened over three years ago; but his family has only been allowed to visit him once.
On November 4, 2011, his elder brother, Sonam Tsering took a ride from Labrang and travelled the 80 kilometres to the Prefectural capital, Hezuo, to visit Lama Jigme and bring him some food that their mother had prepared. The whole visit was only just over 10 minutes long and, of course, Lama Jigme wanted to let his brother know about his situation and feelings, so he asked many things to the police.
He said: “My brother is coming to see me, so why are you filming and recording and interrogating a private individual? You want to publicise this material and then claim that Jigme is in a good state, well taken care off, and even allowed to meet his relatives, don’t you? I am telling you, I don’t need anyone bringing me food, I don’t need my brother to visit me, I also don’t want to live in a hotel. If you think that I am a criminal, send me to court for a trial. If I really committed a crime, well then I will gladly accept my sentence, even if it is the death sentence.”
He went on to say: “You say, I am not allowed to pray for His Holiness; but all Tibetans believe in the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. If you find a Tibetan non-believer, then he must be one of you (…) Any nationality and individual feels and retains a sense of pride when it comes to their traditions and culture, Chinese people are the same. If someone does not feel proud about one’s traditions, it means that this person is already lost. I am someone who deeply reveres Tibetan traditions, thus I am wholeheartedly determined to maintain them.”
It is reported that the first trial was held in June 2012, for which the local authorities picked two local lawyers for him. Also, it is known that Lama Jigme’s health conditions are not good and that he had been to a hospital in Lanzhou for medical treatment.
Lama Jigme has been imprisoned for over three years and his situation remains uncertain, making many Tibetans feel very worried. A Tibetan writer, under the pseudonym of “Bosai” wrote in an essay titled “Where is Akhu Jigme?” (“Akhu” means monk in Amdo Tibetan): “Where is our hero Labrang Jigme? Where do the strong shoulders of heroism flaunt themselves? Where does the thunderous voice of justice thunder? When will you, like the snowlion, emerge again from within the mountains?”
Today, it is said that Lama Jigme was sentenced to 5 years in prison, which is yet another example of an influential Tibetan monk suffering from injustice. This is like countless other cases that followed the uprising of 2008, where Tibetan elites were persecuted. However, just like any criminal case of this sort, there will be no standard legal defence supplied; the justice system as it is, will be entirely useless.