High Peaks Pure Earth has been following recent developments concerning Labrang monk Lama Jigme (also known as Labrang Jigme, Jigme Gyatso and Akhu Jigme) who was arrested for the fourth time in August 2011. Lama Jigme’s arrest was documented at the time on Tibetan blogs and also by Woeser, who has previously written about Lama Jigme many times on her blog.
Readers may remember Lama Jigme’s brave video testimony as broadcast by Voice of America in 2008. Lama Jigme’s determination to speak out and resilience in the face of multiple arrests in succession, has gained him admiration amongst Tibetans, as mentioned by Woeser in her blogpost below, and also evident in this blogpost from May 2009 by a Tibetan blogger.
The two translations were both originally posted on Woeser’s blog.
The first post, “Our Hero, Labrang Jigme, Where Are You? was written by Woeser on August 3, 2012, for the Tibetan service of Radio Free Asia and posted on her blog on August 10, 2012. Our thanks to International Campaign for Tibet for allowing us to publish their translation, part of which was previously published in their report of August 10, 2012, titled “Chinese lawyers blocked from acting for Labrang Jigme; fears for scholar monk’s health”.
Woeser’s post mentions Lama Jigme’s older brother, Sonam Tsering, and what happened when he visited Lama Jigme. The second post is the High Peaks Pure Earth full translation of the testimony given orally by Sonam Tsering as posted on Woeser’s blog on August 12, 2012.
“Our Hero, Labrang Jigme, Where Are You?
46 year-old Lama Jigme, a monk from Amdo’s Labrang Monastery, used to be the Vice Director of the Management of Labrang Monastery, but I need not introduce him any further than that. Four years ago, he appeared on Voice of America’s Tibetan TV Program; using his real face, real voice and his real name, he spoke out about the realities of the oppression that Tibetans face. Because of this, Tibetan people everywhere recognized him as a hero of their people, naming him “Labrang Jigme.”
He paid dearly to be a hero. Though, as a hero, he went into this with clear knowledge of the consequences. Over the the past 5 years, he’s been arrested 4 times: the first time was in 2006 when he travelled to India to receive the Dalai Lama’s teachings at the Kalachakra, and to receive an audience with him; the second time was in 2008 in Xiahe (Gansu Province, Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture) when he was convicted of inciting a protest by monks; and the third time happened after he released a video testimony to expose the realities of the suppression faced within the region, for which his prison term was extended by 6 months. Later, two civil rights laywers Li Fangping and Jiang Tianyong intervened to obtain his release. His fourth arrest took place on August 20 of last year, for which he is still currently in prison, even though he has been sentenced already, the prison term has yet to be determined by the courts.
According to analysis, after Lama Jigme’s fourth arrest and imprisonment, he gained tremendous popularity and respect among Tibetans, particularly for his series of personal writings. The second day after this latest arrest, more than 50 police ransacked his quarters at Labrang Monastery, seizing his computer, mobile phone, and a CD where he had saved Buddhist teachings and images of the Dalai Lama.
Since his arrest, he has been allowed to visit with family only once. It was with his older brother Sonam Tsering, who traveled 80km from Xiahe to the Prefectural Capital Tsoe to visit his younger brother and bring him their mother’s home cooking. Based on Sonam Tsering’s recollection, the entire meeting lasted slightly longer than ten or so minutes. Lama Jigme obviously wanted his brother to know his situation and his feeling; so he asked many things to the police.
He said, “Today, my older brother is coming to see me and you are playing an old trick. You want to publicise this visual material and then claim that Jigme is in a good state, that he is well taken care of 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, “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.”
He was only allowed to say a single sentence to his brother: “Go lodge an appeal for me… Find me a good lawyer and sue these policemen!”
In reality, though, only recently was Lama Jigme’s brother even able to hire just the two lawyers in Beijing. When the two lawyers travelled out to the prefecture seat Tsoe to go through the required formalities, the court informed them that Jigme’s crime was “Suspicion of Instigating Separatism,” and the hearings had already taken place six months previously having been handled by two local lawyers. Lama Jigme was sentenced immediately after the hearing. Aside from that, Lama Jigme’s health has deteriorated and a doctor in Lanzhou has begun his treatment. Since the two outside lawyers were prevented by authorities from intervening in Jigme’s case, they were forced to go back to Beijing.
So, when is Lama Jigme’s second trial going to take place? Will he be sentenced? If he is, for how long? All of these questions must be answered immediately and cannot be ignored. The only clear thing in all this is that this case has the potential to effect real change. 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 defense supplied; the justice system as it is, will be entirely useless.
Recently, a Tibetan writer from Amdo, in an essay titled “Where is Akhu Jigme?” wrote, “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?”
August 3, 2012
The Testimony of Lama Jigme’s Older Brother
I went to the local Security Bureau to request to be able to visit my younger brother, Lama Jigme, I had some food to give to him, and I was finally given permission. The person in charge of Lama Jigme’s custody was a Han Chinese and when I arrived the first time, they were having a meeting, so he asked me to come back in five days. After five days, I took the homemade food that Lama Jigme likes so much and returned to the Security Bureau. They finally let me meet my younger brother. This was on a day in November 2011, it must have been around the 4th.
Three police officers took me to a hotel to meet Lama Jigme. After entering the room I asked my brother about his health, he said that he was not in a good state. Subsequently, Lama Jigme asked the police officers a few questions: Why did you bring me here? Isn’t it just to get some food? What are you (pointing at the policemen) planning to do? And so on.
One police officer replied that the reason why they had brought him here “was just to receive food”.
Lama Jigme said: “Well, leave the food here and take my brother back.”
The police officer replied: “You should talk to your brother.”
Lama Jigme said: “I have nothing to say. If this is really just to bring me some food, then just put the food down and take him back. But if he came to visit me, why do you need to film and take photos of a private meeting? Yesterday, I said that I was not feeling well, so you invited a doctor to see me. You videotaped and photographed the whole examination process. But in the end, I did not even receive a single drop of medicine at all.”
Lama Jigme continued: “Today, my older brother is coming to see me and you are playing an old trick. You want to publicise this visual material and then claim that Jigme is in a good state, that he is well taken care of 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. If I then had the privilege to receive my brother’s visit, even taste a bit of delicious homemade food, and even stay in a hotel, well then you would not have to worry about me, it would relieve you from the burden of having to keep me in custody. It has already been two months and 15 days and you have not obtained any accusations against me. I do not want to stay in your hotel even one minute longer. You have already taken all files and computer hard drives from my home. You know what I have written, what I have read. You know my entire communication records.
“You say that I am always out and about and that I meet with all sorts of different people. You are right, but no one has ever said that this wasn’t allowed. I went to Chengdu and Xining and met many experienced people, including many artists. I talked to them about the importance of promoting Tibetan Buddhism, culture, language and traditions. But the problem is that if a singer uses words in his lyrics that are related to sun (the Chinese officials believe that “sun” refers to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama), moon, stars, the Snow Mountain, Gangchenpa (which means the son of the Snow Mountain, referring to the Tibetan people) or words related to unity etc, you will arrest him or her immediately. What regulations in your constitution disallow the usage of these words?
“You say that we are not allowed to pray to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, but there are no Tibetans that don’t have faith in the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama. If you find a Tibetan who does not have faith in the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama, he must be the same as you, a blind follower of the CCP. There is a policeman here who is also a Tibetan, he is in charge of an office. But he is just a subservient dog following the Party. He is totally ignorant when it comes to Tibetan religion and doesn’t know the slightest bit about Tibetan culture and language. Yet, at the same time he still says that we are all Tibetans, I really need to ask him how he would explain this.
“If you still want me to talk to my brother, well then I want to tell my brother to help me to appeal”. Lama Jigme turned his head towards me and said, “Go lodge an appeal for me… Find me a good lawyer and sue these policemen! When the police from Gansu Province came here, I already very clearly raised the same points. I am a victim. But you don’t need to suffer from the same persecution (as I have).”
Then he turned back to the police and said: “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.”
“The police told me that I was not allowed to meet foreigners, so I never met any. The police told me that I was not allowed to meet with the well-known writers Woeser and Wang Lixiong who live in Beijing, so I never met them. I followed the orders that the police had given me, I never went to any place that was on your list of places that I should not go to, I never met anyone who you did not want me to meet. Why are you spending so much money on me? Why do you spend so much money to let me live in a hotel and have 4 to 5 people watching me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? Why are you wasting this money on me? Don’t tell me that this is considered by the CCP government as fair behaviour?”
As I stood next to and heard my younger brother saying these things, I felt like crying but had no tears. Every single time that I had gone to the Security Bureau I had told the police my opinion and asked them to tell me what crimes my brother had committed. They never gave a me an explicit response. My brother is innocent, I told the police to let him go immediately. I said that I would bring this case to the county level, prefectural level, provincial level, yes even to the attention of the central government. You can’t just imprison a person for no reason for over 70 days. My brother has already been arrested 4 times. Every time, he would disappear without a word or trace and then after a while he would be let go without any charges.
When we met, Lama Jigme expressed his opinions very clearly. And this had made those police officers really angry, they told me to take the food back. A few people escorted me out of the hotel.