The video testimonies from Tibet of Jigme, a monk from Labrang Monastery, were first broadcast by Voice of America’s Tibetan Service on 3rd September 2008. Following the broadcast, Jigme went into hiding and has not been heard of since. Jigme’s story was reported in English media by Associated Press on September 14th 2008. The original broadcast was in Tibetan so for the benefit of those of you who can’t understand Amdo dialect, here is an English translation courtesy of Voice of America.
Venerable Jigme, a monk from Labrang Monastery in Amdo (Ch: Gansu Province) speaks about his experience following the widespread protests that erupted throughout the Tibetan areas of China in March/April 2008
This translation of the 20 minute statement is accurate in content but is not a direct translation of every single phrase, word, and figure of speech. References to the identity of Chinese security and detention apparatuses are translated from colloquial Tibetan and may not be technically accurate.
This year, on the 15th day of the second Tibetan month (March 22, 2008), after an assembly was over at the monastery, I went to the market. There I sat at the side of a taxi-stand and got a shoe repaired. As I was returning to the monastery, I received a call on my mobile phone. I looked at the phone, but there was no number visible. Suddenly a white vehicle appeared, and stopped in front of me. Four soldiers arrested me and dragged me into the vehicle. When I looked back, I saw a nun. I shouted “Ani! Ani! [nun, nun!] several times and made sure she saw me getting arrested. Once in the vehicle, they covered my head with a black cloth and handcuffed me. Then with guns pointed at my head, and my body pressed down, they took me to the armed police guest house.
The guest house is at the back of the local police station. There they removed the cloth covering my head but kept the handcuffs on. Afterwards, they searched my body and took my phone, wallet and everything. I was put on a chair with my hands tied at the back. A young soldier pointed an automatic rifle at me and said in Chinese, “This is made to kill you, Ahlos (derogatory term used for Tibetans by some Chinese). You make one move, and I will definitely shoot and kill you with this gun. I will throw your corpse in the trash and nobody will ever know.” When I heard this, I was not terrified by the gun pointed at my head but by the thought that this man is not only a soldier or security personnel, but also a law enforcement officer, and here he is pointing a gun at an ordinary citizen and uttering such words [it made me very sad .] as if my heart was shattered in two.
This is the case of a powerful nationality harassing and oppressing a small nationality, a big nation making weapons to kill a small nationality; if they are doing such things at the lower levels, it goes without saying that they are doing worse things to us at higher levels. The way they oppress and murder Tibetans, and can utter such words while aiming guns [at us], stunned me. By telling us that Tibetans could be killed and our dead bodies dumped in the trash and that nobody would know – we are not even treated like dogs and pigs. If other people’s dogs and pigs are killed, there will be somebody to claim them. Then why won’t Tibetans be claimed after death? We are ordered not to claim our fellow Tibetans bodies even after death. At that time, I realized that there is no racial equality.
During the detention, some of the many questions they asked me were, “Did the Dalai Lama instigate you? Did the Dalai Lama ask you to carry out this looting, burning and destruction?”. “How do you view the Dalai Lama? ” As for me, I am a follower of Buddhism. The Dalai Lama is like my life, heart and soul. In that I am not alone. For all the six million Tibetans, the Dalai Lama is their spiritual refuge in this life as well as the next. The Dalai Lama is widely respected for his tremendous efforts made towards world peace. He is the champion of world peace. He has established a path of non-violence. I totally reject their accusation that the Dalai Lama has master-minded acts of looting, burning and destruction. The Dalai Lama can never encourage such things. Even an ordinary monk like myself cannot urge anybody to burn, loot and destroy.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama is like the soul of the six million Tibetans. There is no way we can be parted from Him. As a Tibetan monk, historically, we have a teacher-disciple relationship. We must maintain this relationship. We have unwavering faith in the Dalai Lama. This was what I replied to the question of how I view the Dalai Lama.
After keeping us at the detention center for a few days, they took us to the jail. At the prison, the soldiers commanding us in Chinese one, two, three, as some of us could not understand Chinese, they scolded us – they would call us animals’, fools, and beat us with batons. When we asked why they are beating us, they reply, you people cannot understand Chinese language and mock us. My question is: In the Charter and Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, it is enshrined that, in the regional areas of different nationalities, the language of that particular nationality is to be used and that the regional nationality must be given the right to govern. Then why is that, in the Tibetan areas, instead of using Tibetan language, Tibetans are not only verbally abused as “animals” and “fools” but are physically beaten just because he does not understand the Chinese language?
There is no differentiation on the basis of one’s actions or age. For instance, monks as young as fourteen and fifteen and as old as sixty and seventy year old were arrested. No difference is made whether they are involved in protests or not. We had no clothes on our backs nor shoes on our feet. Two monks would be tied together and put in the vehicle to be driven away. They are thrown in the vehicle like you would throw logs of wood. Even if some of them had their heads injured, and for some, their hands broken, they were all taken to the prison. Relatives or friends were not allowed to bring food, clothing or beddings. We had to huddle together to bear the cold. The reason why we were so severely beaten is solely because we are Tibetans. For that we feel extremely sad.
We were taken to a prison in Kachu [Linxia in Chinese]. All the prisoners there were Chinese and [Hui] Muslim Chinese. We were the only Tibetan prisoners. Everyday, with bare feet, we had to remove urine and excrement, and wash the floors. At the prison, we were forced to take off our monks robes and put on a laypersons clothing. I am a Buddhist monk and it is humiliating to disrobe and put on a layman’s clothes, and to be handcuffed and taken away, barefoot, in a vehicle. In the prison, the conditions were very poor – there was not enough to eat or drink and nothing to wear. There wasn’t even a towel to clean the face.
I was kept there for one month during which time I was handcuffed in one position for many days and nights. During interrogations, I was accused of having contacts outside: with the Dalai Lama, Samdhong Rinpoche, and Ajia Rinpoche, and that I have to acknowledge that I have these outside contacts. Likewise, I was told that I have contacts inside with scholars and teachers. “You have been involved in activities and have led organizations. You have made calls to many outside provinces. What have you achieved from those? Where did you print the Tibetan flags? How many flags did you print? How many members are there in your group?” and “You have no choice but to accept these crimes”. They would hang me up for several hours with my hands tied to a rope .. hanging from the ceiling and my feet above the ground. Then they would beat me on my face, chest, and back, with the full force of their fists. Finally, on one occasion, I had lost consciousness and was taken to a hospital. After I regained consciousness at the hospital, I was once again taken back to prison where they continued the practice of hanging me from the ceiling and beating me. As a result, I again lost conscious and then taken to the hospital a second time. Once I was beaten continuously for two days with nothing to eat nor a drop of water to drink. I suffered from pains on my abdomen and chest. The second time, I was unconscious for six days at the hospital, unable to open my eyes or speak a word.
In the end, when I was on the verge of dying, they handed me over to my family. At my release, my captors lied to the provincial authorities by telling them that that they had not beaten me. Also, they lied to my family members by telling them that they had not beaten me; they also made me put down my thumbprint (as a signature) on a document that said that I was not tortured. I had to stay for about twenty days at a hospital and spent twenty thousand Chinese yuan to get treatment.
On my return to the monastery, friends told me that 180 monks had been arrested. The monks had done nothing wrong. Our senior monk and the official lama (teacher) too were arrested. They were made to stand on the tip of their toes at night, and were beaten with the butts of guns on their back. The Chinese took pictures with their mobile phones as they were beating the monks on their necks.
I also found out that during the police and soldiers raiding the monastery, they stole religious statues, money, personal belongings and even foodstuff from the monastery and monks’ private residences. It is apparent that the real looters and murderers are these soldiers of Chinese Communist Party. They engage in illegal acts and we are the ones who are arrested, beaten and tortured and killed.
Also, we are accused of aligning with the Dalai clique and instigating riots among the public. If there is real racial equality, freedom of expression and freedom of religion, then why are we not allowed to respect the figure for whom we have faith in our heart of hearts? Right in front of our eyes, they stamp with their feet on the picture of the Precious One [the Dalai Lama], break the picture frames with butts of guns, shred the pictures into pieces and burn them in the fire. We, being Tibetans and Buddhists, when we see the picture of our object of refuge being trodden under foot, and torn into pieces, we view these as irreparable acts. When Tibetans break a few windowpanes, they say that such acts caused hundreds of millions of Yuan worth of damage. How do you measure the damage caused to our hearts by seeing our most revered One’s picture trampled under foot? The Chinese leadership says that the goal is to achieve a harmonious society, but at the same time continue to vilify the Dalai Lama, a figure that all Tibetans respect and honor as their spiritual head ..how can we begin to feel harmony when our values are denigrated and trodden on.
Monks are being beaten off and on all during this period. Not only that, monks who spoke to some reporters were beaten with batons and had their legs broken; on some, they used electric batons on their heads and in their mouths – the electric baton affected their brains and some have become disabled sort of insane. We endured such torture. Now our main hope is that the international media and the United Nations’ investigators come to Tibet and check on the real situation and then report on it after they assess their findings. This is our main hope.
The Chinese are telling us that Tibetans have done illegal things and are arresting and beating us, and even killing many people. Many people have fled to the mountains and dare not return to their homes and families. It will help if the world media see these things and report about them.
The Dalai Lama did not instigate us to do anything. His Holiness did not tell us to fight for independence. His Holiness never said anything of this sort. Many of us support the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way approach and the process of solving Tibet’s issue through peaceful dialogue. But we are sad about being extremely oppressed today. Today, I, as a witness to truth, am telling through the media, the story of Tibetans killed, undergoing torture in prisons, and about the countless who have been forced to flee to the mountains and are too afraid to return to their homes, so that the media can truthfully report on these situations. This is my hope.
Officers from the security office and secret service as well as work teams have visited my room in the monastery, and are keeping close watch on me. Even now here is one man purposely watching me. I am not allowed to go out, nor am I allowed to make phone calls. I have a thick copy of the Chinese Constitution to study; I am ordered to write a confession. While I am not physically in a prison, I have no freedom whatsoever.
These days there are a series of actions against us, not just in Labrang, not just in Amdo, but in Kham and central Tibet too. Many Tibetans are being killed, many oppressed and arrested. We heard that more than 200 Tibetans were killed and several thousand arrested. Still the beatings and arrests have not stopped. For us, access to news is blocked; we are not allowed to watch news or put up a satellite dish nor are we allowed to listen or watch news from the United States and other foreign countries. We are ordered to watch and listen to domestic broadcasts. We are told not to listen to foreigners nor to talk to them. As such, where is the freedom of expression? Where is the freedom of religion?
Tibetan people are undergoing all kinds of suffering. For me personally, I am a Buddhist monk at Labrang monastery. I was one of those arrested this year. I said this to the face of my captors: if you kill me, then that will be the end of it. But if I am able to go outside and get the opportunity, I will talk about the torture I went through; I will tell the people of the world as a truthful witness, about the sufferings undergone by friends and report these to the media.
Even when I was released, I was told not to tell that I was beaten; I was warned not to contact anyone outside. But I cannot just keep quiet about the tortures I went through, nor the suffering borne by friends. This is also my reason for telling you this today. Still there is a harsh crackdown taking place in Tibetan areas and restrictions on the movement of Tibetans.
These days, the authorities tell us to support the Olympic Games, but Tibetans around here are not even allowed to travel to Lanzhou, let alone go to Beijing to watch and support the games. We are not even allowed to go outside our own areas. Because of the Olympics, even all traditional festivals, celebrations and religious rituals have been banned.
There is a military presence everywhere. In the barn belonging to our monastery, they have made effigies out of straw and dressed them in Tibetan robes. The Chinese soldiers use them for doing bayonet practice. It seems that their enemy are the Tibetan people and the robe-wearing monks. Not all arrested Tibetans were involved in protests. Why are they stabbing their bayonets on the effigy with Tibetan dress as their military exercise? It is not just monks who are suffering as a result of the Chinese viewing Tibetans as their enemy ..even Tibetan staff members, students and the ordinary Tibetans . all are suffering. This big government, big country, and big nationality is using weapons, tanks and cannons on a small, humble people such as the Tibetans. Thousands of soldiers are surrounding us. Kill the Tibetans who are disobedient, they order.
In this 21st century, the people of the world are walking on the path to world peace. The peace-loving people and the supporters of truth should expose China for blocking the media and restricting reporters from seeing what is going on inside Tibet. I would like the worlds press, the United Nations and human rights organizations to pay attention and find a solution to the current dire situation for the Tibetan people. You can pressure China to conduct meaningful dialogue with the Dalai Lama’s representatives for a mutually beneficial solution to the Tibet-China issue. It is the hope and wish of the Tibetans inside Tibet to invite the Dalai Lama to Tibet. The Chinese Communist Party has stated that stability and unity are important goals for the nation. Now if both the Dalai Lama and the CCP work together to solve the Tibet-China issue through dialogue for the mutual benefit of both the Chinese and Tibetans, there is no reason why genuine and long lasting peace, stability and unity cannot be achieved.