Tibetan political prisoner Ngawang Gyaltsen released

Ngawang Gyaltsen
Ngawang Gyaltsen
Ngawang Gyaltsen
26th June 2019

Tibet Watch confirmed that Ngawang Gyaltsen was freed in March

We have received confirmation that Ngawang Gyaltsen, a Tibetan political prisoner, was released from prison earlier this year after completing his prison sentence.

Free Tibet’s research partner, Tibet Watch, has been able to confirm that he was released from prison on 7 March.

Prior to his arrest, Ngawang Gyaltsen had been a monk at Shag Rongpo Gaden Dargyaling Monastery in Nagchu County, where he enrolled as a child. There he was a well-known artist who studied thangka painting and was proficient at ritual dance.

The reason for Ngawang Gyaltsen’s arrest can be traced back to an incident on 20 May 2010, in which he argued several times with the Chinese government officials who were based at the monastery. The officials had imposed a re-education campaign on the resident monks, part of which required them to denounce the Dalai Lama and other senior lamas.

Due to Ngawang Gyaltsen’s opposition to the campaign, the officials began to harass him and keep him under heavy surveillance, leading him and several other monks to leave the monastery.

Even after his departure, authorities continued to harass him. He was prevented from travelling or meeting with friends and family without government authorisation.

Ngawang Gyaltsen was arrested on 24 February 2015 in Nagchu County. No information was given about his condition or whereabouts, but it later transpired that he had been taken to Nagchu Town.

No information about a trial or sentence was made available at the time, but we now know that he was later taken to Drapchi Prison in Lhasa, the main place of imprisonment for political prisoners in the Tibet Autonomous Region. There he served a three-year sentence. During his time in prison, his father passed away.

Release and freedom

Free Tibet campaigned for Ngawang Gyaltsen's release from prison, making him part of its Robed Resisters campaign. The campaign ran between 2015 and 2017 and highlighted the role that Tibetan monks and nuns play in resisting Chinese rule and human rights abuses, and the risks that they face by carrying out acts of resistance.

Following the completion of his sentence in March, he was secretly released with authorities providing no information in advance to his family. Upon learning of his release, Ngawang Gyaltsen’s relatives and residents of his native Tarchen Township in Nagchu County visited him, welcoming him home with greetings of Tibetan scarves.

There is currently no further information about Ngawang Gyaltsen’s health condition or the conditions and treatment he was subjected to in prison. 

The area governed as the Tibet Autonomous Region is particularly tightly restricted, with mobile phones monitored and anyone found to have transmitted information that authorities wish to keep secret likely to face harsh consequences. For these reasons, information from this area can take weeks or months to reach the outside world.

Information supplied by Tibet Watch.

Take action

In late April, Wangchen, a 20 year old from eastern Tibet, gathered with friends to commemorate the Panchen Lama’s 30th birthday. The group called for the release of the Panchen Lama, who was detained as a boy in 1995 and has been missing ever since. They also called for the Panchen Lama and the exiled Dalai Lama to one day be reunited in Tibet. For this peaceful act, Wangchen was arrested. When his aunt, Dolkar, shared the news of Wangchen’s arrest, she too was charged.