Young Tibetan nuns break silence on human rights abuses

Wednesday, 6 March 2002

Young Tibetan Nuns break silence on human rights abuses in notorious Tibetan Prison for first UK visit (7 - 24 March 2002)
Freedom March and Film Festival to commemorate Tibetan National Uprising of 1959 against the Chinese occupation Two brave Tibetan nuns, Chuye Kunsang and Passang Lhamo, arrive in the UK tomorrow for the first time to tell of their experiences in Tibet's notorious Drapchi prison as political prisoners. Chuye and Passang escaped to India from Tibet following their release from prison, as they and their families continued to face daily harassment. At the start of their visit they will lead a Freedom March through central London (9 March) to commemorate the anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising of 1959 against Chinese rule. They will present a letter to 10 Downing Street and address a rally after the march in Whitehall Place. The following day (10 March) Chuye and Passang will speak at a screening of the remarkable film Windhorse, which chronicles events very similar to those they themselves experienced.

9 March: Freedom March and rally to mark the 1959 Uprising in Tibet. Departs 11.30 from Chinese Embassy, 49 Ð 51 Portland Place, to Whitehall Place for speeches at 1pm.

10 March: Film Festival, Riverside Studios W6. Tickets £10/£9 conc. 2pm Windhorse (1998, Director: Paul Wanger, cert 12 subtitled) 3.40pm Panel discussion with Chuye and Passang. 4.45pm The Cup (1999, Director: Khyentse Norbu, cert PG, subtitled).

Chuye and Passang were jailed for shouting pro-independence slogans in the main square of the capital Lhasa, and suffered torture and ill-treatment whilst in Drapchi prison. Passang served over five years in Drapchi prison and Chuye served four years. Chuye was warned never to talk of her experiences once she was released by prison officials: "you are not allowed to say a single word about what happened in prison. Your prison term has expired but your political rights are suspended. If you talk about what happened in prison we will give you a sentence twice as long as your last one." Both women were in prison with nun Ngawang Sangdrol, 25, a pro-independence demonstrator now serving a 21 year sentence in Drapchi prison- the longest jail term of any female political prisoner in Tibet. Originally sentenced to three years, her sentence has been extended three times for continuing to protest inside the jail. Chuye and PassangÕs testimonies include first hand information about Ngawang Sangdrol and the suspicious deaths of five other nuns in the aftermath of a protest inside Drapchi prison in 1998 when the jail was visited by 3 EU Ambassadors.

The visit comes just before the European Union is due to decide (11 March) what position it will adopt on a possible Tibet or China resolution at the United Nations Commission for Human Rights (UNCHR). China has continued with great success to blackmail and threaten members states not to table a resolution, with the effect of eroding the objectivity and integrity of the Commission. Chuye and Passang will visit UNCHR in March.

To arrange an interview with Chuye and Passang, please call Anne Callaghan of Free Tibet Campaign, 0207 833 9958, mobile 07796 012533 to arrange a time. Please note that although the nuns speak very little English, a translator will be on hand. Their visit is hosted by Free Tibet Campaign and Amnesty International.

Notes to Editor:

Itinerary

8 March AIUK Youth Conference

9 March Freedom March and rally to mark the 1959 Uprising in Tibet. Departs 11.30 from Chinese Embassy, 49 Ð 51 Portland Place, to Whitehall Place for speeches at 1pm.

10 March: Film Festival, Riverside Studios W6. From 2pm. Tickets £10/£9 conc. Features Windhorse and The Cup , followed by a panel discussion with Chuye and Passang.

12 March Free Tibet Campaign Public talk in Edinburgh from 7pm St George's West Church, Centre Cafe, 58 Shandwick St

13 -14 March AIUK local talks in Perth, Dumbarton and Moray.

16 March Free Tibet Campaign Public Talk in Bristol, 2.30pm Venue: Friends Meeting House, River St, Bristol

17 March Free Tibet Campaign film festival at the Rio Cinema, Dalston from 2pm Features Escape from Tibet and Himalaya with a panel discussion with two former Tibetan refugees featured in Escape from Tibet Tickets cost: £6.50/£5 conc

18 March Free Tibet Campaign Public Talk in Cardiff 6.30pm Venue: St German's Hall, Star St.

20 March Free Tibet Campaign in Manchester 7pm Venue: Friends Meeting House, Mount St.

23 March Free Tibet Campaign public conference 9.30am - 6pm "China's New Occupation of Tibet", Venue: main building, School of Oriental & African Studies, Thornhaugh St (nearest tube: Russell Square)

For more background information on Tibet's notorious Drapchi prison, please refer to Rukhag 3: The Nuns of Drapchi Prison, Tibet Information Network, 2000 (www.tibetinfo.net)

Chuye Kunsang was just 21 years old when she was imprisoned following shouting slogans in the main square in Tibet's capital of Lhasa in February 1995. Passang Lhamo was even younger at age 19 when in May 1994 she too shouted out slogans. Political prisoners in Drapchi prison in Lhasa face particular hardships and run a far greater risk of torture and ill-treatment that any other prison in Tibet as recorded in the above document.