Chimney torture for monk activist

Lobsang Dhargay spent two and a half years in prison where he was subjected to daily abuse. The worst torture he suffered was being handcuffed for a whole day to a blazing hot chimney, left to burn and blister without food or water.

Lobsang Dhargay, aged 31, is from the Golok county of Amdo (Ch: Qinghai) province. He came from a nomadic family of the Chuva village near Ragya Monastery and joined the monastery in 1989 aged 19.
The enthronement ceremony of the sixth reincarnation of the Shingsa Rinpoche Tenzin Choekey Gyaltsen (head of the monastery) was held on 15 November 1992. Thousands gathered to commemorate the auspicious day. During the ceremony, Lobsang and his friends, Lobsang Palden and Yeshi Gyaltsen, both 30 years old, and Ngawang Phuntsok, 25 years old, distributed leaflets reading “Free Tibet” and “Chinese Quit Tibet”.

At the same time they distributed printed paper copies of the Tibetan national flag and hoisted a flag stitched from cloth on the top of the monastery. Lobsang reported that they had secretly printed more than 40,000 copies of the leaflet on wooden block in the monastery.

The next dawn PSB and People’s Armed Police officials came to the monastery. When they saw the forbidden flag they immediately took it down and collected all of the leaflets from the people. They then began arresting monks from the monastery. By 25 November 1992, a total of 20 had been arrested. While in detention, the monks were severely beaten while being interrogated as to the names of those who had initiated the movement. An announcement was made, offering 300 yuan as a reward to anyone who provided information about the main “culprits”. After 10 days of intense interrogation, the Chinese authorities were finally given the name and picture of Lobsang Dhargay.

On the night of 25 November 1992, Lobsang Dhargay was arrested while hiding out in Gyugo township and taken back to the monastery. He was shocked when he saw his picture in the hands of police but refused to acknowledge the pictured monk.

After he ignored all of their questions, the police dragged Lobsang to his room. There, from under a wooden box, they took out the wooden block carved with the forbidden leaflet. Eight armed police then handcuffed Lobsang and took him to the van. On the way he was able to leave a hurried message with two monks for his two friends to escape before the Chinese authorities discovered them.

Lobsang Dhargay was detained in Golok prison, Golok county’s largest prison, for one year without trial. Every day in prison he was interrogated and every day the interrogations were accompanied by torture: he was beaten with sticks, kicked, punched, and shocked all over the body with an electric cattle prod. Despite this daily abuse, Lobsang Dhargay described such methods as the more lenient punishments. The worst torture he endured while in Golok Prison was when he was handcuffed with his arms around a hot chimney and left there for a whole day without food or water. The scorching heat of the chimney resulted in blisters all over his body. Lobsang said that there was water running from the blisters and that his wounds were stinging painfully from heavy perspiration. At night, when the prison guard finally came to release his cuffs, his boots were completely filled with water from the sweat of his body.

When Lobsang Dhargay continued his refusal to “confess”, the authorities charged him with “spreading counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement”. He was sentenced to five years imprisonment, but was released early on 25 May 1995.

It was only afterwards that Lobsang came to know the reason for his early release. His relatives had given goods worth 50,000 Chinese yuan (around US$ 6150) to the prison guards including yak, sheep and a large amount of Cordyheps Sinensis (Tibetan medical plant). After his release Lobsang Dhargay was taken to stay in the Gyugo township (70 km from Ragya) where he could be kept under vigilance On 2 April 1997 Lobsang Dhargay escaped with Shingsa Rinpoche. He had to pay 8000 yuan to Chinese police at Nagchu, just before the Nepalese border, and another 10,000 yuan to cross the border into Nepal. On 28 April 1997 he reached Dharamsala.

His friends, Yeshi Gyaltsen and Lobsang Palden, fled the monastery the night of 25 November 1992 having received Lobsang’s warning and now study in Sera Monastery in south India. Ragya Monastery is regarded as the “problematic monastery” in the Chinese Qinghai Region because of its independence activities. Chinese authorities have established a special PSB branch to keep a watch on the monastery. Visiting scholars are forbidden and students are restricted from pursuing further studies outside Ragya.

Updated Gaden arrest list:

On 9 May 1996, 17 monks were arrested and on 30 August three more monks were arrested. In total, 62 monks and one layman were arrested. Of these, eight monks were released in the first week of July and are now again in Gaden Monastery. The 23 monks who were released from the prison on 30 August were subsequently expelled from the monastery

There are reportedly 32 monks still in prison, as listed below. The sources are not able to remember all names and thus this list is incomplete.

Name Age Place of Origin Term
Date Imprisoned
Yeshi Rabgyal (Bhadgro) 28 Medro Gyama 15 7 / 5 / 1996
Jampa Lodroe (Potoe) 22 Drigung 15 7 / 5 / 1996
Jampa Tenkyopng 23 Drigung 15 9 / 5 / 1996
(Passang Tsering) 37 yalding 12 7 / 5 / 1996
Tenzin Gelek (Penpa) 23 Tsawa 12 9 / 5 / 1996
(Yonten Gyalpo) 27 Meldro Gyama 12 9 / 5 / 1996
Lobsang Dawa 28 Phenpo 12 7 / 5 / 1996
(Konchok Dhondup) 24 Dhada 12 9 / 5 / 1996
(Khedrupa) 25 Lubumkhang 12 7 / 5 / 1996
(Atsak) 29 Lhoka 10 7 / 5 / 1996
(Takchoe) 39 Meldro Gyama 2 7 / 5 / 1996
Gyatso Rinchen Bhakdroe 19 Meldro Gyama 2 7 / 5 / 1996
(Phurbu Tsering) Yeshi Samten 21 Kyegu 2 7 / 5 / 1996
(Tenzin Yeshi) 20 Tsawa 2 7 / 5 / 1996
Sangye 24 Khampa 2 7 / 5 / 1996
Tashi Dorjee 35 Jhekha 1 9 / 5 / 1996
(Lobsang Wangchuk) 23 Drigung 10 9 / 5 / 1996
(Jampa Thaye) 21 Kham 5 9 / 5 / 1996
(Sonam Tsering) 22 Kong 5 7 / 5 / 1996
(Phuntsok Dhondup) 26 Dhrushi 10 7 / 5 / 1996
Choesum Gyaltsen 25 Taktse 3 30 / 8 / 1996
(Penpa) N/A Bongtoe 3 30 / 8 / 1996
Tsultrim Gyaltsen 27 Thargey 3 30 / 8 / 1996
Tasang 21 Drigung 10 7 / 5 / 1996
(Sonam Tenpa) 26 Lubum 2 7 / 5 / 1996
Key note: The name in brackets represents the monk’s layname.
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