Profile: Nun receives 12 years solely for her expression of beliefs

Tibet continues to face the ruthless crackdown by the Chinese Government on any pro-independence activist. Because Tibetan politics is so closely linked with Tibetan religion, the focus of the harsh Chinese crackdown falls primarily on the nuns and monks. Gyaltsen Dolkar is one such example. She received an eight-year increase in her prison term for recording songs and messages to families and friends. In one of her messages, she said: “All of you outside who have done all that you can for us in prison, we are deeply grateful to you and will never forget you”.

Gyaltsen Dolkar (lay name Dawa) is a 26-year-old Garu nun from Medro Ruthog in Medro Gonkar County under Lhasa City. She has an older brother and sister. Her sister is also a nun. Her brother escaped to India from Tibet in 1992. He is currently residing in Ganden Monastery in South India. Gyaltsen is the youngest in her pure nomadic family.

On 21 August 1990, Gyaltsen Dolkar, with 12 other nuns from Garu and Michungri nunneries, went to Norbulingka (Summer Palace of the Dalai Lama) in Lhasa, Tibet, to watch an Opera Dance. This Opera, being one of the most festive events of the year, draws a big crowd of locals and foreigners.They felt that this was a great opportunity to raise their voice against the illegitimate occupation of Tibet by the Chinese. The nuns had everything preplanned to launch a peaceful pro-independence demonstration on this occasion.

Some time around noon, they started the protest by shouting slogans like, “Free Tibet” and “Chinese quit Tibet”. They were immediately arrested and taken away by men of the Lhasa City PSB (Public Security Bureau). Gyaltsen was only 19 years old then. According to the sentence paper issued on 30 November 1990, she was sentenced to 4 years in prison and deprived of political rights for 1 year. She was charged with “counter-revolutionary” activities along with all the other 12 nuns. While serving her four year prison term in Drapchi in Lhasa, she and 13 other nuns recorded pro-independence songs and messages to their families on a crude tape recorder. This tape was widely distributed in Tibet. The nuns were again charged with “spreading counter-revolutionary propaganda” and given additional eight year Her behaviour is reported to have drastically changed ever since her arrest. Formerly, a very simple and shy nun, she hardly socialised with other nuns in the nunnery. Now in prison, she is reported to be outwardly brash and intrepid. Letters received from Tibet contain facts about her being put under strict observance by prison authorities.

Today, Gyaltsen is still in Drapchi Prison. Her former prison mates who are now in exile express their concern over her poor health which is continuously deteriorating. Undoubtedly, she was subjected to various torture methods and beatings at the hands of the Chinese authorities while in prison. Gyaltsen’s father visited her twice when she was in prison. However, her mother could not visit her at all, not even once.

Both her parents passed away in 1993, possibly due to their trauma over her increased prison sentence. Her father died just three days after the death of her mother. With no family members to visit her, her only visitors are her fellow nuns from the nunnery. Gyaltsen Dolkar will have spent 12 years of her life behind bars by the time she is released at he age of 31.

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