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Ten Deaths Following Drapchi Prison Riots

August 11, 1998

Recent reports indicate at least ten deaths at Drapchi prison in Lhasa following protests within the prison on May 1 and 4, 1998. Two prisoners were shot dead, and a further five nuns and three monks also died, according to unofficial reports. Five of the deaths occurred on June 7, 1998. Other political prisoners have been severely beaten, interrogated and placed in solitary confinement. It is believed that prisoners may still be at risk from beatings, torture and ill-treatment during interrogations concerning the protests.

One of the prisoners being held in solitary confinement is Ngawang Sangdrol, a nun imprisoned since the age of 15 and currently serving an 18 year sentence for her political activity. She is reportedly being subjected to harsh interrogation involving ill-treatment according to an Amnesty International Urgent Action issued July 24, 1998. Ngawang Sangdrol was profiled as a human rights defender by Body Shop Canada in its recent cross-Canada campaign to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Drapchi prison protests are believed to have been motivated by the visit to the prison of a group of European Union Troika ambassadors. The protests began at a Chinese flag raising ceremony on May 1. 150 prisoners were reported to have demonstated in response to the raising of Chinese flags around the prison. The Troika Ambassadors' report claims that there was no evidence of the protests when they visited Drapchi prison on 4 May.

Similarly, a Canadian Embassy delegation visited Drapchi prison in May 1997 and reported that there was "no reason to judge the facility negatively", according to the visit report obtained by the Canada Tibet Committee through the Access to Information Act.

Nevertheless, reports indicate the following prisoners have died following the recent riots:

* Lobsang Gelek, a monk aged 24 died after being shot during the May protests. Gelek was from Khangmar monastery, Damshung county, Lhasa prefecture and was arrested in April 1995 for shouting pro-independence slogans. * Karma Dawa, a layperson and criminal prisoner died after May 1 protest; one report indicates that he was shot during the protest, another suggests he was executed two weeks later. He is attributed with starting the protests when he shouted slogans in support of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan independence. * Ngawang Tenkyong, a monk aged 28 died as a result of severe beatings on 5 May. From Meldrogongkar, near Lhasa, Tenkyong was serving ten years for taking part in a pro-independence demonstration in May 1996. * Khedrub, a monk aged 26 died after being beaten following Drapchi protest. He is reported to have been transferred to Sangyip for solitary confinement shortly before his death. Khedrub was from Meldrogongkar, near Lhasa and was arrested in March 1994 and later sentenced to five years. * Lobsang Wangmo, a nun (unknown age) died after beatings following May protests. She is believed to be from Phenpo in Lhundrup county.

Four nuns and one monk died on the same day, 7 June:

* Choekyi Wangmo, a nun aged 24 from Shar Bumpa nunnery in Phenpo and serving five years following arrest in June 1994 for shouting pro-independence slogans. Previously reported to have been tortured. * Tashi Lhamo, a nun aged 24. From Nyemo county. * Deckyi Yangzom, a nun aged 21. From Nyemo county. * Khedron Yonten, a nun (unknown age). From Nyemo county. * Ngawang Tenzin, a monk (unknown age). From Nalanda monastery.

Prisoners beaten and held in solitary confinement:

Political prisoners who were beaten and who are now held in solitary confinement include the Ngawang Sangdrol (age 24), Ngawang Choezom (26) and Ngawang Tenzin (30) and teacher Tanak Jigme Zangpo (71) who were severely beaten after the protests, interrogated and put into solitary confinement. Drepung monk Ngawang Sungrab (32) is believed to have been singled out during the demonstrations which led to him being severely beaten. Layman Gyaltsen Choephel (29), was severely injured after challenging the claims that four nuns committed suicide. Ngawang Sungrab and Gyaltsen Choephel along with other injured inmates are either being held in Sera military hospital or in solitary confinement.

It should be noted that these reports are not necessarily complete. It is believed there may have been further deaths and injuries, the numbers of which may be significantly greater than so far reported. It is also believed that reprisals against protestors are continuing.

To learn more or for letter-writing information, please contact:

Thubten Samdup CTC Montreal Tel: (514) 487-0665 E-mail:

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