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Chi Jie: Death of Tibetan Activist in Jail Confirmed After Six Years

The authorities have now admitted that he died in jail of “old age”—or was he tortured to death?

by Lopsang Gurung

July 15, 2022

Smuggled images of the 2013 confrontation between police and protesters near Mengqing village. From Twitter.

As reported to Bitter Winter, authorities in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) have now admitted that Chi Jie, a well-known Tibetan activist from Mengqing village, in Biru county, under the administration of the prefecture-level city of Nagku, in the northern part of TAR, died in jail in 2016, allegedly “of old age.” This confirms previous unofficial reports that he had been tortured to death in the same year 2016.

The story of Chi Jie is strictly connected with the 2013 demonstrations in Tibet against the forced “re-education” courses thousands of Tibetan Buddhists were ordered to submit to. Buddhists were also upset that prayer flags had been removed, and mandatory Chinese flags were placed on the roofs of each home.

Biru county became an epicenter of the protest, and hundreds were arrested. The local Zhongshan monastery was closed, and the abbot and seven monks were arrested. This generated further protest.

Although several other Biru county protesters were sentenced, typically to jail terms of ten years, Chi Jie was accused of being the main leader of the anti-red-flag demonstrations and of the subsequent protests against the arrest of the Zhongshan monks. He was sentenced on January 14, 2014 to a jail term of thirteen years by the People’s Court of Biru County.

Chi Jie. From Twitter.

After he was sentenced, and reportedly transferred to the dreaded Qüxü (Qushui) Prison in Qüxü county, near Lhasa, the family lost all contacts with him. In 2016, rumors started circulating that he had died under torture. Reportedly, his body was given to the family but relatives were severely threatened not to mention his death, although the news filtered to some media of the Tibetan diaspora.

It has now been officially confirmed that he died in jail in 2016. At 70, he was certainly not decrepit. His friends have never believed that he died of natural causes.


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