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Three former prisoners from Drago monastery in critical health

February 22, 2022

By Choekyi Lhamo

DHARAMSHALA, Feb. 22: Three senior monks from Drago monastery are in critical health condition after their release from prison four years ago, Tibet Watch has learned. The three monks belong to the same monastery in Drago where scores of Tibetans were reported to be arbitrary detained following the demolition of two large Buddha statue in the region last year.

Tsewang Namgyal, Dalha and Tengya served 6-year prison sentences from 2012 and were finally released in 2018, but the three of them was reportedly subjected to extreme torture, including forced labour and inadequate food in prison. The trio was released in poor health and their condition has deteriorated since.

In 2012, mass protests erupted in the streets of Drago County in January where local Tibetans called for freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet, invoking the same demands made in the 2008 uprising. The sources said that monks are suffering from “crippled legs, organ damage, insomnia, constant headaches, and loss of mobility” as a result from sustained torture in custody. The county has made headlines in the last few months for the destruction of two giant Buddha statues in the region, which led to several arrests of locals suspected of sharing those photos of the demolition outside Tibet.

Military trucks arrive in Drago county after protests in Janaury 2012 (Photo/Tibet Watch)

Tsewang Namgyal was the former principal of Gaden monastic school which was forcibly closed in November last year. He was released crippled and was also forced to sign a letter that listed orders of further limitations on his freedom of movement. Dalha was the monastery accountant, and upon his release, he was found to be blind and had to undergo organ transplantation. The abbot of the monastery, Tengya’s hearing ability was impaired and his body was paralysed.

36 people were charged between January and April 2012 for protests in Drago, and were found guilty of crimes during that period. “Most of the 36 prisoners were sent to Bamey Prison and Dhardo Prison, where they were forced to undergo what China calls ‘reform through labour’ without sufficient food provisions. All of them were beaten in prison and ordered to do heavy manual labour,” the report further revealed.

The families of the three prisoners were only allowed to visit them once a year or once every two years, as per the findings. These three monks’ families only learnt upon their release that the food or money left for them during those rare family visits never reached them.


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