PUBLIC AI Index: ASA 17/34/98
16 October 1998
Further information on UA 210/98 (ASA 17/25/98, 24 July 1998) - Torture and
ill-treatment / Fear for safety
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA
Ngawang Sungrab, aged 26, monk from Drepung monastery
Gyaltsen Choephel, aged 33, layman from Lhasa
Ngawang Sangdrol (f), aged 24, nun from Garu nunnery
Ngawang Choezom (f), aged 26, nun from Chubsang nunnery
Ngawang Tenzin (f), aged 30, nun from Gyadrag nunnery
Tanak Jigme Sangpo, aged 70, teacher
New names Choekyi Wangmo, aged 24, nun from Shar Bumpa nunnery
Tashi Lhamo, aged 24, nun from Nyemo county
Dekyi Yangzom, aged 21, nun from Nyemo county
Khedron Yonten, age not known, nun from Nyemo county
Ngawang Choekyi, aged 31, nun from Toelun Nyen nunnery
Four, possibly five, nuns reportedly died in Drapchi prison on 7 June 1998
after being placed in solitary confinement in May. This heightens fears for
the safety of prisoners who remain in solitary confinement following the violent
suppression of demonstrations inside Tibet’s Drapchi prison on 1 and 4 May.
The authorities’ official explanation for the nuns’ deaths is that they
committed suicide. They provided no further explanation, however, of how the
nuns all died in similar circumstances on the same day, when they were being
held in solitary confinement and had no way of communicating with each other.
Choekyi Wangmo is reported to have hanged herself. A mark was reportedly found
on her neck. She was serving a five-year sentence for peaceful pro-independence
activities and was almost due for release.
Officials said Tashi Lhamo, Dekyi Yangzom and Khedron Yonten all suffocated
themselves by stuffing scarves into their mouths. The nuns’ bodies were
reportedly bloated but had no visible external injuries.
The death of the fifth nun, Ngawang Choekyi, remains unconfirmed. She was serving
a 13-year sentence. She was originally detained for participating in a peaceful
pro-independence demonstration but her sentence was later increased after she
and 13 other nuns composed and recorded pro-independence songs in prison.
There has been no further news about Ngawang Sungrab, Gyaltsen Choephel, Ngawang
Sangdrol, Ngawang Choezom, Ngawang Tenzin or Tanak Jigme Sangpo, who were placed
in solitary confinement in May and reportedly ill-treated. They are thought
to remain in solitary confinement.
Information regarding the incidents at Drapchi of 1 and 4 May and the subsequent
suppression and deaths of prisoners remains difficult to confirm. There has
been no official public confirmation from the Chinese authorities of the events
in Drapchi in May. The European Union, which had a human rights delegation
visiting Drapchi prison on 4 May, has however received a preliminary response
to their enquiries from the Chinese authorities, who admit that minor
disturbances occurred in the prison on 1 and 4 May.