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Tibet: Features Arts and Culture Ngawang, an ex-political prisoner and protester of 14th March tells his story

Ngawang, an ex-political prisoner and protester of 14th March tells his story

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26june20092Dharamshala: Ngawang preferred to leave his full name unrevealed - his status of an ex-political prisoner in refugee, who, moreover, took part in the protest of 14 March 2008 can still cause a harmful effect on his family back in Tibet. Since the notorious riot the pressure on the locals only toughened and borders secured more then ever don't leave a chance to slip through: only one refugee has been registered since then and Ngawang appears to be one of those lucky, who escaped the country before the iron curtain fell.

His account of that day in March stuns with precision:

"The protest started at 9 a.m., at 2 p.m. I got a call from my friends to join the demonstration, which I did. Around twenty thousand people took part in it. When I came the police has already started shooting guns - on my eyes a young man with a twelve-year-old girl were shot dead. At 4 p.m. more and more policemen were coming, they used gas to get people from the buildings. As I was hiding I couldn't see what was going on but I heard guns banging and women crying. In two days [when the roads from the city were still open] I left Lhasa. In a day the police started massive arrests."

After the escape Ngawang lay down in a cave near a mountain village not far from Lhasa. For months his friends supplied him with food and warned of the peril back in the capital - the police was still after him. At the end of a half-year hiding Ngawang decided to flee Tibet. In January 2009 he secretively reached Lhasa, found a guide and left by jeep for Nepal. "I don't know whether the guide was Chinese or Tibetan - they all speak Chinese. I paid him 10 000 Chinese yuan and we left," he clarified. After a month in Kathmandu Ngawan with other refugees was sent to Dharamsala, where he met His Holiness the Dalai Lama and enrolled into a school to get the basic knowledge of English and Tibetan.

Yet his first protest in 1995 had far more bitter ending - a ten-month detension in Gutsa Detension Center resulting in six years of imprisonment in Drapchi Prison. Ngawang recalled the details of his arrest: "I was born in a poor family and couldn't go to school, so when I was 15 I enrolled into the monastery to study Tibetan medicine," he started, "That day in 1995 I was spreading proclamations in the streets of Lhasa, which I and 29 monks published in the monastery." According to his words, the wooden plates with the texts were finally found by policemen and all protesters were arrested. After the detention, which was accompanied with neverending interrogations and beatings, he was transported to Drapchi. There he shared cell with ten political prisoners and two criminal prisoners, who were acted as watchmen for the guards. The daily routine consisted of fertilization of vegetable gardens from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with one hour break for lunch. The meals included two tingmo and a cup of tea for breakfast, two tingmo or rice followed by a soup for both lunch and dinner. "The vegetables were then sold at the market but if we couldn't make the quotas, we were punished," argued Ngawang. "In winter they put water on the ground and we had had to sit on the ice," that was one of the  punishment means for the failed quota. Another common procedure was a forced blood donation, which in conditions of malnutrition resulted in dizziness and fainting. In 1999 the system of vegetable gardens was canceled. Yet from the very beginning it is obvious that "fertilizing" vegetable fields with human feces (two buckets of around 20-30 kg each brought by a prisoner to the fields, emptied, filled up, and brought again in the all-day-long routine) no one could produce qualitative food to reach the high quotas, which proves the hard labour as only one of the means of torture and humiliation. Prisoners were allowed one meeting a month with their family members, yet "instead of prescribed 15 minutes we were allowed to talk no more then 10 minutes," stated Ngawang, "we had a booklet with rules but they were constantly violated by the guards," he concluded.

In 1998 there appeared a new rule in the booklet - the prisoners were obliged to sing the Chinese national anthem with a PRC flag hanging on the wall. "Many prisoners began shouting "Free Tibet" and guards started beating and shooting at them - five nuns and three monks were killed then," he bitterly recalled. From that time on, according to Ngawang, no one was allowed to leave their cells - all 12 prisoners were staying for months in their cells with only five minutes a day permitting a gulp of fresh air.

In 2001 Ngawang's imprisonment came to an end, yet for three years he couldn't leave his village - Phinpo. From that time it became impossible for him to find a decent job and all he did was some petty work, like driving.

The protest of March 2008 gave a new impulse to Ngawang's life - after his flee to India and enrollment into a school he hopes that his future will change.

From 29 monks arrested together with him in 1995 six are in exile, the rest is still in Tibet.
Last Updated ( Friday, 26 June 2009 17:43 )  


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