Dharamshala: - In the first of a series of special interviews conducted by American journalist Paul Eggers, Soepa, a student at Gu Chu Sum college for Tibetan ex-political prisoners in Dharamsala, north India, speaks about his experiences of torture in Chinese prisons in Tibet and his hopes for the future.
My name is Soepa, and I have another name - Phuntsok Wangdu. I'm 39 years old. I come from Mangchoe Village, Wuya Township, Zogang County, Kam Region, East Tibet. My family are both farmers and nomads. At the age of 16, I became a monk and joined Sangnag Thekchen Ling Monastery, where I studied for six years. After that, I went to Jampa Ling Monastery in Chamdo for another four years.
The Chinese government always lied that it created a heaven in Tibet under socialism. The reality is that government policy in Tibet changed the nation, the culture and the economy whilst controlling religious practice.
I distributed ‘Free Tibet' flyers on March 24 and April 28 1996. On May 2, the Chamdo district police arrested me. In custody, I was subjected to terrible punishment and brutal torture. Many times I was beaten unconscious with knives and tools.
On July 2, Chamdo District Intermediate People's Court tried me in front of thousands of people. A soldier held each of my arms and a sign was hung from my neck stating my alleged crime.
I was charged with ‘making announcements against the revolution' and sentenced to five years in prison, with an additional three years' suspension of my political rights.
I spent the first five months in Chamdo Prison before being moved to Drapchi Prison in Lhasa. Around 250 political prisoners were held there.
When I arrived, they took my blood, saying it was to check my health. They lied. I never saw any report. They took my blood many times and shaved my head.
Sometimes we would have to stand in the sun and memorize 49 chapters of the 'Personal Criminal Rulebook'.
Every day, we would have to exercise with the army, during which time many prisoners were beaten and tortured if they didn't follow exact instructions.
One 1 May 1998, the Chinese authorities attempted to raise the Chinese flag inside the prison. There is no rule saying the Chinese flag should be raised in prisons in Tibet but the authorities went ahead anyway.
All the political prisoners united and held a demonstration. On May 4, eight political prisoners were killed, including Lobsang Wangchuk, Kyidup, Lobsang Choepel and five nuns. 27 prisoners had their sentences extended. All of the prisoners were tortured - not one was spared.
There were so many different torture methods. They would bind prisoners' entire bodies tightly with rope for 15 minutes, pushing them to the limit of survival. They would use different torture instruments, including electric cattle prods. They would force prisoners to strip naked and stand on ice, or to stand in the hot sun on one leg. I cannot list all the methods of torture because so many were used.
When I was finally released, I would tell people, if you want to do something for Tibet tell people the truth about China. If people ask me what I want to do for Tibet, I tell them I want to share my experiences.
In accordance with His Holiness the Dalai Lama's views, our hope for the future is that the three traditional Tibetan provinces will get genuine autonomy and that Tibetans living in exile can return home. If Tibet is not granted autonomy within three to five years, all Tibetan culture, forests and mineral resources will be finished. That would be a dangerous future.
Genuine autonomy is the policy of His Holiness and the Central Tibetan Administration. I hope His Holiness is allowed to return Tibet.