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14december20095Dharamshala: Kunsang Sonam escaped from Tibet on March 24, 2008; two weeks after the 2008 uprising in Tibet on March 10th. With the help of friends, who paid 5,000 Chinese yen, he was driven by a Chinese man to the Nepali border. There, he paid a bribe of 60,000 Chinese yen to avoid repatriation by the Nepali police.

Kunsang is now thirty-eight years-old, and was imprisoned by the Chinese police twice while living in Tibet. Before being arrested in 1988, Kunsang said that he had little knowledge about the conflict between Tibet and China.

In March of 1988, Kunsang participated in a large, peaceful demonstration in Lhasa. He was arrested with hundreds of other protestors, and taken to Gutsa prison, where he remained for seven months. During this time he lived in cell with anywhere from eighteen to thirty people at a time, and was repeatedly tortured.

He recalls that his hands were once tied to the ceiling, and he was left hanging for three days without food or water. Another memory that entered his mind was when he was beaten continuously for a period of three days, without food.

On October 1, 1999, Kunsang was imprisoned again for raising the Tibetan flag in the center of Dartsedo, a town in eastern Tibet. Although he knew he would be arrested, Kunsang said that he had strong feelings of nationalism after his first imprisonment that drove him to defy the Chinese authorities. He was taken prisoner late at night in his hotel room.

After his arrest, Kunsang was taken to the police station, and detained for five days. During this time he was interrogated, and said that he underwent the worst torture. He was repeatedly asked if he had contact with the Tibetan government in exile, and to name the person who had asked him to raise the Tibetan flag.

The former political prisoner described incidences of beatings with electric batons and cattle prods. He was also forced to lie in a shallow pool, while the police sent electric shocks through the water. He was tortured for six months after his interrogation, and that he lived in solitary confinement for one year and eight months.

The effects of Kunsang's imprisonment devoured his family members as well. The Chinese government kept a close eye on the families of political prisoners in Tibet. Kunsang's wife struggled to find work, and his children were unable to attend school. Kunsang divorced his wife during his second imprisonment for the well-being of his family.

When he was asked to describe his feelings towards the Chinese, and those who tortured him, Kunsang remained calm. He said that he has no anger towards those who administered his torture, only towards Chinese government and policy.