Tibetan activists taking part in a candlelight vigil at Mcleod Ganj, Dharamshala, August 10th 2023. Photo: file

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Dharamshala, India — Three Tibetan organisations held a candlelight vigil in Dharamshala to mark the International Prisoner Justice Day and to express their condolences over the death of former Tibetan political prisoner Lobsang Tenpa in Lhasa, Tibet recently, as a result of torture by the Chinese authorities while he was in prison.

Tibetan Women's Association, Students for a Free Tibet and the National Democratic Party of Tibet held a candlelight vigil to mark the International Prisoner Justice Day and express their condolences at the death of former Tibetan political prisoner Lobsang Tenpa in Lhasa, Tibet. Activists from the non-governmental organisations (NGO)and Tibetans around Dharamshala held candles in their hands and surrounded the Mcleod Ganj market and Buddhist temple on August 10, 2023.

The three NGOs issued a statement to mark International Prisoner Justice Day, and it stated, “Today, on International Prisoners Justice Day, our collective vigil casts light upon the harrowing plight of fallen Tibetan Freedom Fighters and resonates with the global chorus for justice against heinous violations of basic human rights and freedoms endured by countless political prisoners.”

“In the shadows of this commemoration, our thoughts converge upon a glaring injustice: Tibet, a crucible of suffering since China's occupation, remains an open prison. This indelible truth is etched in an oppressive shade of surveillance, repression, and control that chokes the lifeblood of Tibetan existence, mutilating their identity, culture, and spirituality,” the statement continued.

“On this day we would like to remind the world of a prison called "Tibet". Tibet has been an open prison since Chinese occupation, as it is ruled under a pervasive atmosphere of surveillance, restriction and control that severely curtails the fundamental rights and freedom of Tibetan people,” they added.

“Knowledge on China's detention system in Tibet is still a black hole to the international community. The precise workings, nature, and scale of the Chinese Communist Party's efforts to imprison and detain Tibetans continue to remain poorly understood,” the activists of the organisations said.

“Recent reports from the Rand Europe research institute examined and unearthed an alarming 79 detention facilities across the TAR. Findings also include patterns of growth in night-time lighting concentrated in the 14 higher-security facilities. They found increases in the number of prisons in 2019-2020 and high-security detention facilities in 2021-2022,” the statement explained.

The Tibetan activists said, “Severe restrictions of basic human freedoms, arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detentions, torture and unnatural deaths have all become the traits of Chinese rule in Tibet. The abduction of the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima at 6 years old and the subsequent lack of information about his whereabouts remains a prominent symbol of human rights concerns in Tibet. His disappearance, coupled with limited information due to restricted access, highlights the ongoing challenges in addressing the situation.”

While expressing their condolences for the death of former Tibetan political prisoner Lobsang Tenpa, the activists said, “Owing to torture and cruel inhumane treatment during his detentions, Late Lobsang Tenpa had been unrecoverably ill after serving four years in prison on a allegation for participation in a peaceful protest in Tibet. Facing further health complications, Lobsang Tena succumbed to death on August 3, 2023. His death serves as a stark reminder of the trials and tribulation faced by thousands of Tibetan activists, academicians, writers, students, monks and nuns among many others.”

“On this International Prisoners Justice Day, let Tibet stand as a stark reminder that the fight for justice knows no borders. It is imperative for International Human Rights Organizations and governments across the globe to unite with unwavering resolve,” the activists said.

“The urgent call is for a concerted effort in demanding an immediate and comprehensive inspection of the high-security prisons within Tibet. This collective action is essential to uphold the principles of justice, accountability, and the protection of basic human dignity, and to bring an end to the profound suffering inflicted upon the Tibetan people,” the statement of the organisations concluded.