Arrested for Demanding a Free Tibet with Nyima Lhamo

Nyima Lhamo, Tibetan human rights activist, addresses the 9th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see quotes below, followed by full prepared remarks.

On her uncle’s unjust imprisonment: 

“At the time of my uncle’s arrest, I was only 12 years old. I was hopeful that he would be released soon since he committed no crime at all; however, I was wrong. My uncle was in prison for 13 years and died in a Chinese prison.”

“My uncle did not commit any crime; he said his only crime was his loyalty and devotion to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.”

“The Chinese authorities continued to dishonour my uncle in various manners, even after his death. They distributed pamphlets and propagated false and distorted information on state television saying Tenzin Delek Rinpoche is a fake religious leader, a criminal, and he was a threat to so-called “social stability.”

On her and her mother’s ordeal:

“My family and local Tibetans have been subjected to harassment, crackdowns and many were arrested while demanding justice for my uncle. Many Tibetans sustained injuries from gunshots. We suffered a lot.”

“I even attempted to kill myself; I thought that if I committed suicide, this would attract international attention.”

“The distress and trauma that my family has been subjected to since my uncle’s arrest are just one of many cases in Tibet.”

On the importance of the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy: 

Tibetans in Tibet are aspiring to this kind of opportunity, a free space to share their grievances.”

There is no space for Tibetans in Tibet to share this kind of freedom.”

Full Remarks

Good afternoon everyone. I thank UN Watch for giving me the opportunity to speak at the Summit. 

I come from a nomadic family in Kham, Eastern Tibet. I left my six-year-old daughter and my mother back in Tibet. I’ve sacrificed a lot with hope in the international community. The reason why I sacrificed and risked my own life and that of my family is because the Chinese authorities imprisoned my uncle, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, under false and fabricated charges. He died in a Chinese prison during his 13th year in detention.

My uncle was arbitrarily arrested in the middle of the night on 7th April 2002 from his monastery on the trumped-up charge of being involved in bomb plots. At the time of my uncle’s arrest, I was only 12 years old. I was hopeful that he would be released soon since he committed no crime at all; however, I was wrong. My uncle was in prison for 13 years and died in a Chinese prison.

While in prison, my uncle recounted his experience of torture in prison and told my mother that the prison authorities subjected him to serious torture and made him unconscious. The prison authorities repeatedly beat him and called his title and asked him to display spiritual power. My uncle did not show any hatred or anger towards his oppressor; instead, he practised compassion and advised my mother and me to do the same. My uncle did not commit any crime; he said his only crime was his loyalty and devotion to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. So he appealed to and requested that my mother find justice for him.

Ever since my uncle’s imprisonment, my mother and local Tibetans have put all our efforts to secure his release. My family and local Tibetans are not financially strong, however, we travelled all the way to Beijing and Sichuan. We appealed for an independent and fair trial. We asked for medical parole. But, all these efforts were in vain. Instead, my family and local Tibetans have been subjected to harassment, crackdowns and many were arrested while demanding justice for my uncle. Many Tibetans sustained injuries from gunshots. We suffered a lot. 

My uncle made an effort to preserve Tibetan culture and identity. There is no school so my uncle set up schools and he built an old people’s home and he set up a school for orphans and he built so many monasteries and he worked towards the preservation of Tibetans’ environment. So, they have recognised him not only as a spiritual leader but also as an environmentalist and social worker who devoted his entire life to serving the interests and wellbeing of Tibetan nomadic families. 

I clearly remember the day, it was on 2nd July 2015, ten days before my uncle’s death, much to our surprise, we were contacted by the prison authorities and told that we could meet him. Hence, my mother and aunt left immediately to see my uncle. However, after reaching there, the prison authorities kept postponing the visit for 10 days. At around 10 pm on July 12th 2015, my mother and aunt were informed of my uncle’s death. So, I was shocked and immediately left for Chengdu. After reaching there, we were denied the opportunity to see his body and also his ashes were not returned to my family. Therefore, my mother, my aunt and I with some local Tibetans staged protests against the authority and demanded the return of his body. I even attempted to kill myself; I thought that if I committed suicide, this would attract international attention.

My mother and I were detained and accused that we had committed a serious crime. We were also worried about the possibility of being sentenced to life imprisonment. To our surprise, after a few days, we were told to sign a document accepting three conditions to secure our release, but we refused to sign the documents because we told them that Tenzin Delek is not only my uncle, he is a spiritual leader for all Tibetans. Then, they came out with documents, saying that one of our village leaders had signed the condition on our behalf. The conditions were: no information on Tenzin Delek shall be shared in Tibet; no accusations shall be made against the Chinese authorities that Rinpoche had died of poisoning; no discussion of Rinpoche’s death at any gathering and to the outside world; and, we were strictly instructed to follow the directions. This is how, actually, we secured our release from prison. 

The Chinese authorities continued to dishonour my uncle in various manners, even after his death. They distributed pamphlets and propagated false and distorted information on state television saying Tenzin Delek Rinpoche is a fake religious leader, a criminal, and he was a threat to so-called “social stability.” My family and local Tibetans were banned from offering traditional butter lamps and organising public prayer in memory of my uncle. The Chinese authorities are trying to manipulate the reincarnation of my uncle like the authorities did in the case of the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. Photos of my uncle were banned in Lithang. Chinese authorities have confiscated all the belongings of my uncle. So, Chinese authorities hope that the case of my uncle will disappear now. 

Whatever challenges I may face, I’m committed to calling on the international community to investigate the case of my uncle and the situation in Tibet. I urge the international community who stands for human rights, freedom and justice, to investigate, press and question China: why were neither my uncle’s body nor his ashes returned to my family? Why did they cremate my uncle’s dead body immediately with heavy security? 

The distress and trauma that my family has been subjected to since my uncle’s arrest are just one of many cases in Tibet. Tibetans in Tibet are aspiring to this kind of opportunity, a free space to share their grievances and they place lots of hope in the international community. There is no space for Tibetans in Tibet to share this kind of freedom. 

I, once again, would like to say thank you very much for listening to me.

Speakers and Participants

Nyima Lhamo

Tibetan activist and niece of religious leader Tenzin Delek Rinpoche

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