Letter writing campaign

Thousands of postcards like this one have been sent to officials of Lhasa’s Drapchi prison since the beginning of April.

In a direct response to international letter-writing campaigns, Chinese authorities have taken the unusual step of issuing a series of stories in its state-run media defending the treatment of Tibetan prisoners.

The International Campaign for Tibet and other Tibet support groups have organized large scale letter-writing campaigns calling for prisoner releases and improvement of conditions for political prisoners.

On April 1, 2002, ICT launched a concerted postcard campaign directly to officials of Drapchi Prison in Lhasa, known for its ill-treatment of prisoners.

The official Chinese news agency, Xinhua, started a nine-series report on Tibetan prisons on May 27, 2002, with the first report carrying the following note:

“Editor’s Note: Recently, government departments in Tibet received a series of letters from foreigners asking whether there is a high incidence of cases involving the torture and beating of prisoners in Tibet’s prisons and if there is a high death rate of prisoners when they are serving sentences or right after release? Officials with the U.S. Congress also raised the same questions to departments concerned in Tibet Autonomous Region in southwest China.

Xinhua correspondents visited Tibet Autonomous Regional Prison, talked with many prison guards, prisoners and relatives of prisoners to find out the truth.”

In one of the first articles, the warden of Drapchi prison was quoting as having said that he has never heard of a case of accidental death in the prison.

“We are heartened that our letters are being read and taken seriously, but so far the Xinhua articles are disingenuous at best,” said John Ackerly, President of ICT.

In May 1998, at least 6 monks and nuns committed suicide after a brutal crackdown in the prison following a peaceful protest.

“While these deaths may not have been not ‘accidental,’ in other incidents a monk was shot in the prison and others have died following severe torture and lack of medical treatment,” Ackerly continued.

“We hope that these deaths are not considered intentional by Chinese authorities,” said Ackerly.

The stories released to date include:

  • “No Accidental Death in Tibet’s Prisons: Official”
  • “Prisoners Participate Supervision”
  • “Backgrounder: Prisons in Tibet”
  • “First Prison Hospital Built in Tibet”