Golog Jigme

Golog Jigme at the side event in Geneva with U.S. Ambassador to the Human Rights Council, Mr. Keith Harper; the Undersecretary of State and Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, Dr. Sarah Sewall; the President of the International Campaign for Tibet, Mr. Matteo Mecacci; and Mr. Juan Pablo Cardenal, journalist.

Following is the text of the statement made by Golog Jigme, former Tibetan political prisoner, at Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights’s side event, “Lockdown in Tibet“, on June 15, 2015 in Geneva, to coincide with the 29th session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The panelists include the U.S. Ambassador to the Human Rights Council, Mr. Keith Harper; the Undersecretary of State and Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, Dr. Sarah Sewall; the President of the International Campaign for Tibet, Mr. Matteo Mecacci; Ven. Golog Jigmy, a former Tibetan political prisoner recently arrived in Europe; and Mr. Juan Pablo Cardenal, journalist and writer as well as former China correspondent for Spanish newspapers.

Testimony of Golog Jigme, former Tibetan political prisoner, at the Side event “Lockdown in Tibet” during the XXIX Session of the UN Human Rights Council, Geneva, June 15, 2015

My name is Golog Jigme. I am a Tibetan and I am a former political prisoner. I was forced to escape from Tibet in May 2014. Today, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak with you here at the United Nations at this event in the presence of distinguished leaders, including the U.S. Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, Sarah Sewall.

China’s denial of real freedom of expression and freedom of movement for Tibetans in Tibet as well as strict limitations of access to Tibet for foreigners, have resulted in the outside world not knowing what the real conditions of the Tibetan people are.

I have been concerned about the political situation and the educational system in Tibet for many years. I began to work as much as I could with the younger generation on the importance of protecting the Tibetan language [by teaching, reading, promoting the importance of using it.] Around 80 per cent of Tibetans lack basic education and many cannot read or write, so it is often very difficult to communicate about politics, because they don’t understand or don’t know how to respond.

Subsequently, I felt that it would be really beneficial and important to realize a video to show the people outside Tibet the reality of what is is happening in Tibet. In 2007, I discussed this idea with Dhondup Wangchen, my friend and someone whom I trusted. Thus, we eventually ended up producing a documentary film, which came to be known as ‘Leaving Fear Behind’.

At that time, I didn’t know very much about politics myself. But I had pain in my heart, which had emerged as a result of many years of Communist rule; and particularly because of the way in which the Communist Chinese leadership was handling Tibet.

In 2008, the protests that swept across Tibet provoked an unprecedented political consciousness among people inside Tibet. The younger generation became more aware of the human rights violations and about the political situation. Dhondup Wangchen and I interviewed 108 Tibetans about their views and feelings before the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Most of the interviewees came from different backgrounds – they were nomads, farmers, monks, and officials. They expressed very clearly what they felt about the political climate, the reality inside Tibet and the upcoming Olympic games. This film was not made as a ‘political’ film. It was intended to be a free expression of people’s feelings and experiences.

Our primary target audience was the world outside Tibet. We wanted the voices of Tibetan nomads, elders, monks and others in remote areas across the plateau to be heard in international capitals, by Parliamentarians, government officials, exile Tibetans and even journalists. We also wanted these voices be heard by Tibetans both inside Tibet and in exile, including the Tibetan exile authorities in Dharamsala. We had a point to make about the Olympics; that the host country should respect some internationally accepted norms, including respecting the freedom of movement and expression of its citizens. We thought that this timing was a good opportunity to convey that message.

When I was first arrested, my hands and feet were chained and I was tied tightly to the tiger chair for 10 hours. Later, I experienced similar torture seven times, which often lasted for a maximum of 5 hours and a minimum of 2 hours. They accused me of being a member of the Tibetan Youth Congress and of shooting the documentary film ‘Leaving Fear Behind’. They forced me to confess that the 2008 mass uprising was just “rioting, burning, looting and killing” as the Chinese Government was saying. Moreover, they accused me with many others, of not denouncing His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I did accept what I felt was right at that time, but couldn’t accept all the allegations.

I was arrested second time on 10 April 2009 and put me in detention centre for 4 months on the charge of disclosing State secrets. Though I was subjected to severe beatings and kicking during detention but I wasn’t tortured like before.

They arrested me third time on 22 September 2012 and took me to Sangchu County in Gansu Province on the allegation for being the main instigator of the self-immolations protest across Tibet, sharing state secrets, making the documentary film ‘Leaving Fear Behind’ and many others.

During the detentions the Chinese security officials broke my ribs, and my knee joints got dislocated several times due to severe beating. For this I suffered life-long injuries to my backbone, eyes, hands and feet.

Even today, I continue to have severe pain on the backbone and ribs and my knee dislocates every time when my feet gets cold.

They insisted me that after the first October – China’s National Day, I would be transferred to Lanzhou City Military Hospital to see whether I got any disease. I was told that, if found any, I might be given necessary injections. They kept on insisting me that I will have to be transferred to hospital, despite my protest against it.

It was quite apparent from the way they insisted me to take far away hospital and the smooth treatment they meted out to me even though I was in their custody. I was never told a word of any charge of murder during that time. I finally came to know their hidden plan to kill me through false medication.

After a number of arrests and new allegations against me, such as instigating self-immolations across Tibet, I used the first opportunity to tried to escape, which came on September 30, 2012 when I was able to break my leg cuffs and ran out. For two months I had to hide across the mountains and in the meantime the Chinese authorities accused me of murder. I was so shocked and tormented by this allegation that I thought of setting myself on fire in front of a Chinese police station to protest. However after careful consideration, I decided not to proceed with the self-immolation and to continue to work for the Tibetan cause. For this reason, I decided to escape into exile in India.

I highly respect all my Tibetan fellows and all people in the world who have the courage to speak the truth, despite the risks to their lives, and to those of their family and friends.

Their courage inspired me to continue to work on this issue, because I am not the only individual engaged in this struggle, there are so many of us.

I would like to call on you, Ambassadors and NGOs, to continue to pay attention to the situation inside Tibet. For the future of Tibet, it is very important to break the “lockdown” that the Chinese Government has imposed around the Tibetan people. As human beings, we Tibetans deserve the right to express freely without fear of being arrested or tortured. We deserve the right to move and pray freely and China should be held accountable when this does not happen, as in my case and in many others.

Finally I strongly call upon Chinese government to stop current repressive and oppressive polices implementing inside Tibet with immediate effect.

Geneva, UN Human Rights Council, 15 June 2015

Golog Jigme