Phuntsog Nyidron

Former political prisoner Phuntsog Nyidron giving her remarks at the press conference by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C. on May 3, 2006. Mr. Michael Cromartie, Chairman of the Commission, is behind the lectern.

I want to thank the US Commission on International Religious Freedom for inviting me to participate in this press conference on the release of its 2006 Annual Report.

When the Commission members and staff visited Tibet they were very kind to come to meet me. However, at the time of our meeting, I had no clear knowledge of who these people were and the work that the Commission does. The Chinese authorities did not explain to me the nature of your visit or even who you were. I just assumed that you were among those many foreigners who have a concern for the Tibetan people. I only understood the significance of that visit after coming to the United States and I am humbled by the tremendous effort the Commission made to meet with me in Lhasa. It is due to the effort of the international community and the grace of H.H. the Dalai Lama that I have regained my freedom.

I note that in this year’s report the Commission has highlighted the continued unsatisfactory state of religious freedom in Tibet. As a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner I can personally testify to the control and limitations that are put in place for the people in Tibet. The teaching and transfer of Buddhist philosophy is integral to the Tibetan Buddhist practice and there is very little opportunity to the Tibetan believers to be involved in such activities. Even though I am a nun, I have not had the opportunity and the facility to undertake the study of my own Buddhist heritage. Following my release I have not been permitted to return to my nunnery for religious studies.

The United States should urge the Chinese government to allow the Tibetan people true freedom to undertake their religious practice. I suffered 15 years of incarceration under the hands of the Chinese authorities. Today, I stand here as a testimony to the fact that international concern and action on behalf of the Tibetan political prisoners does have an effect. While I rejoice in my freedom I want to urge the Commission and the United States Government not to forget the very many Tibetans who have been imprisoned solely for voicing their strong feelings towards their religious, national and cultural identity and for peaceful expression of their belief in the independence of Tibet.