A Tibetan writer and monk, popularly known as Gartse Jigme, has been released on February 4, 2018 after serving just over five years in prison for his books on the situation in Tibet and suffering of the Tibetan people.

Images emerged on social media of Gartse Jigme draped in khatags (Tibetan greeting scarves) by fellow monks after his return home to Tsekhog (Chinese: Zeke) county in Malho (Chinese: Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture), Qinghai, in the Tibetan area of Amdo. He was said to be frail although in reasonable health.

Gartse Jigme, who was arrested in January 2013 following a raid on his monastic quarters, began his writing career in 1999 after study for a monastic degree. He had been under constant surveillance and detained a number of occasions since the publication of his second book in 2008, called ‘Courage of the Tibetan King” (‘Tsanpoe Nyingtop’ བཙན་པོའི་སྙིང་སྟོབས), a collection of essays in the Tibetan language about the political situation in Tibet since the March, 1959 Uprising and the protests that swept across Tibet in 2008. In one essay, translated into English by ICT, Gartse Jigme, who is in his early 40s, wrote: “When I think about these things, it seems to me that the political protests in many places in central Tibet, Kham and Amdo this year [2008] were not organized by the Dalai Lama but were the inevitable expression of the pain stored up for so long in the minds of Tibetans young and old.”

Despite the danger, Gartse Jigme began work on a third book, also addressing serious questions about the situation inside Tibet. This time, the authorities seized the books while they were at the publishers, and attempted to prevent any distribution. Even so, some copies of the book have been circulating underground over the past few years, while he has been in prison. Both texts are circulating in exile in the Tibetan language.

A Tibetan analyst called Tsering, who is from Amdo and now lives in exile in Europe, said: “Gartse Jigme’s writing is important because he expresses the pain of his generation as well as the older generation, and gives subtle but powerful insights into the life of Tibetan scholars and writers, who seek to express the experience of the people.”

The second edition of ‘The Courage of the Tibetan King’ is dedicated to: “All those brave Tibetan men and women’s sacrifice for the freedom of people and religion with pure sincerity and dedication.” In the book, a copy of which was obtained by ICT, Gartse Jigme writes about the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama, and about issues of particular concern to Tibetans today such as education, language and ethnic policy.

In one essay in his 2008 book, Gartse Jigme tells the story of the ordeal endured by his family in the Amdo region of Tibet following the Chinese invasion. Maoist ‘reforms’, meaning economic expropriation and the liquidation of traditional elites, were resisted by local people as best they could, resulting in a devastating military assault on the civilian population by the People’s Liberation Army.

In the collection, Gartse Jigme writes: “In my view, instead of talking about ‘peaceful liberation’, it would be better to look for a peaceful strategy. Instead of propagandizing the ‘harmonious society’ in the media, it would be better to find the causes and conditions for harmony. Otherwise, is harmony going to come from condemnation and intimidation backed by the gun? Will it come from starving and beating people? From making them drink their own urine? For these reasons, those who protested this year cannot be called ‘bandits’ but can be praised as heroes and heroines standing up for their rights. Because among 80 percent of Tibetans, there is not one who does not complain about the government in private, but these heroes and heroines managed to express this openly.”[1]

[1] For further translations from his writings, see International Campaign for Tibet report, May 23, 2013, ‘Tibetan monk imprisoned after writing books about Tibet’, https://www.https://savetibet.org/tibetan-monk-imprisoned-after-writing-books-about-tibet/ and ICT’s collection of writings from Tibet, ‘Like Gold that Fears no Fire: New writing from Tibet’ https://www.https://savetibet.org/like-gold-that-fears-no-fire-new-writing-from-tibet-2/.