Labrang Jigme

Labrang Jigme

A respected scholar monk known as Labrang Jigme returned home yesterday after being released two months after his five-year prison sentence expired.

Jigme Guri, a monk at Labrang monastery in Amdo, who had been previously imprisoned and severely tortured in 2008 and 2010, is well-known as a writer and intellectual who is the only known Tibetan to record on video in Tibet an account of his own imprisonment and views on Chinese policies against the Dalai Lama in which he gave his full identity. He gained tremendous popularity among Tibetans particularly for his writings and determination to bear witness. Tibetan writer Woeser writes: “Because of this, Tibetan people everywhere recognized him as a hero of their people, naming him ‘Labrang Jigme’.” His release from prison yesterday was greeted with great relief; there have been serious fears for his welfare as he was believed to have been hospitalized while in prison.

Jigme Guri was released after dark at around 9 pm on Wednesday (October 26) from prison in Lanzhou, the provincial capital of Gansu, and taken by the prison authorities to his family home in Labrang town in Sangchu (Chinese, Xiahe) county. His relatives were not given permission to welcome him with a traditional ceremony and according to reports, he was not allowed to wear monks’ robes. He was pictured wearing a blue jacket and trousers, and wearing glasses. Tibetan political prisoners are generally not allowed to return to their monasteries or nunneries after release, and Jigme Guri was apparently not allowed to go to Labrang.

A Tibetan in South India told Radio Free Asia that because of the authorities’ warning: “So no reception was held outdoors, but the moment he entered his home, his mother, followed by other local Tibetans, residents of the town and nearby villages, presented him with ceremonial scarves.” (Radio Free Asia report, October 26, 2016).

According to a relative in exile, Labrang Jigme qualified for a release last year, under regulations that state that according to work results and good behavior, a prisoner can be released earlier. But because he refused to sign an official document, he was kept in prison for longer and was released two months after his five-year sentence expired on August 20 (2016) following his detention in 2011.

Jigme Guri, who is in his mid-forties, was detained when he was in Tso (Chinese: Hezuo) city, Kanlho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu province in August, 2011. Two Chinese lawyers appointed by Jigme Guri’s family travelled to Tsoe, the prefectural seat, to take up the case, but were told that the hearings had already taken place six months previously, handled by two local attorneys. The court informed them that Jigme’s Guri’s crime was “‘Suspicion of instigating anti-nationalist separatism’”.

Jigme Guri was arrested for the first time upon his return to Tibet in April 2006 after he attended teachings by the Dalai Lama in India; he was detained for 40 days, released and returned to Labrang monastery. His second period in detention began on March 22, 2008, following protests at Labrang monastery on March 14 and 15, 2008. Although Labrang Jigme did not take part in the protests, the authorities suspected him of being a ring-leader. He was detained and tortured for over a month, ending up in hospital.

In the video about this experience, Labrang Jigme talks to the camera for 22 minutes, giving a calm and clear account of his detention and interrogation and his views on broader Chinese policies and state hostility towards the Dalai Lama.

In his video he states: “I, as a witness to truth, am telling through the media the story of Tibetans killed, who have suffered torture in prisons, and about the countless people who have been forced to flee to the mountains and who are too afraid to return to their own homes, so that the media can truthfully report on these situations.”

He is also known with the honorific ‘Akhu’ Jigme and Lama Jigme, and in Chinese as Jiumei Jiangcuo, 久美江措 or Jigme Guri, 久美果日

ICT report, August 15, 2012, Chinese lawyers blocked from acting for Labrang Jigme; fears for scholar monk’s health