Jigme Guri, known as Labrang Jigme, was detained while he was in Tsoe (Chinese: Hezuo) city, Kanlho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu province. His current whereabouts are not known although Tibetan sources in exile said they believe he is being interrogated in a building in Tsoe, possibly a hotel used by police for detention purposes. According to the same sources, on August 21, the day following his arrest, around 20-30 armed police and Public Security Bureau officials raided his quarters at Labrang (Chinese: Xiahe) monastery and confiscated his computer, books and documents.
The reason for Jigme Guri’s latest detention is not known. He was taken into police custody during a period of stepped up security at Labrang, an important monastery in Sangchu (Chinese: Xiahe) county, Kanlho (Chinese: Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu province, related to a controversial visit of the Chinese government appointed Panchen Lama on August 11 (ICT report, Chinese government imposes visit of its Panchen Lama on Tibetans: Troops surround Labrang Tashikhyil monastery).
There are serious fears for his welfare because of the security crackdown in the area, his three previous detentions within the last five years, and his determination to make the truth of the situation in Tibet known publicly. Labrang Jigme (also known with the honorific ‘Akhu’ Jigme and Lama Jigme, and in Chinese as Jiumei Jiangcuo, 久美江措 or Jigme Guori,久美果日) is a respected intellectual in the eastern Tibetan area of Amdo. He 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.
The well-known Tibetan essayist and blogger Woeser speculated that his detention “could perhaps be a late settling of accounts related to his video testimony telling the world the truth about the oppression of Tibetans. But it’s not known whether the arrest is related to the visit of the government appointed “Chinese Panchen Lama” to Labrang Monastery.” (Translation from Chinese into English by High Peaks, Pure Earth of a blog by Woeser published on August 24).
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 his 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.”
Following the protests at Labrang monastery in March 2008, armed police were deployed “in every corner of the monastery” and searched all of the monks’ quarters. Numerous Labrang monks were detained and many severely tortured. One monk who had participated in the March, 2008 protest, Tsultrim Gyatso, was sentenced to life and another, Thabkhe Gyatso, to 15 years in prison.
Jigme’s testimony included details on prison conditions for monks from Labrang monastery who had protested in a further demonstration in front of a group of journalists, a month after the March protests. The incident occurred on April 9, 2008, when 15 Labrang monks spoke directly about the extent of the repression to a group of foreign reporters taking part in a press tour organized by the Chinese authorities. Two of the monks from the group of 15 who demonstrated later died, one following severe torture. Labrang Jigme said in his video:. “Monks who spoke to some reporters were beaten with batons and had their legs broken; on some, they used electric batons on their heads and in their mouths – the electric baton affected their brains and some have become disabled… driven to a type of insanity.” (See ICT report on the deaths of two Tibetans from this group of protestors: Torture blamed for death of Tibetan monk, second death following protest during foreign reporters’ visit to Labrang monastery).
On November 4, 2008, more than 70 armed police raided Jigme Guri’s quarters at Labrang monastery and detained him. He was held until May 3, 2009 and released under qubao houshen conditions. Qubao houshen literally means “obtain a guarantor while pending trial” and can be described as non-custodial detention and as a form of probation, since conditions may be imposed on the movements and activities of the suspect, who can subsequently be jailed for violating the conditions. Typically, qubao houshen includes restrictions on who the person meets, whom they communicate with, and sometimes includes subjective standards imposed by police, such as people’s ‘attitude’ towards their alleged crimes.
Li Fangping, one of two Chinese lawyers who took up his case, told The London Times afterwards: “He was released partly because there was insufficient evidence. Even though he spoke about how he was tortured after the March 14 incident [in the video], this was insufficient to make a criminal case.” The lawyer added that Jigme had told them after his release that he was “as well as could be expected.” According to the Times article, when the police told him that lawyers had come forward to help him, he said he wanted legal representation. Before the lawyers even had time to see him, he had been released.
The news of Jigme Guri’s latest detention on August 20 emerged in a Tibetan blogpost hosted by Sangdhor.com on August 23, that has since been removed.
Labrang Jigme was born into a farming family and became a Labrang monk at the age of 13. He is a former head of the Vocational Training Centre and served as Vice-Chairman of the Democratic Management Committee of Labrang monastery.